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Emma's War: Love, Betrayal and Death in the Sudan
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Emma's War: Love, Betrayal and Death in the Sudan [Format Kindle]

Deborah Scroggins

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Chapter One

Aid makes itself out to be a practical enterprise, but in Africa at least it's romantics who do most of the work-incongruously, because Africa outside of books and movies is hard and unromantic. In Africa the metaphor is always the belly. "He is eating from that," Africans will say, and what they mean is that is how he gets his living. African politics, says the French scholar Jean-François Bayart, is "the politics of the belly." The power of the proverbial African big man depends on his ability to feed his followers; his girth advertises the wealth he has to share. In Africa the first obligation of kinship is to share food; and yet, as the Nuer say, "eating is warring." They tell this story: Once upon a time Stomach lived by itself in the bush, eating small insects roasted in brush fire, for Man was created apart from Stomach. Then one day Man was walking in the bush and came across Stomach. Man put Stomach in its present place that it might feed there. When it lived by itself, Stomach was satisfied with small morsels of food, but now that Stomach is part of man, it craves more no matter how much it eats. That is why Stomach is the enemy of Man.

In Europe and North America, we have to look in the mirror to see Stomach. "Get in touch with your hunger," American diet counselors urge their clients. Hunger is an option. Like so much else in the West, it has become a question of vanity. That is why some in the West ask: Is it Stomach or Mirror that is the enemy of Man? And Africa-Africa is a mirror in which the West sees its big belly. The story of Western aid to Sudan is the story of the intersection of the politics of the belly and the politics of the mirror.

It's a story that began in the nineteenth century much as it seems to be ending in the twenty-first, with a handful of humanitarians driven by urges often half hidden even from themselves. The post-Enlightenment triumph of reason and science gave impetus to the Western conviction that it is our duty to show the planet's less fortunate how to live. But even in the heyday of colonialism, when Western idealists had a lot more firepower at their disposal, Africa's most memorable empire-builders tended to be those romantics and eccentrics whose openness to the irrational-to the emotions, to mysticism, to ecstasy-made them misfits in their own societies. And the colonials were riding the crest of a wave of Victorian enthusiasm to remake Africa in our own image. If the rhetoric of today's aid workers is equally grand, they in fact are engaged in a far less ambitious enterprise. With little money and no force backing them up, they are a kind of imperial rearguard, foot soldiers covering the retreat of a West worn down by the continent's stubborn and opaque vitality. They may be animated by many of the old impulses, idealistic and otherwise, but they have less confidence in their ability to see them through. It takes more than an ideal, even an unselfish belief in an ideal, to keep today's aid workers in place. Emma had some ideals, but it was romance that lured her to Africa.

Chapter Two

She was born in India, where her parents, Maggie and Julian McCune, had met and married in 1962, and the direction of her life, like theirs, was pounded and shaped by the ebbing tide of the British Empire. Maggie, a trim and crisp former secretary, still calls herself an ex-colonial, though the sun was already setting on colonialism when she was born in 1942 in Assam. She published a memoir in 1999 called Til the Sun Grows Cold about her relationship with Emma. The child of a loveless marriage between a British tea planter and an Australian showgirl who met on board a wartime ship, Maggie spent a lonely colonial childhood as a paying guest at various English homes and boarding schools. Emma's father, Julian-or "Bunny," as Maggie called him-was an Anglo-Irish engineer who had knocked around Britain's colonies for at least a decade before he and Maggie settled down in Assam.

Theirs was an unfortunate match from the start. Maggie, shy and wounded, was only twenty-one when she was introduced to Julian on a visit to her father in India. She married him, she admits in her book, mainly to escape England and the hard-drinking mother whose theatrics she despised. With depths of neediness her husband never seems to have fathomed, she wanted nothing more than to bring up lots of children in the safe and conventional family she felt she had been denied as a child. Julian, fourteen years older, was a charming sportsman who thrived on admiration. He also liked his whiskey. He seems to have been unprepared to bear any responsibilities beyond excelling at shirkar, the hunting and fishing beloved of British colonial administrators in India. Perhaps their marriage might have survived if they had been able to stay in India, where Julian, simply by virtue of being an Englishman who had attended some well-known public schools, was able to provide the luxurious lifestyle they had both come to expect.

In Maggie's words, life was "heavenly" for the British hired in those days by London tea companies to run the Assam tea estates. The British lived in comfortable bungalows, the adults attended by Indian servants and the children watched by Indian nursemaids. The men began work at six o'clock in the morning, but after two hours they broke for breakfast. At noon it was time for lunch, and after lunch everybody took two "golden and silent" hours of siesta. After siesta, Maggie writes, "there was a little more work to do, leaving time for tennis, a round of golf or a chukka or two of polo before the sun sank. Then the sun-downer drinks parties began, followed by dinner and dancing" at the club. But by the time Emma was born in 1964 and her sister Erica in 1965, it had become plain that the postwar world was going to have a lot less room for people like the McCunes.

