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The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabweby Peter Godwin
Synopses & Reviews
Journalist Peter Godwin has covered wars. As a soldier, he's fought them. But nothing prepared him for the surreal mix of desperation and hope he encountered when he returned to Zimbabwe, his broken homeland.
Godwin arrived as Robert Mugabe, the country's dictator for 30 years, has finally lost an election. Mugabe's tenure has left Zimbabwe with the world's highest rate of inflation and the shortest life span. Instead of conceding power, Mugabe launched a brutal campaign of terror against his own citizens. With foreign correspondents banned, and he himself there illegally, Godwin was one of the few observers to bear witness to this period the locals call The Fear. He saw torture bases and the burning villages but was most awed as an observer of not only simple acts of kindness but also churchmen and diplomats putting their own lives on the line to try to stop the carnage.
THE FEAR is a book about the astonishing courage and resilience of a people, armed with nothing but a desire to be free, who challenged a violent dictatorship. It is also the deeply personal and ultimately uplifting story of a man trying to make sense of the country he can't recognize as home.
"In this remarkable look inside Mugabe's isolated yet restive Zimbabwe, journalist Godwin (When a Crocodile Eats the Sun) and his sister, Georgina, return to their childhood home 'to dance on Robert Mugabe's political grave'; that is, to observe firsthand the teetering of Africa's (and the world's) oldest tyrant at the critical moment of the 2008 elections. Although the elections promised an end to Mugabe's nearly 30-year dictatorship, even as the 84-year-old president has clung to power in a campaign of widespread terror. The depiction of the heroic (if 'prissy') liberation leader against white-minority rule turned brutal power-monger is at once personal, well-informed, and at times, heart-racing. Godwin and Georgina tour the economically devastated and state-terrorized cities, farms, and diamond mines at considerable personal risk, gathering candid interviews with dispossessed farmers, marginalized elites, and former insiders to cast a light on the workings of Mugabe's dictatorship and psychology, and the 'fear factor' crucial to his control. Godwin's skills as a journalist and his personal connection to Zimbabwe combine to create an astonishing piece of reportage marked by spare, stirring description, heartrending action, and smart analysis. (Mar.) Mingling memoir with reportage, Linden (The Winds of Change), a veteran environmental correspondent to National Geographic and the New York Times, offers profound if desultory observations on civilization's encroachment on ecosystems and their indigenous populations from the Arctic to Borneo. Linden's preoccupations are philosophical as well as pragmatic: how can New Guineans maintain their traditional culture while accepting valuable aspects of modernization? what does chimpanzees' use of sticks as weapons tell us about humanity and our intrinsic nature? Some of the essays are affectionate albeit meandering reminiscences, such as a fond recollection of a trip to Cuba's pristine Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, one of the 'very few Ã¢Â€Â˜timeless' places left on the planet.' Linden writes that in these vignettes 'lie truths beyond statistics and theory,' but their rambling structure frequently makes their significance hard to fathom. Linden does pull the various strands together in a final commentary on the overwhelming stress on species and ecosystems and an introduction to his own proposal for an affordable, self-policing, and in his opinion, achievable continental-scale conservation plan. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
Zimbabwe-born-and-raised and British-educated journalist Godwin narrates his experiences returning to his homeland in the midst of the controversy over the disputed elections of 2008. He structures the story as a personal recollection of one part of a broader picture, the struggle between an aging and violent dictator determined to hang on to power by any means necessary, Robert Mugabe, and the brave Zimbabweans determined to oppose him. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In 2008, memoirist and journalist Peter Godwin secretly returned to his native Zimbabwe after its notoriously tyrannical leader, Robert Mugabe, lost an election. The decision was severely risky--foreign journalists had been banned to prevent the world from seeing a corrupt leader's refusal to cede power. Zimbabweans have named this period, simply, The Fear.
Godwin bears witness to the torture bases, the burning villages, the opposition leaders in hiding, the last white farmers, and the churchmen and diplomats putting their own lives on the line to stop the carnage. Told with a brilliant eye for detail, THE FEAR is a stunning personal account of a people laid waste by a despot and, armed with nothing but a desire to be free, their astonishing courage and resilience.
About the Author
Peter Godwin is the award-winning author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and Mukiwa. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, he was educated at Cambridge and Oxford and became a foreign correspondent, reporting from more than 60 countries. Since moving to Manhattan, he has written for National Geographic, the New York Times Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He has taught at Princeton and Columbia, and in 2010 received a Guggenheim fellowship.
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