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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  416 ratings  ·  95 reviews
In the powerful travel-writing tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and V.S. Naipaul, a haunting memoir of a dangerous and disorienting year of self-discovery in one of the world's unhappiest countries.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Doubleday (first published February 1st 2013)
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At the age of 22, Anjan Sundaram seemed to be facing a secure future. A citizen of India who grew up in Dubai, he was completing a Masters in Mathematics at Yale University, and had just received a lucrative job offer from Goldman Sachs. Life seemed predictable, easy.

So he turned down the job offer and traveled to the Congo to work as a journalist. Freelance. With no previous reporting experience.

Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo, which will be published in the US in January 2014 by D
I got 175 pages into this book until I got totally fed up with this dilettante of a pseudo journalist, playing around a war zone, doing nobody any good and totally failing to learn or to grow. I saw the author on Morning Joe and, from that interview, expected so much more. Nope.
Anjan Sundaram's Stringer is, like much travel writing, simultaneously engaging and off-putting. Engaging in that it, presumably, depicts a region the reader had some preexisting interest in; off-putting because, invariably, it is as much about the writer as it is about that region.

For years, I worked on a team-taught course that included among its readings Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost, a detailed and devastating account of the genocidal havoc wrecked on the Congo when King Leoplod of
I'm not sure what the author was aiming for, but this is more of an account of his fledgling career rather than the depiction of war in the Congo. Written with no emotion or feeling, it's hard to get involved in the story. There are some eye opening descriptions of everyday life in Kinshasa, but, again, written as though the author were an impartial observer, rather than actually living with a Congolese family.
Zeb Kantrowitz
What is never mentioned directly (but is tangentially) is that being an overseas Indian is what accounted for Anjan's ability to go places European/American journalists couldn't or wouldn't. If you look quickly at him, he could (with his curly hair) pass for African or Metis. This gave him a kind of camouflaged protection. It may not seem like much but the ability to blend into your surroundings will make you invisible. Also carrying a passport from both Dubai and the US let him play both sides ...more
This book is a first-person account of a young man’s sojourn in the Congo (DRC). Trained as a mathematician, Sundaram went there on a whim after college to be a journalist and bring to light the plight of the Congolese. Sounded like an excellent read. Oops.

The book reads more like the whiny account of someone who got in way deeper than he was comfortable with. At the same time, though, nothing particularly exciting or dangerous happened in the entire book. Perhaps the most “harrowing” account wa
Susan Ovans
A rather bloodless look at the Congo [pun intended]. It's hard to imagine a year in this war-ravaged nation could be so dull, but the author managed to convince this reader via 200+ tedious pages.
Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo
by Anjan Sundaram
4 stars
pp. 289

In 2006 at 22 years of age, having just graduated from Yale in mathematics and being offered a lucrative career in a financial institution, Anjan Sundaram becomes of aware of the great carnage of the war in Democratic Republic of the Congo (often referred to as Congo) and being young idealistic and unaware of his own mortality decided to embark on a career as a journalist and room with the brother of a woman who worked at
Book of the Week

Stringer is Anjan Sundaram's vivid account of self-discovery and danger in the heart of Africa. In 2005, at the age of 22, the decision to become a journalist takes Sundaram to Congo where he spends a year and a half cutting his teeth as a reporter for a news agency. With the 2006 elections approaching he immerses himself in the everyday life of this lawless and war torn country. This intense period takes him deep into the shadowy parts of Kinshasa, to the d
Right in the first chapter of the book, the author writes:"I had left for Congo in a sort of rage, a searing emotion. The feeling was of being abandoned, of acute despair. The world had become too beautiful. The beauty was starting to cave in on itself—revealing a core of crisis. One had nothing to hold on to......Part of my desire was to see a crisis. I had lived in man’s genius for so long, I wanted to know our destructive capacities.”. The author was a young 22- year old Mathematics Graduate ...more
Lisa Carstens
I enjoyed his story. I can't believe he gave up everything to work as a stringer in the Congo.
Margaret Benison
Powerful narration of a reporter's life in a troubled region. Sheds light on much darkness that is disregarded by the news reports.
Alison Kenney
After seeing the author on The Daily Show I was so excited to read this. However it was really hard to follow and get into. I guess I take it for granted that the author is an award-winning (news) writer. It was hard to tell what the book was trying to convey except to give a daily account of life in the Kinshasha ghetto - there were first-hand accounts about the war and the author's experience as a news reporter, but any context or thoughts from the author about either situation appeared random ...more
May 25, 2014 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Anjan Sundaram's mesmerizing account of self-discovery in war-torn Congo
I read this book thinking that I would learn more about contemporary Congo. Wrong approach. The book is more of an impressionistic take of what it's like to be a stringer abroad. Sundaram does a good job of showing how haphazard and chaotic the life of the freelance journalist can be, but also how incredibly quotidian. While Sundaram covers interesting stories such as street children, fighting after an election, and how a tribe of Pygmies were exploited, he also talks in detail about everyday li ...more
Daniëlle Wierenga
This was a weird book.

Sundaram paints, at times, both a vivid and vague image of Congo. The people are both unique and dime-a-dozen; the experiences are both harrowing and boring.

Real life is not always one thing or another, and thus neither should a memoir be, but this jump from one portrayal to another was jarring and sometimes off-putting. It's as if Sundaram himself was in this constant state of confusion and hesitation.

