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In the powerful travel-writing tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and V.S. Naipaul, a haunting memoir of a dangerous and disorienting year of self-discovery in one of the world's unhappiest countries. In the powerful travel-writing tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and V.S. Naipaul, a haunting memoir of a dangerous and disorienting year of self-discovery in one of the world's unhappiest countries.


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In the powerful travel-writing tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and V.S. Naipaul, a haunting memoir of a dangerous and disorienting year of self-discovery in one of the world's unhappiest countries. In the powerful travel-writing tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and V.S. Naipaul, a haunting memoir of a dangerous and disorienting year of self-discovery in one of the world's unhappiest countries.

30 review for Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    At the age of 22, Anjan Sundaram seemed to be facing a secure future. A citizen of India who grew up in Dubai, he was completing a Masters in Mathematics at Yale University, and had just received a lucrative job offer from Goldman Sachs. Life seemed predictable, easy. So he turned down the job offer and traveled to the Congo to work as a journalist. Freelance. With no previous reporting experience. Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo, which will be published in the US in January 2014 by D At the age of 22, Anjan Sundaram seemed to be facing a secure future. A citizen of India who grew up in Dubai, he was completing a Masters in Mathematics at Yale University, and had just received a lucrative job offer from Goldman Sachs. Life seemed predictable, easy. So he turned down the job offer and traveled to the Congo to work as a journalist. Freelance. With no previous reporting experience. Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo, which will be published in the US in January 2014 by Doubleday, is the story of his 18 months spent in the Congo, culminating in the riots that broke out around the 2006 elections. It is not a history or in-depth analysis of the violent political conditions in the region, which have culminated in over 5,000,000 deaths. It instead is a memoir, focused on a year in which Sundaram left the safety and security of the United States to travel to a region where few journalists were willing to travel, which few Westerners were willing to think about much. In an interview that he gave to Signposts, he describes his motivations for traveling to the Congo as follows: "There was certainly a sense of thrill at being witness to history. I was 22 years old. I wanted to see the world in its fullness. I lived with a family that had very primary concerns — there was often no food in the house, the baby was sick. I ate once a day, like them. As a journalist I met warlords, I saw mass graves, and went on military patrols with UN troops. I was embedded with UN soldiers as they attacked rebels in the Congolese jungle. All of this taught me a lot. And it fulfilled a need to see the world, feel a part of it, and understand something of its depth and extent. I felt powerful emotion in these places. "There was certainly a moral concern as well. Why did we hear so little from this place called Congo in which so many people had died? Why did the world turn away from this war, hardly visit it, and reduce it to two-hundred-word report at the bottom of newspaper pages? There are still too few journalists who live in Congo, experience it, and write from that experience. Too many of the stories we read and hear are by reporters who visit Congo for just a few days." (http://nawaidanjum.wordpress.com/2013...) Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo provides a vivid sense of Sundaram's experiences as a stringer for AP in the Congo. Although he was centered in Kinshasa, he also took some reporting trips into the field. He provides vivid details of his struggles and experiences in both places. The books has some of the flaws of a debut -- for a memoir, it does not always disclose many in-depth examinations of Sundaram's personal development, struggles, or background beyond worrying about where his next story (and paycheck) would come from. Readers may want to already be somewhat familiar with events in Congo in the early and mid-2000s, since, although Sundaram provides some background information, it remains fairly spotty. In spite of these limitations, Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo is a book that I can recommend. Sundaram has since won an award for his reporting from Reuters, and he has also been published in The New York Times, Foreign Policy magazine, Fortune, the Washington Post and the Guardian. He is a rising star as a journalist, and it will be fascinating to follow his career, especially considering where he started. I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I got 175 pages into this book until I got totally fed up with this dilettante of a pseudo journalist, playing around a war zone, doing nobody any good and totally failing to learn or to grow. I saw the author on Morning Joe and, from that interview, expected so much more. Nope.