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

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,991 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
“The best account [of the conflict in the Congo] so far….The task facing anyone who tries to tell this whole story is formidable, but Stearns by and large rises to it.” —Adam Hochschild, New York Times Book Review “[A] tour de force, though not for the squeamish.” —Washington Post “This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent ...more
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Published (first published March 29th 2010)
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May 09, 2011 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2012 Jake rated it it was ok
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
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.

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
Mikey B.
Jun 14, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, journalism, war
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
Apr 13, 2013 Caleb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2014 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Babak Fakhamzadeh
A superbly comprehensive overview of the conflicts in the Congo following the Rwandan genocide, which eventually spilled over into the DRC.
The author himself points out the the successive wars in the Congo from the mid nineties onwards can not be boiled down to a simple narrative. And indeed, summing up the author's book would really result in another book that's only marginally thinner than the original.

Stearns triess to get behind the 'why' of the conflicts and the horrors committed, as oppose
Mashrur Khan
Dec 21, 2014 Mashrur Khan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2011 Gwenyth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Neill Goosen
May 28, 2013 Neill Goosen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2013 Self-propelled rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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:
Jordan Peacock
May 22, 2011 Jordan Peacock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 05, 2013 Nambou rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
SO disappointing. I tried to give it 'zero' star but it didn't work. Here's the why:

1) the book doesn't seem to be evidence-based or thoroughly researched but rather it is a compilation of testimonies, sometimes first hand, sometimes not.

2) there is no real story line and this makes the book boring. At the same time, Stearns tries to have some sort of story line but then drops it on the way which have you wonder throughout the book: is this a novel? An academic piece? What is this book? Frustra
Jul 31, 2011 Bank rated it liked it
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
May 06, 2014 Allison Punch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
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
Jul 29, 2012 Fred Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: global-issues, africa
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
Mar 27, 2012 Asma Fedosia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Chris Papadopoulos
This book is written by a journalist and not a historian.
This shows, as the full story is not fleshed out.
At the same time, the book was very engaging, giving a feeling of real characters, hot life in the Congo feels, what drove people to war.

The author does repeat himself from time to time (I think the phrase "more complex reasons" is in every other page), but I agree with him overall.
The conflicts in Africa need to be seen on their own terms and at the same time as part of patterns of human be
Ben Lavender
May 25, 2015 Ben Lavender rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done non-fiction.

I picked this up on a kindle sale, more or less at random, because it looked like good non-fiction about a topic I know very little about. It focuses on storylines that have intersecting points rather than a ruthless chronological beat, resulting in a very approachable book about a very dense topic with a lot of stakeholders, background, and history. Kudos to Stearns for going as far back as he needs to cover the topic at hand without going back to the Spanish Armada.

That t
Mar 09, 2015 Vastine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sad and chilling story of the tragic wars that enveloped The Democratic Republic of Congo for over 15 years following the Rwandan genocide. Stearns gives a good sense of the complex competing goals that seem to draw all sides to commit crimes against humanity and to forever stamp a generation with a virus of hate. Generally, Stearns does a good job of eliciting sympathy for the citizens even as many of them are the weapons of the multiple genocides. He is less kind to the various leaders who ...more
Katherine Fox
Apr 21, 2014 Katherine Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 13, 2014 Florence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2014 Murtaza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2015 Billy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is to be applauded for taking on this much overlooked conflict. Unfortunately, he can't deliver on what he promises. Repeatedly he rightly decries observers who seek one sentence diagnoses and cures to this wildly complex conflict and obsess over the numerous massacres and outrages committed against civilians without an understanding of the underlying causes. He then promises analysis to understand this complexity and then supplies us with endless eyewitness accounts of massacres and ...more
May 31, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"bellum se ipsum alet" - The war will feed itself.

Jason Stearns really gets into the Congo Wars of the 90s-00s, tracing them to their routes in the Rwandan Genocide and the in the in-fighting following the Congo's independence in the 60s.

The war itself was historically underreported, it was stuck in the shadow of Bosnia and the Middle East and after the defeat in Somalia the US was uninterested in getting involved.

All totaled 5 million died in a country of 60 million. In addition to the 800,0
Jan 15, 2015 Vishnu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2011 Michael Flanagan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
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.
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bononohs book club: January Book Choice 2 7 Dec 30, 2013 04:08PM  
Page-Turners: The...: * CURRENT: "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters" by Jason Stearns 19 18 Jan 24, 2012 08:51PM  
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  • The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda
  • Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
  • No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo
  • The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa
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  • Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness
  • A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It
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
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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.” 3 likes
“We saw you all dancing in the glory of the monster.” 0 likes
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