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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,532 ratings  ·  150 reviews
At the heart of Africa is Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, bordering nine other nations, that since 1996 has been wracked by a brutal and unstaunchable war in which millions have died. And yet, despite its epic proportions, it has received little sustained media attention. In this deeply reported book, Jason Stearns vividly tells the story of this misunderstood ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by PublicAffairs (first published March 29th 2010)
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Blood River by Tim ButcherThings Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Africa
60th out of 1,035 books — 980 voters
Blood River by Tim ButcherKing Leopold's Ghost by Adam HochschildThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverDancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason  StearnsHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Books Set in the Congo
4th out of 121 books — 83 voters


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Community Reviews

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Dave
If you want to understand the tragedy that is the Congo, put aside the mythology and read Dancing In The Glory of Monsters. Jason Stearns has untangled the snarling mess that is the history of this sad nation.

As someone who's researched and written about the Congo myself (Heart of Diamonds: A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo), I found new insights into the interminable conflicts that have wracked the country for it's entire modern history. Stearns delineates the players, putting th
...more
Jake
This book has been called the "best" current nonfiction about the violence in the DRC - which I think says far more about the dearth of good books on the subject than on this one's merits.

While the book is a useful primer on the facts and political history of the violence in the DRC, I frankly disagree with most reviewers (and the author himself) that it somehow manages to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the country, the actors, or their motivations.

Stearns claims to be weary of the Cong
...more
Richard Williams
Easy recommendation to the govt. put this author in charge somewhere in how western govt money is spent in the area.

1st read the last chapter. then set aside an evening to read the whole thing. then give it to a friend to read.

why?
because people matter. their pain and suffering matter. killing people is wrong, killing lots of people is evil and must to fought.

it's first an examination of the history of the rwandan tutsi genocide and it's effects on the congo from 1990 to the present. it's secon
...more
Mikey B.
This book provides clarity to the quagmire of wars that have been happening in the Congo since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Mr. Stearns explains well the personalities involved and also brings us face to face with the brutality undergone by ordinary people in the many shattered villages and cities. The Tutsi-Hutu animosities are a recurring theme – but in the Congo, nothing is so simple and Mr. Stearns always qualifies his explanations.

The Congo is a land blessed with many natural resources. It
...more
Caleb
About 10 years ago, Philip Gourevitch wrote "We Regret to Inform You ..." about the Rwandan massacre. You read it and are filled with moral outrage about the horrible acts of the Hutus and the relatively innocent victims Tutsis. This is the next chapter in that story and it is much a harder and more complicated read, as the Rwanda massacre turned into a proxy war in Congo killing 5 million in which there are no heroes, every side has committed horrible atrocities, and it is hard to see anyone as ...more
Yves Gounin
Le livre de Jason Stearns a reçu des critiques élogieuses de la presse américaine (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs …) Elles sont amplement méritées. Il constitue probablement l'ouvrage le plus complet, et surtout le plus captivant, jamais écrit sur le conflit congolais et ses avatars. Un conflit qui, sur un territoire grand comme l'Europe de l'Ouest, opposa pendant près de six ans pas moins de neuf Etats et causa environ 5 millions de morts.
Le succès de ce l
...more
Mashrur Khan
This is an excellent book. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters is based on very thorough research and anyone interested in the wars in the Congo should definitely read it. The book covers the history of the Congo, and other African countries that were involved, starting from the times of Mobutu Sese Seko to (Laurent Kabila to) Joseph Kabila. Jason Stearns has conducted many interviews to try to explain what has caused these wars and he does it well. This is a very serious book and there were times ...more
Gwenyth
This book has gone farther than anything else I have read towards explaining what happened in the Congo. The tangle he unwinds makes it obvious why news coverage has often been so unsatisfactory - even the best journalists must find it difficult to do justice to the complexity of the situation in a limited number of words.

Stearns has done a really impressive job of balancing the various needs of such a story: he explains the political intricacies in a clear and readable way, and is honest and cl
...more
Neill Goosen
I am fascinated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is just so... huge, and confusing and mysterious. I don't profess to know much about it, even though I have read a book or two dealing with various aspects of it. But in all my previous readings, I have come away with a feeling of 'It is all a mess and I am no closer to understand a thing about it'.
Until I read this book. For the first time, I have found a book that makes some sense out of it all. The (political and humanitarian) situa
...more
Ed
Jan 09, 2014 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: africa
Jason Stearns set a formidable task for himself in the Introduction to his excellent “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”, taking Hannah Arendt memorable “the banality of evil” as the starting point for his investigation into the decades long war in the Congo. He doesn’t personalize the murderous violence and the evil behind it but tries to define the political system that allowed or encouraged such perversions of “normal” humanity. Instead of the faceless bureaucratic machine of the Third Reich h ...more
Self-propelled
Stearns' account of the DRC's recent tragic history is lucid and illuminating. Although the bloody quagmire of rebel coalitions and foreign incursions is never simple, this book does an admirable job in tracking the conflicts as they rage or perhaps ooze across this massive country, sucking in - or driven by - Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe and the UN.