Every moment I felt a momentum was picking up, or an interesting story
This is a very interesting book on two levels: 1) It portrays an on-the-ground, up-close view of raw life in the DR Congo on the eve of the 2006 presidential elections and their aftermath; and 2) It is written by a nascent, albeit very intelligent (he was a post-graduate mathematics student at Yale) journalist who is beginning his career by stepping off of a plane in Kinshasa and trying to find contacts. Not only does Sundaram show obvious and excellent skill in describing his environments and t ...more
Douglas Lord
It’s every parent’s second-worst nightmare: You have a smart, handsome son who gets into Yale on a promising PhD track in math. He gets a solid job offer from Goldman Sachs. He’s set! You’ve won! Instead, your boy snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and takes off to the Democratic Republic of the Congo—perhaps the un-nicest place on earth—to become a freelance journalist. For the love of God, why? “In America,” Sundaram writes, “I was beginning to feel trapped and suffocated, removed from t ...more
This isn't a bad book, hence the three stars. But it could have been considerably better.

The subject matter drew me to the book. It addresses a question that I've had. In countries long marred by violence and instability, what is daily life like for the average person? In the news we hear about that violence, but we don't hear much about ordinary life (if life in such places can be called ordinary). Stringer discusses the life of regular people in the Congo, the type who are simply trying to sur
Vinod Peris
I was fascinated with the bio of the author Anjan. Here is a brilliant young kid, who graduated from Yale with a degree in Mathematics and turned down a lucrative job offer from Goldman Sachs to pursue a career in Journalism. And how do you think he started ? He bought a one-way ticket to Congo, a place where more than 5 million people have died since the start of the second Congo War in 1998. Congo is blessed with an abundance of mineral resources, and Anjan summarizes this well with the Congol ...more
Richard J. Alley
Anjan Sundaram was on the road to a Ph.D. in mathematics at Yale University and a job at Goldman Sachs when he made a life-altering decision to pursue freelance journalism. He did so, not within the safety of his own neighborhood, or even the next state over or across the country. He traveled, instead, on a one-way ticket to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As a freelancer – a stringer – he had difficult days of uncertainty. He lived with the uncertainty of food availability, of consistent elec
This book was very good at conveying the atmosphere of being a foreigner. While I have never been to the Congo, in this book I felt the strangeness, the missteps, the innocent remarks gone wrong.

It also paints a very clear picture of how it's better to be lucky than good. Not that Anjan Sundaram didn't take risks and do things, but both his first job and big break were obviously the results of being in the right place at the right time. Which is true for most people, but it was pretty explicit h
Pedro Fragoso
First thing first: this memoir is worthwhile and a must to anyone interested in Africa. It is the work of a journalist and after reading it I even started thinking that not all these guys are as clueless as can be rightly inferred by the regular reading of the news...

Secondly, even if young Sundaram is no Kapuscinski, there are intriguing parallels. The living with the family in Victoire, instead of the 5 start hotel. The stupidly risky travelling, here reminiscent of Conrad, which is appropriat
Sundaram's account of his recent time spent in the Congo is more travel memoir than anything else, kept interesting by his independent, low-budget reporting. One gets the impression he's really living as part of the community, instead of observing from afar as most outsiders working for larger news organizations would do. His writing is also mature and expressive enough to bring to life the setting and people. However, I was expecting more of a journalistic take on the conflicts in the region an ...more
The similarities between his writings and Naipaul's are evident … it's a well written book, depressing at times because the author is always exhausted, always hot and almost always sick. Some humour would perhaps have got rid of the sense of misery in the book?
First, I found his story as someone who was on a safe track to the 1% and decided to jump into the life of a journalist in an unstable place inspiring. I also applaud his desire to give the world a more balanced picture of what is happening in the Congo, both with the Congolese and the westerners. The people he meets are well drawn and memorable. This book did make me appreciate the access to clean water and food. He has some genuinely well written and interesting insights but it failed to catch ...more
Sally Boyer
Anjan Sundaram’s experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo is bitter and there is no sweetness aside from his often beautifully articulated sentences composed of some of the most dreadful things that humanity has to offer.

Here is a beautiful sentence to start my quoting:

“I had the heightened awareness of details that comes from knowing one may soon be gone.” (p. 63)

I learned so much about the Democratic Republic of Congo while reading this book. The following are many passages that describe

I feel bad giving this three stars, but I was frustrated by the occasional disjointedness of the writing. Every once in a while I was stranded by a jump to a different topic or a piece of dialogue that I couldn't connect to the previous or even following bits of narrative.

Having said that, the story gets going and he does a very good job conveying his feelings of disconnection and vulnerability in Congo. I appreciated the bits of history because I know so little about this part of Africa. Congo
Mobeme53 Branson
After reading this I am still not sure if it was intended to be written as a stream-of-consciousness recalling of the reporters time in Congo or something else. The writer rambles from bad situations to worse situations with no sense of joy or even accomplishment. I consistently found myself trying to decipher whether he was speaking of what was happening at the time or happened in the future or had happened in the past. The message I did get was that Congo is and has been a mess: politically, f ...more
The Congo is one messed-up place, so reading about it is not easy. The author had a promising career in mathematics research but he made an abrupt change in his plans to become an independent journalist (i.e. a "stringer") and he chose the Congo in central Africa as the place to do it. In this book, he never really explains why he did this. This book has some interesting parts, but mostly it is just a series of vignettes about the author's experiences in the Congo. Unfortunately, there is no rea ...more
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His name is Anjan Sundaram 1 9 Feb 03, 2014 04:20PM  
NPR author interview 2 13 Jan 16, 2014 06:30PM  
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