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Anjan Sundaram's Stringer is, like much travel writing, simultaneously engaging and off-putting. Engaging in that it, presumably, depicts a region the reader had some preexisting interest in; off-putting because, invariably, it is as much about the writer as it is about that region. For years, I worked on a team-taught course that included among its readings Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost, a detailed and devastating account of the genocidal havoc wrecked on the Congo when King Leoplod of Anjan Sundaram's Stringer is, like much travel writing, simultaneously engaging and off-putting. Engaging in that it, presumably, depicts a region the reader had some preexisting interest in; off-putting because, invariably, it is as much about the writer as it is about that region. For years, I worked on a team-taught course that included among its readings Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost, a detailed and devastating account of the genocidal havoc wrecked on the Congo when King Leoplod of Belgium held the region as, more or less, a personal fiefdom. The story of the atrocities perpetrated in the Congo in the name of profit is heart-rending. One wishes one could treat these atrocities as anti-colonial exaggerations, but the caliber and detail of Hochschild's research make that impossible. However, King Leopold's Ghost documents not just the atrocities, but a worldwide crusade to end them. So we see not only the megalomaniac Leopold, but also those who revealed his actions and crusaded against them, inclulding E. D. Morel, originally an employee of Leopold's shipping company, who noticed great wealth arriving from the Congo, but almost nothing—other than guns—going into it; African Americans George Washington Williams and William Sheppard who brought many of the atrocities to light, while suffering under the U.S.'s own racial caste system; and Roger Casement, an Irish nationalist, later hanged for treason, who saw the struggle of the Congolese against Leopold and Belgium and analogous to the Irish struggle against British domination. In the years since teaching that course I have often wondered and, to be honest, simultaneously wished not to know what contemporary life is like in present-day Congo. The country became independent in 1960 under the leadership of an idealistic Patrice Lamumba, who was assassinated within six months of that independence—and with U.S. cooperation—by his secretary Mobutu Sese Seko, and has since seen constant fighting among and dictatorial rule by para-military strongmen, of whom Mobutu was only the first. Enter Anjan Sundaram, a graduate student in math at Yale, originally from India, who decides to become a reporter and sets off on his own to Congo to report shortly before the 2011 elections, which were touted worldwide as heralding a new era of democracy in the nation. Not surprisingly, what Sundaram encounters on the ground bears little resemblance to the images "new era of democracy" might inspire. At first, I resented Sundaram's presence in his own book. He came across as naive and self-centered, as determined to tell us about the difficulties he had adapting to life in Congo as about the actual lives of the Congolese. My resentment never disappeared completely, but as the book progressed, as Sundaram became more sure of himself and more knowledgeable about ordinary life in the Congo, I found him a more enjoyable companion, one I could learn from and whose complaints seemed not entirely unjustifiable. One of the great disappointments of Stringer, as compared to King Leopold's Ghost, is that there are no heroes. The accomplishments of the U.N. and N.G.O.s are negligible, the fighting among various militias from inside and outside the country is endless, and the endurance and denial demanded by day-to-day life are immense. Sundaran is telling us a truth, but this is a messy, violent truth with no change in sight. At the end of the book, having proven himself as an AP stringer and having survived the post-election violence, Sundaran is able to leave Congo with offers of journalistic postings in several regions. The Congolese remain in Congo, the implication being that their story will continue as painfully as before, but without a ground presence of reporters to cover it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I'm not sure what the author was aiming for, but this is more of an account of his fledgling career rather than the depiction of war in the Congo. Written with no emotion or feeling, it's hard to get involved in the story. There are some eye opening descriptions of everyday life in Kinshasa, but, again, written as though the author were an impartial observer, rather than actually living with a Congolese family. I'm not sure what the author was aiming for, but this is more of an account of his fledgling career rather than the depiction of war in the Congo. Written with no emotion or feeling, it's hard to get involved in the story. There are some eye opening descriptions of everyday life in Kinshasa, but, again, written as though the author were an impartial observer, rather than actually living with a Congolese family.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    What is never mentioned directly (but is tangentially) is that being an overseas Indian is what accounted for Anjan's ability to go places European/American journalists couldn't or wouldn't. If you look quickly at him, he could (with his curly hair) pass for African or Metis. This gave him a kind of camouflaged protection. It may not seem like much but the ability to blend into your surroundings will make you invisible. Also carrying a passport from both Dubai and the US let him play both sides What is never mentioned directly (but is tangentially) is that being an overseas Indian is what accounted for Anjan's ability to go places European/American journalists couldn't or wouldn't. If you look quickly at him, he could (with his curly hair) pass for African or Metis. This gave him a kind of camouflaged protection. It may not seem like much but the ability to blend into your surroundings will make you invisible. Also carrying a passport from both Dubai and the US let him play both sides of the power game. Lets face it, most people have no idea where or what Dubai is, and in many places in Africa an American passport will protect you from government intervention. Having been born into a society where he was a permanent outside (as an Indian and Hindu in a Moslem Arab nation), Anjan had developed survival skills. Having then come to the US as a student, he also learned how to deal with bloated (university) bureaucracies and bureaucrats. His brilliance is being able to see the world he lives in as both an insider and outsider and his ability to listen to what is meant, not just what is said. Being able to read between the words is as important as being able to read between the lines. He had a knack to knowing when to be servile and when to be aggressive. Great read. Zeb Kantrowitz

