In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa

In This Review

In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa

By Daniel Bergner
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003
224 pp. $22.00
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Bergner is a talented freelance writer who has artfully captured the horror and anarchy of the civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone through the 1990s. His time there coincided with the British military intervention in early 2000 and extended to the reelection of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in 2002. Through the lives of selected individuals -- a resourceful double-amputee, a South African mercenary, a child soldier, a missionary family, a Freetown medical student -- Bergner fashions a disturbing portrait of the "moral garbage dump" that is war-torn Sierra Leone and offers an unusually candid side commentary on his own emotional reactions to what he has seen and heard. As a study of Western neoimperial intervention in the non-Western world, his account also provides a sharp contrast to the current situation in Iraq.