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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo Paperback – 2 Jul 2015

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (2 July 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782392491
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782392491
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 748,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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 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 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 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 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 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

Book Description

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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had previously read 'Blood River', Tim Butcher's journey through the Congo following a route of Stanley. Although the book was an eye-opener to a part of Africa I had only vaguely registered, the reason for the journey never quite captured me. so when I read the reviews on this one, I bought it. Anjan Sundaram gained a mathematics degree at a prestigious U.S. university and, with the offer of a job for life with Goldman Sachs, threw it all up for a career in journalism in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. His motivation seems to have been the desire to make a difference with his life and reaction to growing up under the auspices of a repressive regime. (I have to add here that he went out to the Congo unaccredited and got the job as a stringer - a journalist paid by each word - out of grim necessity; he was robbed of all his money through a wrong word). Upon hearing of his decision, his mother sat down and cried.

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).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was highly recommended to me, but I'm afraid the book really didn't fully come alive to me. At the end of the book I had no more sense of Africa than at the beginning and in that sense I found it unmemorable. I didn't find his style of writing particularly engaging and found the reading experience rather choppy and impersonal. The only scenes that really came alive for me were the petty domestic scenes he describes whilst living as a lodger.

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.
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Format: Paperback
This a beautifully written book; it reads almost like a novel and the author manages to weave together personal emotion and experience with a view of the wider picture. The account of family and community life in Kinshasa is fascinating, while the author's haphazard attempts to break into the world of journalism are both funny and moving.

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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Format: Paperback
Having spent six months in the DRC in 2002, I've experienced many things similar to those described in this book so I can vouch for their veracity. Likewise, I've worked in media for many years and can vouch for how power politics in newsrooms can sap moral. That said, one sign of a good book is that it takes you by surprise and teaches you new things and there are numerous aspects of Anjan's time in Congo that are new to me which brought me delight and despair in equal measure. I can recommend this book to anybody genuinely interested in real life stories, in what really goes on in the Congo. It's not an easy read, it's not an easy place but is important and fascinating and Anjan did very well to bring it to our attention.
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