Cover image for Africa : dispatches from a fragile continent
Africa : dispatches from a fragile continent
Harden, Blaine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, 1990.
Physical Description:
333 pages, 13 leaves of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DT353 .H36 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Four demanding years as the Washington Post bureau chief in the sub-Sahara gave Harden X-ray vision; he can see through the confusing surface of African politics into the cultural conflicts at the center of the continent's myriad problems. His introductory overview recognizes Africa's scourges of famine, disease, poverty, and corrupt rulers. He then zooms in on individuals to "try to make the world's poorest continent more understandable--and less piteous--by making it more human." He witnesses the conflict between "the rural old and the urban young" and the burden of supporting an extended family. In another chapter, a famous Kenyan court case involving the burial of a man who married outside his tribe pits tribal beliefs against modern values. Harden exposes the wasteful bureaucracy and ignorance of foreign aid projects and describes various dictators, or "Big Men," who make themselves rich and keep their countries poor. Forceful, knowledgeable, and eloquent, Harden brings Africa into focus. Notes; to be indexed. ~--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

After 30 years of independence, Africa relies on foreign aid that is based more on Western computations than on the domestic needs of countries that lack national identities. Only in Botswana does democracy work; elsewhere, the ``Big Man Disease'' prevails, notes the author. Focusing on individuals but combining travel, history, politics, economics and generalities of African society, Washington Post correspondent Harden explores the indigenous systems that help hold ``the whole sorry mess'' together. He shows how Liberian Samuel Doe's talk about democracy attracted American aid dollars, which he used to shore up the vacillating support of his countrymen. Harden's experiences on a Congo river boat suggest that Zaire is pervaded by the attitude of its president, who has ``made his billions the old-fashioned way. He stole it.'' The account of a trial in Nairobi to determine where to bury a Luo lawyer is an allegory for the most wrenching conflict of modern African life: the rub between tribal tradition and modern Western values. For those who don't know Africa, this outstanding book is a good place to start. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved