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Emma's War: Love, Betrayal and Death in the Sudan (Anglais) Broché – 2 février 2004


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--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché.

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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 was a thorough gentleman," Peter Gilbertson, an old schoolmate from Aysgarth, reminisced many years later. "He could go into any worker's cottage or any stately home with his boots on and his spaniels at his heels, and he'd be fine. He'd put two bottles on the table and say, 'Right! We're having a party.' " Among their close friends, the McCunes counted Bedale's local squire and his wife, the doctor, and the vicar. Maggie, who had been raised Catholic, converted to the Church of England. Julian, whose political views Gilbertson describes as "conservative-very conservative," became the treasurer of the local Conservative Association. The genteel McCune facade was impeccable, and Emma's father seems to have felt that this really ought to have been enough. Like so many upper-middle-class public schoolboys of the period, he had been educated to serve the empire. He really had no other skills. After nearly twenty years abroad, he was at first baffled, then angry, to learn that in the Britain to which he had returned, his social graces and his old school tie would not by themselves translate into a sizable income. As Maggie later wrote, his indifference to work, easy to overlook in India, was harder to ignore in Britain. When his security franchise failed to prosper, he went to work for a cousin selling farm equipment to large landowners. After a year or so, the cousin fired him. Julian never discussed business matters with Maggie, and he did not tell her when he lost his job. Nor did he look for a position he considered beneath him. Instead, he pretended he was going off to work each day. After saying good-bye to her and the children, he would drive to a nearby river, park his car, and sit in it reading newspapers. Maggie never guessed that he was unemployed until his cousin finally phoned her to say he had fired Julian more than a year earlier for being "bone-idle, a scrounger, and a liar."

When Maggie confronted him, Julian acted as if he were above worrying about money, the opinions of others, or even the law. He was arrested for drunken driving. He took up with a woman who lived in the local village. He was taken to court in Leeds for debt. He continued to come home with expensive presents that Maggie had no idea how he bought. Then he was charged with using his position as a treasurer of the local Conservative Association to steal Tory funds. When a judge asked Maggie why her husband had not appeared with her in court the day the two of them were summoned for failing to pay the rent at Cowling Hall, she had to tell him that Julian was too busy fishing for salmon on the river Tweed. In 1975 local bailiffs evicted the McCune family from Cowling Hall. Maggie and the children went to live in a cottage on the grounds of the Aysgarth School; Julian retreated to a crofter's hut high in the Dales, where he found occasional work as a farm laborer. Emma was ten when the family broke up. "Her childhood ended there," her mother writes.

The very night Maggie discovered that her husband was having an affair with another woman, she happened to be reading one of Emma's favorite childhood stories, Hans Christian Andersen's "Thumbelina." The tale of a tiny girl rescued by a swallow from having to marry a mole, then flown to the warm lands of the south, where she became a princess, must have recalled to the McCunes the magical days in Assam, before they were exiled back "Home." As their troubles mounted in England, perhaps it was only natural that the family should recall their years in India as a time and place in which they had been free to be the aristocrats that Julian, at least, felt himself to be. After a few drinks, Julian was wont to regale the local pubs about how, in India, he had been able to take the law into his own hands and do as he pleased. He loved to tell the story of how he had gotten himself out of jail after accidentally hitting a sacred cow with his car in Calcutta. He never could get used to how the roguish behavior that his fellow expatriates had found so entertaining in India met with disapproval in England. When he invited the Yorkshire policemen who had caught him driving drunk to join him for a brandy before their court appearance, an English judge was not amused.


From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .


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Amazon.com: 31 commentaires
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Raw and Incredible Look at Sudan's Aid Community 21 décembre 2004
Par B. Bauer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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 
Powerful story of war, aid, aid workers and the politics of the Sudan 27 août 2005
Par A. Woodley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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!
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Emma's War 9 février 2006
Par V. M. Sheffield - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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 
The Imperialists' New Cloths 8 septembre 2009
Par Omer Belsky - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Welcome to Sudan. The ravaged country, its society torn apart by endless war, as if cursed with every possible curse - Ethnic strife, widespread corruption, religious warfare, famine - and that Modern curse, the one that makes powerful foreigners interested: oil.

Deborah Scoggins uses the story of Emma McCune, a young Englishwoman who - obsessed with Sudan, its people, and its men, came to marry a Sudanese warlord, to shed light on the forsaken land, and of the people who populate it - not merely the Sudanese themselves, but also, perhaps especially, the Westerners who come to "save" them.