  6. 5 out of 5

    Abe

    This book is a first-person account of a young man’s sojourn in the Congo (DRC). Trained as a mathematician, Sundaram went there on a whim after college to be a journalist and bring to light the plight of the Congolese. Sounded like an excellent read. Oops. The book reads more like the whiny account of someone who got in way deeper than he was comfortable with. At the same time, though, nothing particularly exciting or dangerous happened in the entire book. Perhaps the most “harrowing” account wa This book is a first-person account of a young man’s sojourn in the Congo (DRC). Trained as a mathematician, Sundaram went there on a whim after college to be a journalist and bring to light the plight of the Congolese. Sounded like an excellent read. Oops. The book reads more like the whiny account of someone who got in way deeper than he was comfortable with. At the same time, though, nothing particularly exciting or dangerous happened in the entire book. Perhaps the most “harrowing” account was of a day trip to a warlord’s camp, but instead of the warlord being threatening it turns out he didn’t seem too dangerous and was soon to be arrested and imprisoned. Instead we got lots of accounts about rats in his bedroom and the lights going out and things of that nature. The people he tells about are poorly drawn and uninteresting. And worst of all the writing style is horribly amateurish – Sundaram clearly had pretensions to high literature but fell horribly short of it, so it just seemed self-conscious and obfuscated. An almost complete waste of time. I learned a tiny bit about the day-to-day lives of poor Kinshasa residents but that’s about it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susan Ovans

    A rather bloodless look at the Congo [pun intended]. It's hard to imagine a year in this war-ravaged nation could be so dull, but the author managed to convince this reader via 200+ tedious pages. A rather bloodless look at the Congo [pun intended]. It's hard to imagine a year in this war-ravaged nation could be so dull, but the author managed to convince this reader via 200+ tedious pages.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Raghu