The backbone of this book is the wealth of interviews conducted by the author, and Stearns is at his best when depicting the principal players:
...more
Jordan Peacock
May 22, 2011 Jordan Peacock rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Heather
This is the sort of history book, along with Tony Judt's Postwar, that needs to be studied in depth at high schools. It seems as though World War II and the "Hitler = bad, Allies = good" rubric pervades education about historical and modern conflicts; the recent responses to the death of Osama bin Laden simply confirm this.

Jason Stearns digs in and makes a thoroughly illegible conflict understandable, without grossly simplifying it or stamping various sides as "good" or "bad". The neo-conservati
...more
Bank
The seemingly endless wars in the Congo with the unspeakable atrocities visited upon civilians and the destruction of the infrastructure of government has always been a cipher to me . After reading this book , I can see why. The warring factions are constantly shifting , there are too many to name , the conflicts are overlapping in time and the end goals of the different groups are not even clear. The death count is in the millions and climbing and the hatred between tribes and political faction ...more
Allison Punch
Though this took me a long time to read, I would say it was a worthwhile and thought-provoking read. I was minimally familiar with the conflict in the DRC prior to reading Stearns' book, so I learned a lot about the root causes of the conflict, though I would not say I have as in-depth of an understanding as I could. If this was a college class on the DRC since 94, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters would be a step above an intro-level survey course but not yet 300 or 400 level. That said, I reall ...more
Fred Rose
This is a pretty readable book for such a complex subject. Over 5 million people have died in the last 15 years or so in the ongoing conflict in the Congo, most in the late 90s. The beginning of the war was a carry on of the Rwanda genocide, but also drew in revolutionaries who wanted to over throw the then-president Mubuto (who was running a kleptocracy for the most part). Throw in a huge amount of natural resources to be mined, and other long simmering ethnic tension, and a mess left by the Be ...more
Asma Fedosia
Stearns does two things in this book, first describing conditions in the Congo since Mobutu by interviewing leaders and participants in two Congo wars and the aftermath of it; secondly, suggesting ways Congolese and foreigners can rebuild the country, which fell apart since the days of slave trading, of colonialism and independence, of privatization in mining, and of the cold war up to the present. He compares the Congo of today--characterized by "Machiavellian" politics, by unaccountability to ...more
Mayaluna
Jason Stearns did a fantastic job of unraveling the many knotted threads that have contributed to the conflict in Congo. It is very readable and stimulating. He interviewed a wide range of political and military players as well as refugees and villagers. The focus is on the geo-political workings of Central Africa, and inevitably, the minerals, mass rape, massacres, and foreign government involvement are also addressed. There are several maps and a list of acronyms that are very helpful. His ana ...more
Katherine Fox
5 million people died in the Congo wars, yet until recently I'd never heard of these 'great wars' of Africa. As promised when I was recommended this book, Stearns sets out the complexities and refuses to reach for a simple answer. The research, interviews and sources are meticulous. Like many books of this genre, its a mixture of individual stories and grand narrative, and just about manages to avoid repetition or jumping about too much in his quest to be both introduction and acknowledge the co ...more
Seanjohnm
This Book is about The Great Congo Wars. It starts with the Rwandan Genocide, when fed up with the minority Tutsi government, Hutu Militias murder 800,000 mostly Tutsi civilians in the space of 100 days, causing 1 million refugees and 20000 Hutu militia troops to spill over the border into the neighboring DRC. Meanwhile the Tutsi government maintains Rwanda. The Hutu militias began a gorilla campaign against the Rwandan government. All the displaced people started an international humanitarian c ...more
Florence
The Congo is a huge land mass, as large as Western Europe, yet it is largely outside the news cycle of the developed world. The genocide in Rwanda, as heinous as it was, was only the beginning of a period of African wars that were centered in Congo but involved heterogeneous ethnic and national groups. Millions of people were killed. This book does an admirable job in trying to pinpoint the historic record of what happened and to analyze the causes. At one time in history, around the fifteenth c ...more
Murtaza
This is a great book, very captivating and also thoroughly researched over 10 years the author spent working in the Congo. While its nearly impossible to distil this conflict into one simple narrative, he does a good job of explaining the various forces that helped to trigger it and have continued to fuel it intermittently over the years.

