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on 28 January 2009
I have become interested in African politics for about 18 months now and looking among the hundreds of titles I picked up Wrong's 'In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz' and became entranced not just by the continent but its history and people. Wrong's construction and intricate prose gives the story a personal and authorative account to her subjects. Then a few months down the line I was in Waterstones and saw 'I didn't do for you,' I bought it straight away. I was aware of the country but not of its history and wealth of activity. Again Wrong is able to describe the Italian influence, the brilliant account of World War 2 and the armed struggle into a wonderful story. Wrong's journalistic background and her passion for Africa make it an excellent read. The other reviews have given this an average of 4 and Mr Kurtz a 5, I would say as an average that is fair because the story of Mobuto and Zaire/DR Congo's history is deeper and a more story people should be familiar with. I give this a five because as a journalist myself she opens new stories and a real sense of adventure to the place.
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on 25 July 2007
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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on 18 December 2009
Like most people I had only a vague awareness and little interest in Eritrea before reading this book. But like Michela Wrong's other works on the DRC and Kenya, it is instantly engaging with the narrative drive of a thriller. The descriptions of Ethiopian despots Haile Sellassie and the even more appalling Mengistu Haile Mariam are vividly drawn - as are scenes like the poignant classical concert performed under a thorn tree on a grand piano.
Along with Aidan Harley's Zanzibar Chest, this is a 'must read' about the reality of life on the horn of Africa.
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on 28 January 2005
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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on 4 June 2013
Michela wrong is a very fine writer and has produced a wonderfully researched and beautifully written account of Eritrea's history and its struggle for independence. Wrong clearly feels great sympathy for the plight of Eritreans and the hand that history has dealt it at times. Being Ethiopia's only link to the sea for example was always going to make obtaining independence from their overlords a hard and bloody struggle. Wrong also points at the involvement of other foreign nations in Eritrea's history and the negative impact it has often had on the Eritreans themselves. She even finds the time to prove that idiotic Americans always remain idiotic and don't even realise it. An excellent and informative book.
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on 2 December 2012
Michela Wrong is an established and successful author on Africa. This volume was a casual purchase and I found this blend of history and politics a riveting experience. For many of us this part of Africa is complex and difficult to understand. This book will shine a light.
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on 10 April 2015
I got this as a christmas gift for my dad and he really loves it, he said it's a good read. It arrived quite quickly and it's a very good price. Highly recommend it.
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on 22 October 2015
Reading some of the other reviews, it seemed the book might be a propaganda piece for the current regime, but it isn't.
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on 23 October 2013
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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on 1 February 2005
I am very much impressed by the details that went into the book. I am an Eritrean, and being one was never easy. I can confidently say that is what I read in this book - the difficulty my fellow countrymen, especially the freedom fighters, sustained over the years. One can sum up the Eritrean experience with its abnormal nature. The author managed to describe that successfully.
Now Eritrea is supposed to be a free country and one would think that all that history of successive colonial eras plus the American and Soviet intrusions is behind it. Well, not really. Sadly enough, Eritrea is still going through serious difficulties.
Although re-visiting the past was not easy, I remained fixated from start to finish. And at times I got emotional.
The book is fresh and splendidly written.
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