    Right in the first chapter of the book, the author writes:"I had left for Congo in a sort of rage, a searing emotion. The feeling was of being abandoned, of acute despair. The world had become too beautiful. The beauty was starting to cave in on itself—revealing a core of crisis. One had nothing to hold on to......Part of my desire was to see a crisis. I had lived in man’s genius for so long, I wanted to know our destructive capacities.”. The author was a young 22- year old Mathematics Graduate Right in the first chapter of the book, the author writes:"I had left for Congo in a sort of rage, a searing emotion. The feeling was of being abandoned, of acute despair. The world had become too beautiful. The beauty was starting to cave in on itself—revealing a core of crisis. One had nothing to hold on to......Part of my desire was to see a crisis. I had lived in man’s genius for so long, I wanted to know our destructive capacities.”. The author was a young 22- year old Mathematics Graduate in Yale at this time. As I read this, I thought, 'Wow, won't he be chewed out for saying this as one more journalist, gawking at Africa's tragedies?". On reflection, I thought, "After all, the Polish journalist and Yale alumni Ryszard Kapuściński, to whom the author is compared to nowadays, also wandered in Africa in the 1960s and witnessed coups, mass killings and communist revolutions and wrote about them to great acclaim. So, why not Anjan Sundaram?" Anjan Sundaram grew up in Dubai until the age of ten, completed his schooling in the sheltering environment of Rishi valley in Bangalore, India and then went to Yale for Graduate studies in Mathematics. Soon, he decides to experience man's destructive capacities by going to the Democratic Republic of Congo where nearly four million people have been killed in the war for its minerals and metals and other wealth. He reaches Kinshasa, stays in the poor neighbourhood of Victoire with a Congolese family, gets robbed at gunpoint soon after and starts experiencing the country up close and personal. He manages to get a job as a stringer, reporting for AP, and travels into the conflict zones in the north of the country, sending dispatches on the killings, kidnappings and on the abject poverty of the country. He meets the warlords, gets to see the mass graves and manages to get embedded with the UN soldiers as they engage the rebels in combat deep in the jungles of Congo. He also finds that there are deeply entrenched international businesses for whom it is advantageous to keep the conflict going. Neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda control Congolese mines and profit from the smuggling that thrives on the conflict. Wealthy Indian businessmen, both native and from India, trade as middlemen in these conflict minerals. US based companies like Phelps Dodge which has mining operations here in copper and cobalt, receive backing and support from the US govt. IKEA gets wood from these forests. The author travels up the Congo river by boat with an Indian to find a piece of land he had purchased in the jungles hoping to get rich from it. In Bunia, he stays with a Punjabi Pakistani who traffics in arms to the militias. He tells the author that most UN soldiers in Bunia are from Pakistan and they are all into the illegal business of taking gold from the militias and sending them to Karachi. To the north of Bunia, the militias have killed off all the white rhinoceros, not for its horns but to eat. All in all, it is an exciting and adventurous foray into Congo and sensitive and compassionate reporting from a man who came to Yale to seek beauty in Mathematics. There are also powerful observations on Africa from Sundaram, sprinkled along the way in the book. On the relationship of Congolese with Indians, he says, "The Congolese would complain and complain about the Indian but they would accept that only one race treated them worse; the Congolese (the African more generally)". The author writes tellingly on dictatorship as follows: " Having grown up in a dictatorship in Dubai, I recognized the same elements in Congolese society - a certain acquiescence, a cloistering within small ambitions, a paucity of confidence in oneself, and the utter belief in the power of one man." He elaborates further that dictators do not invoke God any more to claim their divine right to power. Instead the successful dictator uses the tools of liberty - elections, art, media ....they create at once a terror of his presence and a fear of his loss." This is brilliant prose, reminiscent of V.S. Naipaul in his novel 'A Bend in the River'. Whenever one reads such books, there is always the troubling question of morality in journalists rushing to conflict zones to witness man's cruelty to man. Anjan Sundaram was mauled this year for this book at the Jaipur Literary festival by the British African writer Kwasi Karteng for being the 'classic African tourist'. However, I feel that such reportage have contributed positively towards betterment across the world. Journalists have come to India and Bangladesh and exposed child labour in the leather industry in India and horrible working conditions in the textile industry in Bangladesh. These exposes have resulted in better working conditions in these countries. It is intrepid journalists like the author who have shown us that all our cell phones and tablets depend on cadmium, tin and tantalum mined in the war torn Congo and transported by vested interests. In the past, it took historians decades to bring to light the atrocities of the Belgians and the French in cultivating rubber and mining copper out of the Congo. Thanks to journalists like the author, we get to know the truth sooner now so that the world can organize and respond more quickly. The history of Congo is a heart-wrenching tale of power falling from the sky once every twenty to thirty years on yet another dictator and resulting in yet another disappointment in the country not realizing its potential, in spite of the bounty that Nature has bestowed upon it. This book adds one more recent chapter to that history.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    Evocative, gripping, and above all thought-provoking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Lewis

    This was a great memoir. The author, a new journalist fumbled about in the Congo trying to fit in, learn the do’s and don’t in a culture that was not his own. I learned from him as I read. He survived and thrived in the competitive world of journalism. He was the stringer and attained his connection to the AP through persistence and determination. I rooted for him the whole way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Revanth Ukkalam

