In the Land of Magic Soldiers

In the Land of Magic Soldiers : A Story of White and Black in West Africa

3.96 (84 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

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An Los Angeles Times Best Book 2003

A chilling, beautifully written narrative of African war

Sierra Leone is the world's most war-ravaged country. There, in a West African landscape of spectacular beauty, rampaging soldiers--many not yet in their teens--have made a custom of hacking off the hands of their victims, then letting them live as the ultimate emblem of terror. The country is so anarchic and so desperate that, forty years after independence, its people long to be recolonized. And the West wants to save it.

Daniel Bergner's In the Land of Magic Soldiers follows both a set of white would-be saviors--a family of American missionaries, a mercenary helicopter gunship pilot, and the army of Great Britain--and also a set of Sierra Leoneans, among them a father who rescues his daughter from rape, loses his hands as punishment, then begins to rebuild his life; a child soldier and sometime cannibal; and a highly Westernized medical student who claims immunity to bullets and a cure for H.I.V.

A story of black and white, of the First World and the world left infinitely behind, of those who would nation-build and those who live in a land of fire and jungle, In the Land of Magic Soldiers is an unforgettable work of literary reportage by "a terrific reporter with a novelist's eye" (Peter Applebome, The New York Times Book Review).
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 140 x 213 x 18mm | 318g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 031242292X
  • 9780312422929
  • 1,141,524

Review quote

"[Bergner] has undertaken a huge, ghastly task, and his book is so beautifully written that you will not pull away from it...Bergner describes what is magical and what is malign in Africa as well as anyone ever has." --The Los Angeles Times

"An eloquent witness...[Bergner has] a journalist's eye for the telling moment." --The New Yorker

"The strength of [Bergner's] spare and evocative account is his gallery of characters, whose stories weave through the book and at times intersect with one another...A reminder of the potential [for killing and healing] that we all carry within us." --Adam Hochschild, The New York Times Book Review

"Astonishing, unsettling...A remarkable book, full of piercing images and brilliantly observed details." --Chicago Tribune
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About Daniel Bergner

The author of Moments of Favor and God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Rendempiton in Louisiana's Angola Prison, Daniel Bergner has written for Harper's, Talk, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives with his family in New York City.
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Rating details

84 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 40% (34)
4 26% (22)
3 24% (20)
2 8% (7)
1 1% (1)
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