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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Africa classic from Michela Wrong
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...
Published on 15 Jan 2005 by NMS Holman

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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good but very sketchy on some important issues
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...
Published on 28 Jan 2005 by H Ghirmai


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Africa classic from Michela Wrong, 15 Jan 2005
By 
NMS Holman (London) - See all my reviews
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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. The contrast with the heroics of their Eritrean contemporaries, many of whom died in their struggle for independence from Ethiopia, could not be more striking. The Americans had neither cause nor convictions. Their Eritrean contemporaries had both, in huge doses. Alas,like many love stories, there is not a happy ending. Ms Wrong does not try to conceal her distress as she watches Eritrea's decline from inspirational model for Africa into authoritarian state. This splendid book provides a powerful rebuttal of those historians who claim that on balance colonial rule was a good thing; and it should be compulsory reading for British ministers who now urge us to "celebrate" our colonial past. As Ms Wrong warns: "Eritrea should serve as a cautionary tale ... We forget the roles we play in such far-off outposts at our peril".
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous African journey, 7 Mar 2005
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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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good but very sketchy on some important issues, 28 Jan 2005
By 
H Ghirmai (Lonon, London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eritrea explained - brilliantly!, 1 Mar 2005
By 
Gitau Githinji (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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For any reader who took pleasure in reading Ms Wrong's first book, it was difficult to believe that In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz could be bettered. How? Having now read I Didn't Do It For You, I can safely say that I could not have been more wrong (if you will excuse the pun!). Few chroniclers of African history have been as thorough in their research, as objective in their analysis and as compelling in their style. History books tend to be difficult to read. Most non-scholarly types read them because they have to, not because they want to. Not so with I Didn't Do It For You. It is page-turningly riveting. Ms Wrong has not just done it again but surpassed herself.
Eritrea is not a country which instantly grabs the imagination. One picks up Ms Wrong's book with a degree of curiosity. Why Eritrea? But as the story unfolds and one learns of the designs of Ferdinando Martini, the ghastly battle of Keren, the ridiculously grandiloquent Lion of Judah, the dreadful Super Power ding-dong wars and the crying shame of the last few years, one's heart bleeds for that benighted country. In Ms Wrong's words "Poor Eritrea."
This book is essential reading for anyone who is serious about understanding Africa's past and its bearing on the present. Eritrea is a superb example of the fall-out of the infamous Berlin Conference. Nobody before Ms Wrong has been dogged enough to do the research into this complicated story. She has courage and intelligence which she employs to superb effect. I salute her.
Gitau Githinji
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How outsiders devastate Africa., 25 July 2007
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This review is from: I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation (Paperback)
Funnily enough,my first knowledge of Eritrea's liberation struggle is mentioned in this book-BBC World Service news items on the war between the EPLF and Ethiopia in the 1980s.
Michela Wrong writes a wonderfully readable book about how outsiders(Italy,the UK,Ethiopia,USA,USSR,even Cuba)interfered in and almost destroyed Eritrea from the late 19th century onwards.The total amorality and cynicism of the outside world towards Eritrea is well documented in the mid-section of the book,roughly from 1974 to 1978,when the superpowers changed sides in the regional conflict in the Horn of Africa-the US swapped Ethiopia for Somalia as allies,and the USSR did the opposite,and the Eritreans,on the verge of a victorious offensive against Ethiopia,were forced to retreat and the war continued till 1991.
Wrong justly points out that other African countries hardly covered themselves with glory during the Ethiopian occupation of Eritrea.Even those states that came to independence throgh liberation wars found the Eritreans an embarrasment,and the OAU(based in Ethiopia's capital)couldn't bring itself to denounce one African country for occupying another.The fear of post-indepeenence boundaries being altered,and potentially every African country's borders being open to revision,was a nightmare Africa's leaders couldn't face.
After victory over Ethiopia,Wrong's depiction of the Eritrean leadership's attitude towards the tyrants,kleptocrats and corrupt incompetents who made up most of Africa's leadership cadre in the early 1990s is very well done.Also well done is the story of how the arrogance of Eritrea's new leaders led them into a disastrous war with Ethiopia(what,again?)in the late 1990s.This also led to the hope of a homegrown democracy in Africa giving way to an increasingly authoritarian government within Eritrea.
Wrong correctly points out that,post-independence,most outsiders romanticised Eritrea as a possibility of an African country following a path of good governance and respect for human rights,rather than as the messy outcome of decades of war and internal struggle.The war with Ethiopia and the internal clampdown caused such disappointment amongst western well-wishers because it led to the smashing of their own illusions about Eritrea.
The heroes of this book are the ordinary Eritrean men and women who endured so much in the independence war,only for independence to lead to yet more war and repression,this time from their own government.Wrong correctly salutes their feats,but seems to try too hard to look for a silver lining and a happy ending.She obviously knows more about Eritrea than I do, but I can't be so optimistic.
In short,a great,readable book about a part of the world that is,despite the constant meddling of the outside world,largely unknown in Europe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener......., 24 Aug 2011
Just when you thought you knew how things were you are proved to be so very wrong.......that's how I felt reading this book. I took part in the Western military famine relief operation in Ethiopia in 1984 and seeing for myself the 'beauty and pride' of the people in dire circumstances I have always held a fascination for the region. What I didn't know was that the 'rebels' (Eritreans) had suffered so much and been betrayed so badly by the West in times past. Like many other African states internal corruption and greed, and the abuses of a country by the West seems to have fueled the fires of opression of the general populace and the inevitable decline to into war over and over again.

If you have the slightest interest in the region (Horn of Africa), it's history and the political machinations of it's and the Wests leadership I would thoroughly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars this book could make you very angry, 20 May 2011
By 
A. Browne "avid reader" (Donegal Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation (Paperback)
A history lesson about a small nation which seems to have been abused by every foreign country that it came into contact with, and then when they get some measure of self governance they go and stuff it up.
This book shows us that the major powers are only interested in themselves and what they can gain from others. This is something we should all remember.
This book educated me , angered me and made want to know more about Eritrea . At the same time it raises questions about all the other stories we see reported in the news papers about far away lands.
This is history at it's best easily digested with a host of unforgettable historical figures and full of minor details which flesh out the story and make you want to say 'did you know this'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and researched, but very one-sided, 2 Jan 2008
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This review is from: I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation (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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5.0 out of 5 stars still the world betrayed us, 5 April 2014
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This review is from: I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation (Paperback)
I have read this book by Michela Wrong and it very interesting book. I am eritrean and i know some of the stories in this book personaly and it remaind me how the things gone. It is true and it reflects of the current situation of my country Eritrea. The very interesting thing still the worlld they betray and forget us as we are human being and part of this huge world. But no one who care for us we are still be killed, raped and kidnaped by our own goverment and outsiders from Sinai. Our ayea are still looking from were we can get help. But i know oneday everything will be changed even the world when their back. Thanks
And well done Michela keep it up!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The book that I have been looking for., 23 Oct 2013
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It is the book which I have been looking for, it is one of the best I ever had. Thank you !
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