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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters Paperback – 12 Apr 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (12 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391078
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The best account [of the conflict in the Congo] so far...The task facing anyone who tries to tell this whole story is formidable, but Stearns by and large rises to it." --Adam Hochschild, New York Times Book Review "[A] tour de force, though not for the squeamish." --Washington Post "This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern times--as well as a damn good read." --Economist "[P]erhaps the best account of the most recent conflict in the Congo." --Foreign Policy "A serious, admirably balanced account of the crisis and the political and social forces behind it... perhaps the most accessible, meticulously researched, and comprehensive overview of the Congo crisis yet." --Financial Times "Impressively controlled account of the devastating Congo war...The book's greatest strength is the eyewitness dialogue; Stearns discusses his encounters with everyone from major military figures to residents of remote villages (he was occasionally suspected of being a CIA spy)...An important examination of a social disaster that seems both politically complex and cruelly senseless."-Kirkus "Covering the devastating effects of these deadly contests on the Congolese infrastructure, Congolese institutions, and people's lives, Stearns informatively reports on affairs for students of African politics."Booklist "He is a cracking writer, with a wry sense of understatement...Mr. Stearns has spoken to everyone--villagers, child soldiers, Mobutu's commanders, Kabila's ministers, Rwandan intelligence officers. In these conversations he found gold, bringing clarity--and humanity--to a place that usually seems inexplicable and barbaric. 'Dancing in the Glory of Monsters' is riveting and certain to become essential reading for anyone looking to understand Central Africa." -Wall Street Journal "Stearns is more concerned with the perceptions, motivations, an actions of an eclectic mix of actors in the conflict--from a Tutsi warlord who engaged in massive human rights violations to a Hutu activist turned refugee living in the camps and forests of eastern Congo. He tells their stories with a judicious mix of empathy and distance, linking them to a broader narrative of a two-decade-long conflict that has involved a dozen countries and claimed six million victims."-Foreign Affairs "Stearns is a leading authority on the region, having lived there for years working for the United Nations and the International Crisis Group. He has built up a superb knowledge of Congo and how it articulates with its neighbours, particularly Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. He frequently imparts his understanding to journalists far less well-informed than he. And now he has produced a book where he makes the whole convoluted and confusing war in Congo a little more comprehensible, which is quite a feat. If you want to understand modern Congo then Stearns' book should be required reading."-Global Post "A brave and accessible take on the leviathan at the heart of so many of Africa's problems... Stearns's eye for detail, culled from countless interviews, brings this book alive... I once wrote that the Congo suffers from 'a lack of institutional memory', meaning that its atrocities well so inexorably that nobody bothers to keep an account of them. Stearns's book goes a long way to putting that right."Telegraph, "(t)his courageous book is a plea for more nuanced understanding and the silencing of the analysis-free 'the horror, the horror' exclamation that Congo still routinely wrings from Western lips." -The Spectator, "Stearns has done a fine job of amassing vast amounts (of material), much of it based directly on interviews with the participants and victims, to bring to light details of a scandalously under-reported war... (T)his book succeeds in providing a vivid chronicles of this rolling conflict involving 20 rival rebel groups."-Sunday Times "a vivid chronicle of the carnage that helps illuminate a tragedy too enormous to comprehend" -The Shepherd Express

About the Author

Jason Stearns has been working on the conflict in the Congo for the past decade, most recently as the head of a special United Nations panel investigating Congolese rebel groups. He worked for the United Nations peacekeeping operation, and as a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. He is currently completing a PhD at Yale University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Pelagea on 29 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a highly readable book, which I found difficult to put down. The author went through great lengths collecting first hand evidence. The book is full of vivid descriptions of what actually has been going on in the Congo, so that after reading it, it is hard not to appreciate all the horrors experienced by the people.

However, I found major problems for it to be considered a serious history book.

1. At the outset Mr. Stearns warns the reader that the conflict in the Congo has been complex and confusing. Intentionally or not, but the author does not help to disengangle the confusion, but rather adds to it. The story is full of breaks in the chronology and a non-linear timeline, so often it is difficult to follow the author's narrative, let alone the moves of the protagonists. What works for "Pulp Fiction" is less helpful here.

2. Interviews with real participants of the events do illuminate the story, but I often found the book too much focused on interviews themselves rather than drawing connections between the described events and the larger story. It felt at times as if I was reading "World War Z".

3. I would hate to imply that the author is one-sided in his presentation of the events, but you do get a feeling that there is an immense share of attention given to atrocities committed by the side supported by Rwandan forces. At the same time, of the million refugees who crossed into the Congo a good half were shepharded by Rwandan troops back to Rwanda. Not a single page in the book is dedicated to this, how it happened, what was the result. At the same time there are description upon description of sufferings of the other half of the refugees.

In my opinion, if you already know the story of the war, this book can help with detailed insight into the events. For a new reader it may fail to provide a coherent understanding.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Giles M. Smith on 17 July 2011
Format: Hardcover
Written with a pace and narrative Grisham would be proud of. Caught between a tragedy, horror and comedy. An amazing story many would never have heard and fewer understand. Intelligent, thought provoking, shocking, horrifying and resembling Catch-22 in places. From the genocide in Rwanda to the country today - fifteen years of history, five million deaths. Page turning, readable - highly recommended.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dave on 31 July 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I have read dozens of books on the RDC but none of them come close to pulling all the threads together like this one in a readable but upsetting history, I lived in Congo Brazzaville for many years and realise now that my "in depth" knowledge of the DRC,s history hadn,t even scratched the surface, I would urge anyone to buy and read this book and then try to imagine the horrors still going till this day..and then look on in wonder at the lack of interest shown by the Western political elite. True a lot of the pain is self inflicted but nobody deserves what the poor in the RDC have to contend with on a daily basis.
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By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa's `First World War' purportedly killed up to 5.4 million people between 1998 and 2007 (a tally that has, incidentally, been disputed). Yet it was scarcely reported on or noticed outside the country itself. Any book trying to describe the conflict is going to struggle to construct a narrative of a war that featured few set-piece battles or decisive watersheds. It's a real challenge for anyone to undertake and it's all too easy simply to resort to clichés like the `Heart of Darkness' or throw up one's hands and exclaim `the horror, the horror'. So I read this book partially on the strength of some of the reviews on its dust jacket, which claimed the book was going beyond clichés but offered an analysis.

It doesn't quite manage in doing that. It offers a compelling and extremely readable account of the war, told principally through interviews. This is no mean accomplishment - I do not wish to disparage it at all. Mr Stearns' passion for the country and his vivid portrayals of the people he meets makes for highly compelling reading. Certainly, one gets a sense of some of the proximate causes of the conflict (the fall-out from the Rwandan genocide in 1994 being one of the most prominent) and his narrative allows one to follow the key developments with ease.

But only in the last chapter is there a proper attempt at analysis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. Horsewood on 10 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very thorough review of the troubles in the Congo without being boring. Read this book if you want to know the background in what continues to be the Congo's troubles.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Aftiti on 18 July 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Dancing in the glory of monsters' is another brilliant example of a journalist delving into history and presenting an accessible account that is enthralling and accurate. This book follows Dowden's 'Africa, Altered States, Oridnary Miracles', Merridith's 'The State of Africa', and Wrong's 'In the footsteps of Mr Kutz', chronicling the history of the DRC. If anything is lacking, it is the attention given to Western powers and their influence at this time. Stearns introduces elements of influence but neglects for whatever reason to take this further. Contextualising it from an African regional experience is fine, but in my opinion this should be more explicit.

If you find the DRC interesting then this book increases the intrigue!
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