Ok, this is a bold new feature, since I don’t read a good book every month. But let’s see if I can keep it up. Reading suggestions are welcomed.
Aidan Hartley was a correspondent for Reuters through the nineties, and covered the wars, famines, genocides, conflicts and natural disasters in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and many other places in Africa. "At any one time we had six wars, a couple of famines, a coup d’etat, and a natural disaster like a flood or an epidemic or a volcanic eruption, all within a radius of three hours flight from Nairobi".
As a white Kenyan Aidan Hartley has a deep rooted love for Africa and his account is not so much the account of war and disaster as it is the story of his own struggle to come to terms with his family history. In an old Zanzibar Chest Aidan finds the diary of his fathers’ friend, Peter Davey, who was murdered in Aden in 1947, and his own story and the story of Peter Davey is intertwined.
Aidan is driven by a desire to belong. Belong to Africa. Belong to the small exclusive group of eccentric war correspondents. And this desire brings him to experience the most brutal conflicts of the nineties first hand.
I found the book very intense and very moving. The parallel between Aidan and Peter Davey works stylistically, but is not very convincing. But the gripping accounts of Aidans struggle to cover the ongoing conflicts of Africa and at the same time keep sane (and stay alive) are painfully honest:
"There are times in a war that will always seem like the beat of silence after the last bar of a piece of music that has come to an abrupt close. The past has had its tongue cut out and it seems that, forevermore, there can be no future because of what’s happening this instant."
Aidan is very cynical about his own role in the events, but even more so, when he analyses the news circle and the political games determining whether this or that disaster will gain the focus of the rest of the world. It’s a book with many layers. Read it.