    The book is more exciting for its context and history than for its content. Anjan Sundaram sets some epic goals. A man born in Southern India, trained in Yale, rejecting an offer at Goldman Sachs but settling in the Congo to become a journalist paid by the word. Unimaginable and inspiring.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Santhi

    #LitWorld2018GB Congo staccato narration of a world, foreign and far away

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    As a former freelance stringer in Latin America, I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the author's experiences in Africa. I could relate a lot. I wish I had thought of writing a book about my experiences as well. Great read. As a former freelance stringer in Latin America, I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the author's experiences in Africa. I could relate a lot. I wish I had thought of writing a book about my experiences as well. Great read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Saudha

    *** spoilers ahead!!!*** I wanted to like this book before I began reading it. The reviews spoke highly of it in the Indian media. I expected to read something revelatory about the situation in the Congo. Instead, what I read was a book written by a talented prose stylist who is also, essentially, a hipster attempting to start a journalism career in one of the most misbegotten places on the planet. I have never been more revolted by a non-fiction author. When Sundaram first goes off to the Congo, *** spoilers ahead!!!*** I wanted to like this book before I began reading it. The reviews spoke highly of it in the Indian media. I expected to read something revelatory about the situation in the Congo. Instead, what I read was a book written by a talented prose stylist who is also, essentially, a hipster attempting to start a journalism career in one of the most misbegotten places on the planet. I have never been more revolted by a non-fiction author. When Sundaram first goes off to the Congo, his description of his motivations seem understandable: he'd spent his life a bookish Indian mathematics savant (as an Indian myself, I could understand all that this sort of career choice implied). He wanted something more exciting and real away from academia, so he, as his professor accurately and presciently, judges it, goes to play the fool as a wannabe journalist in the Congo. He stays in the shanty town in Kinshasa, going native (you can almost imagine his thought process here when he makes this decision: trying to be an alpha all-male macho jackass in an attempt to be a modern Hemingway or Greene). Except, in the case of most people who do that, there might be some level of empathy with the Congolese expected. Instead, he comes off as the entitled Gulf NRI with an American education he is in real life, judging and condescending to all those around him who help him. His decision making skills are deplorable. You wonder how someone so naiive thought he could go to the Congo and get away with such stupid decisions. Maybe in one way I should appreciate his honest depiction of himself as the hipster racist fool he seemed to have been in his years in the Congo. Towards the end, after elections are held and the violence starts, it was laughable how, in his desperation to get away from the Congo, he suddenly identifies himself as Indian and tries to latch on to the escaping Desi crowd. After spending the entirety of the book snarking about his compatriots and questioning their characters and motives and looking, in general, at the worst side of almost every nationality and race he comes across, his survival instinct is what makes him identify as part of a tribe and go into a complete meltdown. All this stemming from decisions by the way that his bosses at the AP strictly warned him against doing. Instead the shrieking mess that he has become at the end has to depend on the compassion and kindness of people who he has spent the entire book snarking about. The lack of self awareness in him is truly breathtaking. Maybe I am wrong and the Congo really does bring out the worst in human beings. It certainly seemed to bring out the worst in the author, who has managed to make a career out of broken, mangled and destroyed black bodies like many before him. Congratulations to him. If you dislike hipster "I went to the third world to make a career for myself/find myself" narratives, avoid this book like the plague.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Booknblues

    Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo by Anjan Sundaram 4 stars pp. 289 In 2006 at 22 years of age, having just graduated from Yale in mathematics and being offered a lucrative career in a financial institution, Anjan Sundaram becomes of aware of the great carnage of the war in Democratic Republic of the Congo (often referred to as Congo) and being young idealistic and unaware of his own mortality decided to embark on a career as a journalist and room with the brother of a woman who worked at Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo by Anjan Sundaram 4 stars pp. 289 In 2006 at 22 years of age, having just graduated from Yale in mathematics and being offered a lucrative career in a financial institution, Anjan Sundaram becomes of aware of the great carnage of the war in Democratic Republic of the Congo (often referred to as Congo) and being young idealistic and unaware of his own mortality decided to embark on a career as a journalist and room with the brother of a woman who worked at his bank. Sundaram bought a one way ticket to Congo without having secured a position for a news agency. Stringer starts with Anjan chasing a boy through the streets who has stolen his phone. He is unable to recover it and things go from bad to worse. The memoir becomes The Perils Of Anjan in the Congo. I wanted to encourage him to go home and assure him that his parents would welcome him and a life in a financial institution couldn't be all bad. He did however stick it out and he did begin to find success as a journalist even though he continued to find himself in dangerous situations he didn't back away. I did find his description of life, politics and world dynamics interesting and enlightening: ""We currently live in what some say is the Fourth Great Pillage—others call it the Fifth or Sixth. The world now needs cell phones, and Congo contains 60 percent of known reserves of an essential metal called tantalum. It is the curse: each progress in the world produces some new suffering." I encouraged anyone interested in the Congo to read this and if you are interested in learning more about this book and author here is a video of the author on the John Stewart show http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Book of the Week http://www.bbc.co.uk/ Stringer is Anjan Sundaram's vivid account of self-discovery and danger in the heart of Africa. In 2005, at the age of 22, the decision to become a journalist takes Sundaram to Congo where he spends a year and a half cutting his teeth as a reporter for a news agency. With the 2006 elections approaching he immerses himself in the everyday life of this lawless and war torn country. This intense period takes him deep into the shadowy parts of Kinshasa, to the d Book of the Week http://www.bbc.co.uk/ Stringer is Anjan Sundaram's vivid account of self-discovery and danger in the heart of Africa. In 2005, at the age of 22, the decision to become a journalist takes Sundaram to Congo where he spends a year and a half cutting his teeth as a reporter for a news agency. With the 2006 elections approaching he immerses himself in the everyday life of this lawless and war torn country. This intense period takes him deep into the shadowy parts of Kinshasa, to the dense rain forest with an Indian businessman hunting for his fortune, and culminates in the historic and violent elections of 2006. Anjan Sundaram is an award-winning journalist who has reported from Africa and the Middle East for the New York Times and the Associated Press. He received a Reuters journalism award in 2006 for his reporting on Pygmy tribes in Congo's rain forest. Read by Riz Ahmed who is best known for his work in film. He has starred in The Road to Guantanamo, Shifty, Four Lions, Ill Manors and The Reluctant Fundamentalist which he also read for Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. Abridged by Richard Hamilton Produced by Elizabeth Allard. (view spoiler)[1. - 2. Today, a tense encounter compels him to redouble his efforts to find work as a reporter. 3. Today, Sundaram leaves the city of Kinshasa behind and travels along the River Congo into the jungle where a chance encounter leaves him unsettled. 4. Today, he heads east towards the conflict and conducts an extraordinary interview. 5. Today, he observes the elections and is caught up in their disturbing aftermath. (hide spoiler)]

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alison Kenney

    After seeing the author on The Daily Show I was so excited to read this. However it was really hard to follow and get into. I guess I take it for granted that the author is an award-winning (news) writer. It was hard to tell what the book was trying to convey except to give a daily account of life in the Kinshasha ghetto - there were first-hand accounts about the war and the author's experience as a news reporter, but any context or thoughts from the author about either situation appeared random After seeing the author on The Daily Show I was so excited to read this. However it was really hard to follow and get into. I guess I take it for granted that the author is an award-winning (news) writer. It was hard to tell what the book was trying to convey except to give a daily account of life in the Kinshasha ghetto - there were first-hand accounts about the war and the author's experience as a news reporter, but any context or thoughts from the author about either situation appeared randomly and didn't provide any context.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shruti

    The similarities between his writings and Naipaul's are evident … it's a well written book, depressing at times because the author is always exhausted, always hot and almost always sick. Some humour would perhaps have got rid of the sense of misery in the book? The similarities between his writings and Naipaul's are evident … it's a well written book, depressing at times because the author is always exhausted, always hot and almost always sick. Some humour would perhaps have got rid of the sense of misery in the book?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Anjan Sundaram's mesmerizing account of self-discovery in war-torn Congo From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Anjan Sundaram's mesmerizing account of self-discovery in war-torn Congo

