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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  495 Ratings  ·  102 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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(showing 1-30 of 2,098)
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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
Feb 16, 2014 Barbara rated it it was ok
Shelves: could-not-finish
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.
Jun 13, 2015 Sarah-Hope rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
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
Jan 01, 2014 Susan rated it it was ok
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
Jan 07, 2014 Zeb Kantrowitz rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2014 Abe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2014 Susan Ovans rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 04, 2013 Raghu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 17, 2014 Booknblues rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, nonfiction, memoir
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
Apr 23, 2015 Lisa rated it liked it
I enjoyed his story. I can't believe he gave up everything to work as a stringer in the Congo.
Margaret Benison
Jan 23, 2015 Margaret Benison rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 28, 2014 Alison Kenney rated it it was ok
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 liked it
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
Jul 24, 2015 phaedy rated it it was ok
this book really annoyed me yet I kept reading it. The author looks down on the people and despite living in rough circumstances with a family, you can see he has no interest in Congolese culture or the people. He is living in the heart of the real Kinshasa but holding it from arms length as if it smells. I sense some barely concealed racism as well, but I won't dwell on that. He seems to be just interested in getting a scoop on the backs of people's troubles. So emotionally flat it makes me won ...more
Deborah Purdon
Jun 27, 2015 Deborah Purdon rated it really liked it
A few years ago I developed a new interest and blossoming love affair with developing countries that are former French colonies. I picked up Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo, to continue my education and to live vicariously through reading about Sundram's adventures. His writing is fairly different than other books that I have read in the same ilk - he is more vulnerable, seems less pleased with himself, never uses the term "fixer" and does hardly any name dropping. He lives among the ...more
Mar 08, 2015 Sooj rated it liked it
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
Dec 23, 2014 Daniëlle Wierenga rated it liked it
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
Dec 23, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
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
Oct 13, 2014 Douglas Lord rated it really liked it
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
Oct 01, 2014 Cynthia rated it liked it
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
May 23, 2014 Vinod Peris rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 13, 2014 Richard J. Alley rated it really liked it
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
May 28, 2014 Unwisely rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, 2014
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
Sep 27, 2014 Pedro Fragoso rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2014 Samantha rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 03, 2014 Shruti rated it liked it
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?
Jun 11, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
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
Jan 02, 2015 Sally rated it liked it

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
Sep 11, 2014 Mobeme53 Branson rated it it was ok
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
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His name is Anjan Sundaram 1 9 Feb 03, 2014 04:20PM  
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Anjan Sundaram is the author of Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship and Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo. An award-winning journalist, he has reported from central Africa for the New York Times and the Associated Press. His writing has also appeared in Granta, The Guardian, Observer, Foreign Policy, Telegraph and The Washington Post. His war correspondence from the Central Afri ...more
More about Anjan Sundaram...

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“The collapse, the crisis. It is how the world knows Congo. Death is as widespread in few places. Children born here have the bleakest futures. It is the most diseased, the most corrupt, and the least habitable—the country heads nearly every conceivable blacklist. One survey has it that no nation has more citizens who want to leave.” 0 likes
“It is the curse: each progress in the world produces some new suffering.” 0 likes
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