In many ways the war in the Congo was a continuation of the violence unleashed by the Rwandan Genocide - at least initially - as the conflict in that country wa
...more
Vishnu
Jason Stearns has definitely visited the tragedy that is Congo. Through all the mass murder, and child recruitment, Stearns captures the effect of neighboring actions on LDCs(less developed countries). It all started with the Rwandan Holocaust. The Rwandan Holocaust was possibly humanity's worst failure. Unlike the Armenian, or the Jewish Holocausts, the world would do nothing to stop it. What is even worse is that the UN, one of the most powerful organizations today, would and could not do anyt ...more
Michael Flanagan
Having very ;little knowledge on the subject matter I found this book a great crash course. The complexity of the politics of the area is breathtaking and the author takes great pains to untangle it for the reader. A great book with a mixture of first hand accounts, history and political analysis this book leaves you gasping for breath as you turn the page.
lyell bark
this book is ok but sort of a superficial analysis of the political actors and motivations and so on and so forth. but it is a good timeline of events and there really isn't much available about the congo in english, as far as i know. but bear in mind i'm stupid
Kevin Walker
Having lived in the Balkans and now in DRC it was interesting to read a war history/tragedy that displayed the many layered complexity of it all. Favorite quote was a simple one, urging us not to "sacrifice nuance for caricature." A helpful tip for all politics.

An interesting note was to read his impression of the resiliency of the Congolese as a people, who despite enduring horrific tragedy and continue to live under corrupt governments, have not become jaded or cynical as much as I witnessed i
...more
Maxine
Still on my Congo reading streak...this time, I got immersed in the political soup of the last few decades. Power struggles, rebel groups, massacres, regional politics, leaders usurping each other. I enjoyed the book a lot, but it was hard to follow which group was rebelling against whom, with the support of which countries or ethnic groups, etc while picking the book up and putting it down a few times. It may be the Kindle format, but a reference page listing the rebel groups in particular alon ...more
Liam89
Magnificent, essential reading. Jason Stearns' book is above all a plea, but not for charity or pity; it is a plea for understanding. If you ask a random person on the street what the most violent war has been since World War II, there is little chance they will reply with: "The Democratic Republic of Congo". However for the past 20 years, this massive country the size of Western Europe which lies at the very heart of Africa has been the stage for a war involving nine nations and dozens of rebel ...more
Sarah Mansour
This book will leave you with feelings of rage and confusion of reality. It takes back the problems that the Congo is currently facing to the Rwanda 94 genocide.... Ney, even before that, to the Belgian occupation of Rwanda. Stearns does a great job of researching, pinning down the problems, interviewing people and finally, beautifully analyzing all of that together. The book is very practically written and full of information that sometimes may be hard for you to grasp.
The book was published i
...more
Call Me Ishmael
“Do you really think you can get this right?” Bugera asked me over the dinner table, pointing at the notes I was scribbling into my notebook. Like many of the people I interviewed, Bugera was skeptical that I could represent the complexity of his history.

“It is true that the Tutsi killed,” Bugera told me at one point. “But we all had brothers, schoolmates, uncles who had been killed. It’s all part of a whole. Can you portray that to your readers in Arizona or Berlin? - (Deogratias Bugera – One o
...more
Frank Stein
This book is a little confused and meandering, but so is its subject. In the end, it's a fantastic look at the war that has bedeviled Africa's largest (by land mass) country for almost 15 years now, and, according to the International Rescue Committee, has caused almost 5 million deaths.

It is that number that so often attracts attention, and it was one of the reasons that I was compelled to read the book. That such a genocide was taking place with nary an international peep seemed to be truly in
...more
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bononohs book club: January Book Choice 2 6 Dec 30, 2013 04:08PM  
Page-Turners: The...: * CURRENT: "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters" by Jason Stearns 19 17 Jan 24, 2012 08:51PM  
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  • Africa: A Biography of the Continent
  • The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence
  • Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
  • A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa
  • Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience with Development and Decadence in Deepest Africa
  • The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
  • Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
  • The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912
  • The Graves Are Not Yet Full
  • The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda
  • Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
  • Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda
  • No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo
  • The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa
  • Dinner With Mugabe: The Untold Story Of A Freedom Fighter Who Became A Tyrant
Jason K. Stearns is an American writer who worked for ten years in the Congo, including three years during the Second Congo War. He first traveled to the Congo in 2001 to work for a local human rights organization, Héritiers de la Justice, in Bukavu. He went on to work for the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MONUC). In 2008 Stearns was named by the UN Secretary General to lead a special UN in ...more
More about Jason Stearns...
Pareco: Land, local strongmen, and the roots of militia politics in North Kivu (Usalama Project) Raia Mutomboki: The flawed peace process in the DRC and the birth of an armed franchise (Usalama Project) From CNDP to M23: The evolution of an armed movement in eastern Congo (Usalama Project) Banyamulenge: Insurgency and exclusion in the mountains of South Kivu (Usalama Project) North Kivu: The background to conflict in North Kivu province of eastern Congo (Usalama Project)

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“As so often happens in politics, what appears to be politically expedient for those in power rarely overlaps with the public interest. The lesser evils of the regime become entrenched, while the greater good is never realized.” 2 likes
“We saw you all dancing in the glory of the monster.” 0 likes
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