  20. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Benison

    Powerful narration of a reporter's life in a troubled region. Sheds light on much darkness that is disregarded by the news reports. Powerful narration of a reporter's life in a troubled region. Sheds light on much darkness that is disregarded by the news reports.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pranay Gupte

    Absolutely brilliant debut. Destined to be a classic literary memoir.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I enjoyed his story. I can't believe he gave up everything to work as a stringer in the Congo. I enjoyed his story. I can't believe he gave up everything to work as a stringer in the Congo.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ollie

    I have to keep looking at the cover of Stringer to make sure it’s not a novel. That’s the kind of vivid engrossing story Anjan Sundaram tells in this book. I took a chance on Stringer after seeing Sundaram on the Daily Show many years ago. I was captivated by his story so I thought I’d check out his book. I appreciate a good novel as much as anyone, but I tend to gravitate more towards non-fiction just because I feel there’s a lot more to learn there. Sundaram’s journey throughout the Congo is no I have to keep looking at the cover of Stringer to make sure it’s not a novel. That’s the kind of vivid engrossing story Anjan Sundaram tells in this book. I took a chance on Stringer after seeing Sundaram on the Daily Show many years ago. I was captivated by his story so I thought I’d check out his book. I appreciate a good novel as much as anyone, but I tend to gravitate more towards non-fiction just because I feel there’s a lot more to learn there. Sundaram’s journey throughout the Congo is nothing short of mesmerizing. He’s there as a journalist to cover the elections, but his journey reads more like a Hunter S Thompson story than anything else. Sundaram’s learning about the Congo for the first time and as readers, we’re right there with him. We’re there though the highs and lows, learning about social dynamics and politics and experiencing the streets of the Kinshasa. We feel the sweat coming down our faces as he describes the hot streets of the city and the mosquito-filled nights alleviated only by a new fan which becomes the prize of the neighborhood. The people he encounters teeter the line between friend or foe. Sundaram also goes a little into the history of the Congo, its need for a leader with a vision, and its struggle with democracy, but really this book is more about the crazy experiences he goes through while trying to catch the next story. As readers, we get to safely piggyback alongside him and learn about the colorful people and dangerous circumstances that are part of living in the Congo. I could have easily read another 200 pages of Sundaram’s colorful and engaging writing. A great book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian Page

    Like Jerry Seinfeld was famously “the show about nothing,” Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo by Anjan Sundaram is “the story about nothing.” And like Seinfeld there is a lot of story in that nothing. Sundaram is an extraordinarily perceptive observer and a fine writer even if his prose is occasionally a bit too florid. Possessed of an acute social conscience, he abandons post graduate studies in mathematics because, “The world had become too beautiful” and went to the Congo to try his Like Jerry Seinfeld was famously “the show about nothing,” Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo by Anjan Sundaram is “the story about nothing.” And like Seinfeld there is a lot of story in that nothing. Sundaram is an extraordinarily perceptive observer and a fine writer even if his prose is occasionally a bit too florid. Possessed of an acute social conscience, he abandons post graduate studies in mathematics because, “The world had become too beautiful” and went to the Congo to try his hand at journalism and, I suspect more importantly, to experience the real world. Through fortunate, though improbable, circumstances he succeeded; and we readers are the beneficiaries. Sundaram’s account is almost a day-by-day catalogue of the minutia of life in a violent, crumbling, third-world dictatorship. All we lack are the smells & noise to feel like we have shared his experience. His perspective on the snap-shot of life in Congo is important; but Sundaram is a foreigner, and I’m left longing for a Congolese voice to write with equal perception and feeling.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Not personal or vulnerable enough as a first-person travelogue; the reader learns very little about Sundaram's background and inner life in this book. It's also not well-informed, researched, or in-depth enough as a sketch of politics and culture in the DRC; Sundaram travels around the country, dropping in and out of stories, and makes few meaningful connections with locals. The secondary characters that are the most fleshed out are other journalists, and fellow foreigners living in the DRC. I'd Not personal or vulnerable enough as a first-person travelogue; the reader learns very little about Sundaram's background and inner life in this book. It's also not well-informed, researched, or in-depth enough as a sketch of politics and culture in the DRC; Sundaram travels around the country, dropping in and out of stories, and makes few meaningful connections with locals. The secondary characters that are the most fleshed out are other journalists, and fellow foreigners living in the DRC. I'd love to see where these stories could have gone in the hands of an experienced journalist, not a dilettante trying to make a name for himself at the expense of a developing country. Like, the student environmental activists from the second chapter who got no follow-up because Sundaram offended them with his ignorance of their culture. That could have been a great story. Instead we get naive and ignorant observations about happiness in poverty and how "free" children living unsupervised in a dump are.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eila Mcmillin

