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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo Paperback – 2 Jul 2015
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A Congolese secretary living in America arranges for him to lodge with her family in Kinshasa, on the understanding he doesn't tell her family where she lives. She doesn't want them 'camping out' all over her new life in America. It was this aspect of Congolese life which really captured my attention. There used to be a phrase in the arts 'kitchen sink drama', that is drama depicting real life in all its reality and squalor. It is Anjan's life with his Congolese hosts which brings home the desperateness of life in the Congo for the everyman Congolese. (As he finds out, atrocities in the Congo are on such an epic and repetitive scale it is the unusual which captures the attention of the news desk editor).
Witnessing his hosts' reverses and the sabotaging of their efforts to get free of poverty by other family members, Anjan becomes, in effect, the breadwinner of the family. He learns to dread their insistence to go along with them whenever there is a family crisis as it usually means he's paying. On one occasion he is spurred on in his journalistic efforts by the family matriarch's declaring 'it's not enough' after handing over several hundred dollars to keep the family afloat. I can only guess at the resentment she felt at being so beholden. Certainly, she didn't feel any gratitude. Returning from a dangerous journey into the interior, for instance, he finds his rat infested room hasn't been cleaned. Interestingly, he doesn't mention any leave taking when finally, exhausted and having made his name he heads for the airport and home. I imagine it all ended very badly.
An absorbing read, I award 5 stars.
The author does make reference to the book on Africa "The Shadow of the Sun" by journalist Kapusunski, and refers to being inspired by it. "The Shadow of the Sun" is indeed brilliant, and I cannot recommend it highly enough as an alternative.
One gripe: Describing sex alongside food as a 'basic need' that poorly paid and provisioned soldiers loot at will is a bit off. The sooner men realise that casual sex is a want that can be controlled and that women don't owe them sex. the better it will be for the DRC (and every other country). In every other area of the book the author is very sympathetic to women, highlighting the issues they contend with on a daily basis living in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
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