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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo Paperback – 2 Jul 2015
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Congo, with all its mystery, its beauty, its darkness its poverty, its wealth, its warmth and its violence came alive under the pen of this debutante author... As the book races towards the finish, you wonder whether you were reading a fascinating fictional drama set in a troubled land but you realize it's all too true and that's what makes this book quite scary and yet beautiful. -- India Today In lucid and searing prose, and with bracing self-awareness, Anjan Sundaram explores a country that has long been victimized by the ever-renewed greeds of the modern world. Stringer is one of those very rare books of journalism that transcend their genre - and destiny as ephemera - and become literature. -- Pankaj Mishra What a debut! It's not often one reads a book of reportage from a difficult foreign country with such fever-dream immediacy, such tense intelligence, and such an artful gift for story-telling. Here is a commanding new writer who comes to us with the honesty, the intensity, and the discerning curiosity of the young Naipaul. -- Pico Iyer With an incisive intellect and senses peeled raw, Sundaram takes us on a mesmerizing journey through the vibrant shambles of modern Congo. This is that rare work of reportage that achieves true literary greatness, and it can stand proudly next to V.S. Naipaul or Ryzard Kapuscinski. -- Richard Grant Anjan Sundaram's prose is so luscious, whether he's writing about mathematics or colonial architecture or getting mugged, that the words come alive and practically dance on the page. Stringer is first book, about a year-long journey to Congo; reading it made me feel like I'd follow him anywhere in the world. -- Barbara Demick, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nothing to Envy You have found a rare talent in Anjan Sundaram. I loved his coming of age, not just professionally but intimately and privately, set against the Congo morass. It takes a brave writer to admit to utter bewilderment, so I salute not just his honesty but his spirit. -- Tim Butcher, author of the Sunday Times bestseller, Blood River
A brilliant and thrilling memoir of a dangerous and disorienting year of self-discovery in the Congo, set against the backdrop of the explosively violent 2006 elections
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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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