    Hard meh. There's some really good insights but they get drowned out by the author's inferiority complex. I bought this book because I'm interested in DR Congo and for an alleged journalist Sundaram does kind of a bad job describing the actual country and people on it. There are needless accounts of his internal experience as he bumbles through a war zone, but ultimately I felt it did an injustice to the people he met and interviewed because his experience overpowers the voices of the actual Cong Hard meh. There's some really good insights but they get drowned out by the author's inferiority complex. I bought this book because I'm interested in DR Congo and for an alleged journalist Sundaram does kind of a bad job describing the actual country and people on it. There are needless accounts of his internal experience as he bumbles through a war zone, but ultimately I felt it did an injustice to the people he met and interviewed because his experience overpowers the voices of the actual Congolese people. Which...is kind of just bad journalism, and a little bit imperialist b******* (I don't care that the author is not of the typical ethnicity or nationality that we think of when we talk about imperialism, he writes like an imperialist - I said it, I meant it).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    DNF. The author lost me by chapter two. When a fully educated adult talks about admiring the freedom of the Congolese children to seek their pleasures whenever they want with sex and intoxication, I’m out. This isn’t freedom. This is a generation without control, structure, morals; parents or guidance. These children are “free” to seek their pleasures because there are no adults around who give a shit. They live in a graveyard turned slum/cesspit. These children do not have childhoods. They learn DNF. The author lost me by chapter two. When a fully educated adult talks about admiring the freedom of the Congolese children to seek their pleasures whenever they want with sex and intoxication, I’m out. This isn’t freedom. This is a generation without control, structure, morals; parents or guidance. These children are “free” to seek their pleasures because there are no adults around who give a shit. They live in a graveyard turned slum/cesspit. These children do not have childhoods. They learn to survive or they die. Admiring this “freedom”, as the author calls it, is just sick.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Pravdic

    I was disappointed in this book because I thought that the author was going to offer insight and knowledge of the Congo and instead the narrative was often bogged down with pedantic details (like a lengthy description of the author's burnt toast). He struck me as a disagreeable person but more importantly he seemed disdainful of the people and the tone really ruined it for me. I'm not sure why he was there (really) or what he hoped to accomplish with this book but in my opinion he did not succee I was disappointed in this book because I thought that the author was going to offer insight and knowledge of the Congo and instead the narrative was often bogged down with pedantic details (like a lengthy description of the author's burnt toast). He struck me as a disagreeable person but more importantly he seemed disdainful of the people and the tone really ruined it for me. I'm not sure why he was there (really) or what he hoped to accomplish with this book but in my opinion he did not succeed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    This book was really good. After turning down a job at Goldman-Sacs, Author Anjan Sundaram throws caution to the wind and heads, untrained, to Congo to be a journalist. No job, no connections and yet he makes it work. There is a huge cast of characters which makes it difficult at times to remember who is who, but the story of survival of his dream against all odds is riveting.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Douglas La Rose

    This book seems like it’s going to be a disaster when you start it. Grim, negative portrayals of Africa and Africans. But surprisingly the author discovers a moment (won’t spoil it here) where he begins to empathize and see the nuance of a complex and many-layered world. Unfortunately, the book ends a little too quickly. I wanted to read more about his other assignments in DRC.

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