For India, as for so many other colonies, the end of the Raj in 1948 was only the beginning of the slow and subtle process of loosening Britain's control over the country. In the first few years under the new Indian government, the British tea companies operated pretty much as they had under British administration. But by the late 1960s, they were under pressure from the government to replace British employees with Indians. Julian lost his job supervising the maintenance of the equipment used to grade and prepare tea leaves. Maggie's father was pensioned off and decided to return to England. In her book, Maggie says that she and Julian enjoyed mixing with people of all races in Assam, but the only Indians she mentions socializing with were the petty royals for whom the dissolution of empire was almost as much of a disaster as it was for the British. Julian talked about emigrating to Rhodesia or South Africa, where many of their British friends from India had already gone, but Maggie worried about moving to another refuge that might prove temporary. She wanted to spare her children the uncomfortable colonial sense she had always had of never quite fitting in England. She wanted "Home" to really feel like home for them. In 1966 the McCunes decided to move to Yorkshire, where Julian had gone to school and had family. Emma was two.

There was an old manor house on the windswept edge of the Vale of York that Bunny McCune had never forgotten in all his years of wandering. Julian's parents were dead, but his mother had come from Leeds, and as a boy he had attended the Aysgarth School in North Yorkshire before going on to Winchester College. Cowling Hall, a long, thin brick-and-plaster Queen Anne mansion not far from Aysgarth on top of a hill overlooking a spectacular view of the Yorkshire Dales, had first captivated his imagination when he was a schoolboy. The house was shaped like an L, and the oldest part had been built from the ruins of a despoiled abbey. It was empty when the McCunes arrived. Local people said it was haunted. A child had died in the house, and a man had suffered a nervous breakdown. It was an imposing, if dilapidated, piece of architecture, but in the winter a bone-chilling wind whistled right through it. The house was so cold that Maggie tells in her book of warming butter for toast by the coal fire in the drawing room. But with six bedrooms, it was more than big enough for what would become a family of six-Jennie was born in 1967 and Johnny in 1970-and Julian had to have it. He had already invested his inheritance in a franchise he planned to set up in North Yorkshire for a firm marketing closed-circuit-television monitoring systems. Charmed by Julian's manners, the titled owners of Cowling Hall agreed to rent it to the McCunes for the nominal sum of six pounds a week.

A number of Aysgarth old boys still lived into the area, and these former classmates helped the McCunes settle into North Yorkshire's county set. Wensleydale is the heart of James Herriot country, a misty green landscape of ancient stone villages and black-and-white cows that occupies a large place in the sentimental imagination of England. Bunny hunted and fished in the area's magnificent forests and streams; Maggie organized cricket teas and was elected to the local cancer research committee. There were ponies for the children: Maggie saw a moral purpose in such outdoor pursuits. "Ponies are such good discipline," she told me once. "When you come back from riding, you can't just think about yourself. You have to brush down the horse." And there were the all-important public schools. After attending the local primary, Emma became a weekly boarder at Polam Hall in Darlington. Emma is positively radiant in photographs from these years, her cheeks freckled and ruddy as she poses in front of Cowling Hall or astride her pony, Misty.

Julian and Maggie were a popular couple. If Julian had one talent-and by all accounts, it was an unusual talent in a place as rigid and class-bound as North Yorkshire in the 1960s-it was for striking up friendships with people of wildly different backgrounds. "Julian ...

Revue de presse

“Scroggins brings Sudan’s agony to vivid life; at the same time, she gives us a lyrical, suspenseful, psychologically acute study in idealism and self-delusion.” —George Packer, The New York Times Book Review

"Breathtaking and beautifully written. . . . Deborah Scroggins weaves the greater issues of Sudan around [Emma] McCune’s idealism.” –USA Today

“Brilliantly penetrating. . . . In [Emma McCune] Scroggins has found a feckless, captivating subject, as insufferable as the white man's insatiable need for redemption in Africa…. Scroggins undoes every illusion about aid, hunger and rebellion.” –Washington Post

“A wonderful, challenging book. . . . One of the best that I have ever read on the difficult relationship between the developed world and the Third World.” —William Shawcross, Sunday Times (London)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2087 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 400 pages
  • Editeur : HarperCollins (31 janvier 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00AP955XI
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5  31 commentaires
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Raw and Incredible Look at Sudan's Aid Community 21 décembre 2004
Par B. Bauer - Publié sur
I'm an NGO worker in a post-conflict society, and was intrigued at reading this account of one woman's experience in the Sudanese aid community, and her subsequent marriage to a warlord. My fears of this being a book too bogged by history/biography were quickly tossed aside...Emma's War is so engaging because it is actually three stories in one: the story of an English woman who married a Sudanese rebel, the contentious history of southern Sudan, and a very delightful first-person narrative about the author herself and her experiences with the first two.