Scoggins sees continuity between the present day Aid workers, Journalists and other do-gooders and the Western Imperialists of the 19th century. Their implicit model was Charles George Gordon, the Victorian soldier and adventurer who led African soldiers in a "campaign" against slavery, and whose mix - of idealism, thrill seeking, and utter ignorance of the country and the people he came to save - they share (This is also a theme of William Easterly's The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good).

Like their Imperialists forerunners, the white aid-workers become immediate elite, separated and elevated above the population by the color of their skin. Also like the Imperialists, they get powers above and beyond anything they might have had back in the West. 25 years old Emma McCune, for example, became a school coordinator, essentially an education Minister for the area under the Sudanese Rebels' control. Indeed, one of the most penetrating insights of Scoggins is that a certain nostalgic quality for the days of Imperialism may be a motivating factor for Africa's whites; McCune herself was born in India, where her father had continued his Imperial Era post as manager of a Tea estate up to the mid 1960s. In India, an Englishman was a marked aristocrat, and Mr. McCune could never adapt to the bourgeois England he was forced to return to as the British Indian world came to an end. By going to Sudan, wasn't Emma at least partially recovering something her father had had and had lost?

And yet this is not quite fair, because for better or worse, Emma identified herself with the Sudanese as the Imperialists never had. She worked, apparently diligently, for them and with them. If she was guilty of Orientalism (a term popularized by Edward Said in Orientalism - and heavily criticized by other scholars; see Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America (Policy Papers (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), No. 58.) and Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents) - her brand of romantic, even erotic attraction to Africa lacked the exploitive elements that made the "White Man's Burden" so repulsing. She may have had a fetish for Sudan - and Sudanese men; she may have had an idealized view of them - but I don't think she patronized them, lorded over them with the mystical power of her white skin (the Locals referred to Westerners as Khawajas - white).

In Sudan, Emma met, fell in love with, and soon married Riek Machar, an already married, British educated, high-rank commander of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) - a rebel force of Sudan's Southern, Christian and Pagan people. As her relationship with Machar deepened, she came to see things from his perspective, putting her in conflict with her UN colleagues and supervisors. One of the best parts of Scoggins' book is her description of the problematics of the morality of hunger. Machar's men had been stealing food that was going to the camp's starving children. He exhibited the starving children in special camps, with "caretakers", who supposedly were watching after them, but in fact were taking their food. But as horrible as it seems, "it was not easy to tell right from wrong". How different were the rebels and the saviors?

"It was not as if the aid workers themselves were going without meals... [the] discrepancy made some people uncomfortable, especially when grain stocks were low and aid workers had to put more than one hundred thousand refugees on half rations. But - face it - food tastes awfully good after a day that begins at five AM and continues until nightfall with all manners of frustrations in between. Who could blame the khawajas if they enjoyed an extra helping of canned fish? Think of what they could be eating if they were at home in Manhattan or Melbourne. True, children were dying. But if the aid-workers didn't keep up their strength, more would die." (pp. 234-235).

Her marriage cost Emma her job, and she became a propagandist and an apologist for Riek Machar, who was busy in a war against the SPLA leader, John Garang. As the war deteriorated to a tribal blood-fest, which benefited only the Islamic government in Khartoum, Emma's life became endangered. "There are some people out there who would gladly put a bullet through my head", she said. Machar gave her two bodyguards. And Emma did not believe any harm would come to her.

That Emma's story would end tragically seems inevitable. Yet, astonishingly, Emma died in a mundane car accident; she was never important enough for anyone to kill. She had been five months pregnant. Her death was tragic but meaningless.

Scroggins' book tells is really a triple narrative: a biography of Emma McCune; a brutal account of the sad history of Sudan and the naïve Westerners who tried to help it; and a sketch of Scoggins's own experience reporting from Sudan. None of the narrative end very effectively - all fizzle out, like Emma, stopping before the tale is over. Scoggins's own reporting is the least satisfying element of it all - chapters upon chapters of her experiences in Sudan (and even, for some mysterious reason, Somalia), which don't add up to much.

And yet Scroggins's prose is effective, and her insights, particularly of the mentality and problems of the white aid-workers, quite illuminating. If you're interested in Sudan's sad history, in the colorful life of Emma McCune, or especially in the complexities of aid-work in Africa, you are likely to find `Emma's War' a useful and readable account.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not a love story. 17 novembre 2004
Par R. Rogers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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.
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