Journalist Peter Godwin has covered wars. As a soldier, he's fought them. But nothing prepared him for the surreal mix of desperation and hope he encountered when he returned to Zimbabwe, his broken homeland.
Godwin arrived as Robert Mugabe, the country's dictator for 30 years, has finally lost an election. Mugabe's tenure has left Zimbabwe with the world's highest rate of inflation and the shortest life span. Instead of conceding power, Mugabe launched a brutal campaign of terror against his own citizens. With foreign correspondents banned, and he himself there illegally, Godwin was one of the few observers to bear witness to this period the locals call The Fear. He saw torture bases and the burning villages but was most awed as an observer of not only simple acts of kindness but also churchmen and diplomats putting their own lives on the line to try to stop the carnage.
THE FEAR is a book about the astonishing courage and resilience of a people, armed with nothing but a desire to be free, who challenged a violent dictatorship. It is also the deeply personal and ultimately uplifting story of a man trying to make sense of the country he can't recognize as home.
In this remarkable look inside Mugabe's isolated yet restive Zimbabwe, journalist Godwin (When a Crocodile Eats the Sun) and his sister, Georgina, return to their childhood home "to dance on Robert Mugabe's political grave"; that is, to observe firsthand the teetering of Africa's (and the world's) oldest tyrant at the critical moment of the 2008 elections. Although the elections promised an end to Mugabe's nearly 30-year dictatorship, even as the 84-year-old president has clung to power in a campaign of widespread terror. The depiction of the heroic (if "prissy") liberation leader against white-minority rule turned brutal power-monger is at once personal, well-informed, and at times, heart-racing. Godwin and Georgina tour the economically devastated and state-terrorized cities, farms, and diamond mines at considerable personal risk, gathering candid interviews with dispossessed farmers, marginalized elites, and former insiders to cast a light on the workings of Mugabe's dictatorship and psychology, and the "fear factor" crucial to his control. Godwin's skills as a journalist and his personal connection to Zimbabwe combine to create an astonishing piece of reportage marked by spare, stirring description, heartrending action, and smart analysis. (Mar.) Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.