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I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nationby Michela Wrong
Synopses & Reviews
Scarred by decades of conflict and occupation, the craggy African nation of Eritrea has weathered the world's longest-running guerrilla war. The dogged determination that secured victory against Ethiopia, its giant neighbor, is woven into the national psyche, the product of a series of cynical foreign interventions. Fascist Italy wanted Eritrea as the springboard for a new, racially pure Roman empire, Britain sold off its industry for scrap, the United States needed a base 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 African emperor, a pigheaded English suffragette, and a guerrilla fighter who taught himself French cuisine in the bush.
Michela Wrong tells this devastating but important story with exemplary clarity. The way international power politics can play havoc with a country's destiny gives the story of Eritrea a resonance and a tragic dimension beyond imagining.
"Much like Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (2001), covering the reign of Zaire's brutal dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, this book taps at the world's conscience, asking who is to blame for the suffering and neglect of postcolonial African states; it takes Eritrea as case study — and victim. A veteran Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, Wrong writes in a pointedly digressive style full of narrative side roads that accommodate a daunting level of geographical and historical detail. Historical highlights include a colorful profile of the late 19th-century writer and Italian parliamentarian Ferdinando Marini that draws on his extensive memoirs about his tenure as the first civil governor of the region as an Italian colony. The early 1960s conflict, occupation and independence of this small neighbor to Ethiopia also make for a terrible, gripping story, including border disputes and bloody war with Ethiopia. A complicated history so punctuated with violence is not exactly easy to read about, but the author's extraordinary grasp of the postcolonial psyche and tormented national identity of this country makes it fascinating. Agent, Joy Harris. (June 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
"It's hard to imagine another African country that was interfered with by foreign powers quite so thoroughly, and so disastrously, as Eritrea," the small African nation that recently fought a successful guerilla war of liberation against the much larger Ethiopia, according to journalist Wrong. In this work she intersperses descriptions of her own travels in Eritrea with a history of its experiences with Italian colonial exploitation in the Martini and Mussolini eras, British post-war looting of the country's assets, American and Soviet manipulation in the context of the Cold War, UN exacerbation of the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict, and the national liberation war.
Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Michela Wrong began her career as a foreign correspondent for the Reuters news agency. She spent six years covering the African continent for Reuters, the BBC, and the Financial Times. Her first book, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo, won a PEN award for nonfiction. She lives in London and travels regularly to Africa.
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