What I like so much about this book is that it never takes sides; Scroggins is somewhat sympathetic towards Emma, but never apologetic over her (sometimes) inhumane actions. This book also really illuminates the situation in Darfur now, and how the conflict of the last 20 years has fueled the current crisis there. I'd call it a must-read for anyone interested in the region, and anyone struggling to understand the conflicts of interest between humanitarian aid and armed conflict.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Powerful story of war, aid, aid workers and the politics of the Sudan 27 août 2005
Par A. Woodley - Publié sur
With yet another crisis in the Sudan (did it ever go away?) this book is a powerful source of information on the machievelian politics of the region, but also of the Aid, the aid workers and one in particular, Emma McCune.

In the early 1990's Emma was an aid worker and idealist, working in the Sudan on programmes to provide young people with education (and assisting them in avoiding being drafted into the armies of the fighting factions of the region. Deborah Scroggins who met her once, unravels her life, and ties it in with the actions of the those around her - the warlords, the aid organisations, and the man she married, Northern Nile Warlord Riek.

This is a fascinating and well written book, almost Shakesperian in its tragedy. From tragic childhood to idealist aid worker to blindly in love, to prime manipulator and finally tragic heroine - It seemed her life and made a complete circle.

Scroggins clearly knows the area, its politics and history and is able to draw in immense amounts of background to situations which might otherwise be inexplicable - but she is an easy writer to read, it is eloquently put. I found myself unable to put this down until I was finished, and is easily one of the best reads of the year for me.

I found myself by turns exasperated and annoyed with Emma - she seemed frivolous with everyone but herself and yet, she obviously achieved such a lot before she became enamoured with Reik. Even perhaps afterwards.

I think reading this book will do more than explain the life of one woman, it will provide a background to one of those little understood regions - we are expected to give aid to the suffering masses without understanding why - and whether you actually give aid after you read this book will be interesting!
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Emma's War 9 février 2006
Par V. M. Sheffield - Publié sur
Emma's War is the result of a tremendous effort of research into the history of Sudan and an "on the ground" experience of Sudan today. Having spent five years on and off in Sudan in the late 1980s, I was able to relate to much that was written, but also learned a great deal. Especially the way the author brought the history of tribal relationships, the long conflicts between North and South, Muslims vs Christians and Animists, the economy of oil, the state of women in Sudan, and the role of Sudan in Africa as well as the Middle East. Sudan has wonderful people and a large heart, it leaves a large mark on one's soul. All of this is more the better read because it is integrated into a violent, reckless, true story of a young woman seeking adventure and to save the world who fell in love with a rebel, crossing the line and leading herself and everyone around her into extremely difficult circumstances. If you know Africa and especially Sudan, get the book, it's worth the read.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Not a love story. 17 novembre 2004
Par R. Rogers - Publié sur
Scroggins' account of the Sudanese war is not for pleasure reading. Scroggins presents the horrors of the Sudanese civil war in their naked and atrocious form, without the embellishment or emotional pandering some writers may use. The author is incredibly insightful and offers a unique perspective on humanitarian aid efforts arround the world. She attempts to move humanitarians outside their comfort zones and uncovers the true effects of their help. Incredibly cynical but worth the read for anyone who looks for the causes behind the atrocities in Sudan.
7 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Glamour comes to wartime Sudan 17 décembre 2004
Par Smallchief - Publié sur
If a proposed movie of "Emma's War" starring Nicole Kidman is made, Emma McCune may well become the most famous aid worker of all time. That's a shame because, as this book makes clear, her accomplishments were modest. Emma had a flair for drama and publicity and a pair of long legs instead of a brain. One suspects that she would have tired of the hardships of life in the Sudanese bush and gone back to England to become a fashion designer or some such thing.

The humanitarian aid workers are the modern day missionaries of Western civilization. All in all, they do more good than harm, although Emma may be the exception. Deborah Scroggins has written an excellent book about the brutal two decade long civil war in Sudan and the foreign aid workers who keep the innocent victims of the war alive. The politics are here in easily digestible chunks and so is a mini-history of Sudan since the time of the Victorian hero "Chinese" Gordon. The author includes some of her own experiences of witnessing starvation in Sudan.

One insight of this book is that Western governments want not so much to do anything about African catastrophes as to be seen to do something. Their indifference to African suffering is more than matched by African leaders. Two million people are estimated to have died in the civil wars in Sudan during the last 20 years, the vast majority of them noncombatants. A soldier with a rifle seems the least likely person to die in African conflicts.

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