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I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation Hardcover – 17 Jan 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (17 Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007150962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007150960
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 3.8 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 696,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Contemporary history on the grand scale. I was entertained, informed and angered. Wrong has given us another essential contribution to the post-colonial scramble for Africa.’ John le Carre

‘Vivid, penetrating, wonderfully detailed. Michela Wrong has written the biography of a nation and more – she has excavated the very heart and soul of the Eritrean people and their country.' Aminatta Forna

‘If you thought Eritrea was some exotic flower you heard mentioned on a gardening programme this book will tell you something different. It tells the tale of a small group of Africans so despised and trampled by successive foreign occupations that they fought back and after 30 years of war, they became a nation. It is an astounding story packed with tales of the worst – and the best – of human behaviour.’ Richard Dowden, President of the Royal African Society

'This is a wonderful, readable and illuminating book. Michela Wrong is an enormously talented writer…thoroughly researched and deeply engaging and honest.' Clare Short – New Statesman

Praise for ‘I Didn’t Do it for You’:

'I found it engrossing, vividly written in the style of the best thrillers, while portraying real-life dramas and characters larger than life. It brought to life all the cruelties and and distortions of the cold war in Africa, as seen from a helpless victim-country, with its stories of grotesque interventions by Americans and Russians and the excesses of the African leaders. But it's also thoroughly well-informed, and I've read nothing that's told me as much about either Eritrea or Ethiopia. It should become the standard work on the region.' Anthony Sampson

Praise for In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz:

‘A stylish account of the absurd as well as the tragic.’ Sunday Times

‘A brilliant account of Africa’s most extraordinary dictator told with wry wit and delicious irony… this book will become a classic.’
The Economist

‘Michela Wrong made the so-called 'Heart of Darkness' much less opaque to me when I visited the Congo. She can do the same for you if you read this brave and witty book.’
Christopher Hitchens

‘Michela Wrong nimbly balances absurdity and outrage in her portrait of Mobutu Sese Seko and the wreckage he visited – with steady Western sponsorship – on the country he called Zaire. Her book is charged with pity and terror, and with the sort of sustaining humour that she rightly admires in Mobutu’s former subjects.’
Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed with Our Families

About the Author

As a foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency. Michela Wrong began her career reporting on papal pronouncements in Rome and fashion collections in Paris. She later moved to Africa, where she spent six years covering events across the continent for Reuters, the BBC and the Financial Times. She is now based in London.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By NMS Holman on 15 Jan. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michela Wrong's first book, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, an account of the Congo's decline, was rightly acclaimed a classic by the Economist. She has triumphed again in her account of Eritrea, a book of many themes and as many virtues: it combines the best of travel writing, biography, history, current affairs, all embraced by a poignant love story, for Ms Wrong fell head over heels for this rugged, beautiful land. Above all, the former journalist who worked for Reuters news agency and reported on Africa for the Financial Times, has produced a fascinating psychological profile of Eritrea, the brave, belligerent and infuriating Horn of Africa state that waged a 30 year guerilla war for independence from Ethiopia. It is a case study of the harm done by colonial rule, and an indictment of the role of Italy, Britain, the US, the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and a scathing condemnation of the conniving United Nations. But Ms Wrong never lectures us. She combines intellectual rigour with wit and sharp insight as she trawls British government files. And with wonderful flair, she describes the incongruous, such as her account of Eritea's last Italian, living out his remaining days in the Red Sea port of Massawa, spitting out his contempt for family and friends, lashing out at his ducks as he sits surrounded by rusting 'fridges. Equally entertaining is her description - "bugging, blowjobs and beer" - of the exploits of the US servicemen who eavesdropped on much of the world from their listening post at Kagnew, on the outskirts of the Eritrean capital of Asmara. But there are broader concerns that emerge as Ms Wrong sets out the lifestyles of the feckless young US servicemen.Read more ›
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "fleney" on 7 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an extraordinary, many-layered book and I challenge anyone to remain unmoved by its epic tale. I began it ignorant about one of Africa's least known countries, and ended it enraged, inspired ... and much wiser, not only about Eritrea but about the West's grotesque use of African statelets as political footballs.
The book is an impassioned travelogue through landscape, history and politics, with an author at once caustically funny, thoughtful and wry. If you like intelligent travel writing, you will love ms wrong's work, with its vivid landscapes and incisive human portraits. A cast of characters at times Pythonesque move against a back-cloth of tragedy - like the Italian Victor Meldrew, who sits, cursing in his rusting Eritrean scrapyard, or the bored GIs who hold farting competitions and smear their pants with peanut butter to horrify fastidious locals.
Underlying it all is the author's meticulous research, but it is a tribute to her writing that the reader never notices that they are being educated as well as entertained. I finished the book with that feeling of regret that only exceptional works give you.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By H Ghirmai on 28 Jan. 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a book full of contradictions, if not just for its content, then for the approach to the subject, namely Eritrea, by Michela Wrong. It is about the journey of Eritrea throughout history - from colonial time to present day. The scars that foreign occupation left on Eritreans - the experience of a people whose nation was betrayed by the world, most notably, by the United Nations. It is a story of a brave and resolute people who, irrespective of all obstacles, abandoned and disparaged, succeeded to realise their destiny. Wrong has put in a great deal of research into exploring the Eritrean colonial experience and its legacy - a good effort indeed.
But when it comes to present day Eritrea, the book's most fatal shortcoming comes to the fore. The discussion of the current Eritrean state of affairs, for the most part, is entirely based on anecdotes and lacks in in-depth analysis. Had Wrong applied the same level of commitment in constructing a well-rounded picture of the struggles of a young nation as that of the colonial period, we would have been talking about a brilliant work. On the contrary however, Wrong seems to have glossed over the most important period of Eritrean history and thereby constructed a very sketchy picture of present day Eritrea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Cooper on 2 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
I came to this book having loved "In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz", a fantastic book which veered crazily between the tragic and the hilariously funny in its account of how the Congolese have tried to survive the awfulness which befell their country.

"I didn't do it for you" reads much more like an angry polemic on behalf of the Eritrean people and I liked it less as a result. Its one-sidedness was particularly apparent in the description of the long struggle with Ethiopia for independence where Ms Wrong lionises the EPLF as modern-day Spartans, fantastically brave and resourceful, unswervingly dedicated to their cause - whereas the Ethiopians are never portrayed as anything more than murderous brutes. Her failure to level much criticism at the EPLF makes the post-independence slide of Eritrea into dictatorship and isolation seem a little odd, especially since she rather glosses over this period.

Nevertheless this is a beautifully written book which combines a myriad of personal anecdotes with painstaking historical research. It is well worth reading because it draws attention to a forgotten corner of Africa, and is a sobering reminder of the horrible damage that both of the Cold War superpowers wreaked in the developing world, as well as the enduring legacy of European colonialism.
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