There's a reason why Africa might still be called "the dark continent," and it's not just because of the persistence of racism. Africa remains largely unknown. Journalists who report from there are often parachuted in and quickly pulled out, rarely getting to know the people and the cultures. Nowhere is this truer than in conflict zones such as Rwanda and the Congo. Bryan Mealer, one-time Associated Press correspondent and author of the new book All Things Must Fight to Live, breaks this rule. The journalist spent three years reporting from war-torn Kinshasa and Bunia. The book includes the stories and atrocities that he witnessed during that period, as well as his return to the Congo for a 2,000-mile cross-country journey. More importantly, it includes his personal reactions to the conflict around him. The centerpiece of the book is his journey up the Congo River, or the Nzere, "the river that swallows all rivers," in the tradition of Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. But unlike Conrad's tale, Mealer's journey is not a metaphor for his own dark psyche. Or if it is, his psyche is much more hopeful than Conrad's or Kurtz's, and his book goes a long way toward making the phrase "dark continent" the anachronism that it should be.
Thu., May 22, 7:30 p.m., 2008