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Descripción de editorial
An Los Angeles Times Best Book 2003
A chilling, beautifully written narrative of African war
Sierra Leone is the world's most war-ravaged country. There, in a West African landscape of spectacular beauty, rampaging soldiers--many not yet in their teens--have made a custom of hacking off the hands of their victims, then letting them live as the ultimate emblem of terror. The country is so anarchic and so desperate that, forty years after independence, its people long to be recolonized. And the West wants to save it.
Daniel Bergner's In the Land of Magic Soldiers follows both a set of white would-be saviors--a family of American missionaries, a mercenary helicopter gunship pilot, and the army of Great Britain--and also a set of Sierra Leoneans, among them a father who rescues his daughter from rape, loses his hands as punishment, then begins to rebuild his life; a child soldier and sometime cannibal; and a highly Westernized medical student who claims immunity to bullets and a cure for H.I.V.
A story of black and white, of the First World and the world left infinitely behind, of those who would nation-build and those who live in a land of fire and jungle, In the Land of Magic Soldiers is an unforgettable work of literary reportage by "a terrific reporter with a novelist's eye" (Peter Applebome, The New York Times Book Review).
In this compilation of stories from the civil war ravaged West African country of Sierra Leone, Bergner (God of the Rodeo) demonstrates a deft dramatic touch. He all too vividly recreates the violent rebel advance on the capital, Freetown, as seen through the eyes of Lamin Jusu Jarka, whose hands were chopped off against the root of a mango tree. It is hard to believe, after reading about the "twenty seconds of localized apocalypse" that a South African mercenary helicopter pilot unleashed on rebel trucks, that Bergner was not himself hovering above the scene. The tragedy is precisely described, but Bergner struggles to discover the motivations of his subjects. Why the Kortenhovens, a white missionary family from Michigan, stay in Sierra Leone for two decades and why Michael Josiah, a government soldier and able student of Western medicine, still believes in healing of the local juju men, are questions that, after intense speculation, remain enigmas. Bergner's biggest struggle, though, is with himself. He often seems to be searching the war-torn country for evidence of his own personal responsibility. When talking to natives who wished for British recolonization, he "all but appealed for racial resentment or historical embitterment." With so many exotic and compelling stories in Sierra Leone to be told, the reader is left wondering why the author has spent so much time telling his own. Despite his thorough research and narrative flair, Bergner falls into the journalistic travelogue's trap his commentary tells the reader more about the journalist than about the place visited.