INTO THE HOUSE OF THE ANCESTORS by Karl Maier

INTO THE HOUSE OF THE ANCESTORS

Inside the New Africa
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A hopeful, if not entirely convincing, prismatic portrait of Africa in transition, by a longtime Africa correspondent for the Independent of England. One of the seminal texts of postcolonial Africa was John Gunther's 1955 Inside Africa. He saw signs of hope everywhere, a sense that Africa might not just rival its recent European masters, but even surpass them. And then everything fell apart, in a massive paroxysm of corruption, dictatorship, and civil war. Now Maier finds cause for renewed hope. This ``second revolution'' is occurring not so much among governments and political leaders (though there have been some signal changes, such as in South Africa) as in the aspirations and actions of ordinary Africans ``armed with the values and drive of their forefathers, who are ready to tackle the challenges of the future.'' So, from Mozambique to Nigeria to Rwanda, we are introduced to men and women who are doing their little bit to improve things, from running AIDS clinics to standing against corruption to helping rehabilitate children soliders. Maier isn't as much a Pollyanna as Gunther: He is all too aware of the obstacles, from the rampant spread of AIDS to ongoing ethnic conflict to the staggering poverty. But his own reporting tends to work against his thesis. For example, his excellent analysis of Rwanda and Nigeria and their intractable problems tends to overweigh the few bright spots he's able to uncover there. Treating Africa monadically also fuels the kind of oversimplification and gross generalizations that have warped Western perceptions and treatment of so many African countries. In addition, there is a cut-and-paste quality to this book, which makes it feel more like a series of newspaper articles strung together than a coherent whole. Maier is masterful at the fast sprint of reportage, but he's simply unable to go the distance with this book.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1998
ISBN: 0-471-13547-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997