Africa : Dispatches from a Fragile Continent

4.03 (100 ratings by Goodreads)
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A remarkable and controversial book about the reality of modern Africa by distinguished American reporter, Blaine Harden. This remarkable book is the first to get behind the picture post-card presentation of modern Africa. harden reveals the true and often unsightly picture of this vast continent. The issues he addresses - the incompetent intervention of Western governments and the battle between the tribal way of life and modernity - are presented through lucid and gripping stories about individual people and incidents Harden has known. He himself was once thrown out of Kenya for the strength and accuracy of his reporting; this book will cause and equal stir in the debate about where Africa is going and what itis more

Product details

  • Paperback | 334 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 26mm | 240.41g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Flamingo
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 13pp b&w photographs
  • 0006378560
  • 9780006378563
  • 684,349

Review quote

'The best contemporary book on Africa.' Richard Dowden, Independent 'This is an extraordinary and frightening book. Blaine Harden evokes with passion, argument , and fabulous stories the destruction of Africa. He is a superb reporter and writer.' William Shawcross 'Harden's "dispatches" peel back the traditional mystique of the so-called "dark continent" and identify enduring African values of family, religion and fellowship. Authoritative, entertaining and mercifully free of giraffes and safari suits.' Observer 'An outstanding account of the complexities of the fragile continent. Few writers can match harden's insights into the continent's malaise.' Financial Timesshow more

About Blaine Harden

From 1985 to 1989, Blaine Harden was bureau chief for the Washington Post in sub-Saharan Africa. Born in the state of Washington, he received his masters degree in newspaper journalism from Syracuse University. He won the Livingston Award for feature writing in more

Review Text

These timely and perceptive essays by Washington Post reporter Harden actually consider the fortunes of just one chunk of Africa, those central African countries where English is lingua franca: Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Zaire, Zambia, Liberia, and Nigeria. Harden, sub-Saharan bureau chief for four years, describes how Africa's woes - famine, foreign debt, agricultural collapse, political unrest among them - are being compounded by the greed and corruption of personal rule. He faults Africa's corrupt "Big Men" - as well as the Western moneylenders who prop them up - for squandering the chance to build democratic institutions that meld tribal tradition with modern, Western values. The Big Men's use of violence to solve political problems begets further bloodshed, an outcome Harden astutely foresaw for Samuel Doe's Liberia. African success stories are hard to fred. While Harden may be right when he calls Nigeria "the Great Black Hope" for democracy in Africa, he admits that the nation has yet to lay the groundwork. As African leaders race to reconcile old with new, tribal with national, rural with urban, ordinary Africans are left feeling spiritually empty. In a scattershot approach (understandable given the continent's size and contradictions), the author observes their lives to gauge the effects of these drastic changes. Even Manute Bol, who escaped the war and poverty of Sudan to become a wealthy US basketball star, can't escape the astonishing cultural clashes: "He grew up an illiterate cowherd in a defiantly primitive and self-centered culture that worships cows. He has become a semi. literate celebrity in a defiantly modern and self-centered culture that worships celebrity." Harden's in-depth background analysis - albeit sometimes repetitive and intrusive - and his intelligent case-study observations of the tensions in individual African life styles put this a cut above everyday journalism. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

100 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
5 32% (32)
4 46% (46)
3 17% (17)
2 3% (3)
1 2% (2)
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