One small East African country embodies the battered history of the continent: patronised by colonialists, riven by civil war, confused by Cold War manoeuvring, proud, colorful, with Africa's best espresso and worst rail service. Michela Wrong brilliantly reveals the contradictions and comedy, past and present, of Eritrea.
Just as the beat of a butterfly’s wings is said to cause hurricanes on the other side of the world, so the affairs of tiny Eritrea have reached onto the agenda of superpower strategists. The new book on Africa from the author of the classic, critically-acclaimed In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz.
Eritrea is a little-known country scarred by decades of conflict and occupation. It has weathered the world's longest-running guerrilla war and the dogged determination that secured victory against Ethiopia, its giant neighbour, is woven into the national psyche. Fascist Italy wanted Eritrea as the springboard for a new, racially-pure Roman empire, Britain sold off its industry for scrap, the US needed headquarters for its state-of-the-art spy station and the Soviet Union used it as a pawn in a proxy war.
Michela Wrong reveals the breathtaking abuses this tiny nation has suffered and, with the sharp eye for detail and taste for the incongruous that was the hallmark of her account of Mobutu's Congo, tells the story of colonialism itself. Along the way, we meet a formidable Emperor, a guerrilla fighter who taught himself French cuisine in the bush, and a chemist who arranged the heist of his own laboratory. An arresting blend of travelogue and history, ‘I Didn't Do It For You’ pierces the dark heart of our colonial history.
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‘Contemporary history on the grand scale. I was entertained, informed and angered. Wrong has given us another essential contribution to the post-colonial scramble for Africa.’ John le Carre
‘Vivid, penetrating, wonderfully detailed. Michela Wrong has written the biography of a nation and more – she has excavated the very heart and soul of the Eritrean people and their country.' Aminatta Forna
‘If you thought Eritrea was some exotic flower you heard mentioned on a gardening programme this book will tell you something different. It tells the tale of a small group of Africans so despised and trampled by successive foreign occupations that they fought back and after 30 years of war, they became a nation. It is an astounding story packed with tales of the worst – and the best – of human behaviour.’ Richard Dowden, President of the Royal African Society
'This is a wonderful, readable and illuminating book. Michela Wrong is an enormously talented writer…thoroughly researched and deeply engaging and honest.' Clare Short – New Statesman
Praise for ‘I Didn’t Do it for You’:
'I found it engrossing, vividly written in the style of the best thrillers, while portraying real-life dramas and characters larger than life. It brought to life all the cruelties and and distortions of the cold war in Africa, as seen from a helpless victim-country, with its stories of grotesque interventions by Americans and Russians and the excesses of the African leaders. But it's also thoroughly well-informed, and I've read nothing that's told me as much about either Eritrea or Ethiopia. It should become the standard work on the region.' Anthony Sampson
Praise for In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz:
‘A stylish account of the absurd as well as the tragic.’ Sunday Times
‘A brilliant account of Africa’s most extraordinary dictator told with wry wit and delicious irony… this book will become a classic.’
‘Michela Wrong made the so-called 'Heart of Darkness' much less opaque to me when I visited the Congo. She can do the same for you if you read this brave and witty book.’
‘Michela Wrong nimbly balances absurdity and outrage in her portrait of Mobutu Sese Seko and the wreckage he visited – with steady Western sponsorship – on the country he called Zaire. Her book is charged with pity and terror, and with the sort of sustaining humour that she rightly admires in Mobutu’s former subjects.’
Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed with Our Families
As a foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency. Michela Wrong began her career reporting on papal pronouncements in Rome and fashion collections in Paris. She later moved to Africa, where she spent six years covering events across the continent for Reuters, the BBC and the Financial Times. She is now based in London.
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Book Description Fourth Estate Ltd, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7150962