“This is a book by a brave man about people who are braver still. Peter Godwin brings us closer to the filth of the Mugabe tyranny than is bearable and portrays with subtlety, authority, and respect those who, against all odds and at the cost of unimaginable suffering, continue the resistance against it. Their courage is the stuff of myth, and in Godwin they have found their chronicler.” -David RieffLong Version:
Some books are tough to read. Some we need to read. Peter Godwin’s newest, The Fear, is one of those books. By far one of the most haunting books I have ever read, this work chronicles the fate of Zimbabwe’s opposition after their victory, in a democratic election, to oust dictator Robert Mugabe after his thirty years of despotic rule. For their bravery in standing up and saying, “No more!”, followers of the MDC party faced torture, terror, intimidation, and death.
Right about the time that I felt as if this would be a book that I could not finish Peter returned to his wife and two young sons in New York, and he was feeling much the same way. While playing dinos with his boy he envisioned a chart hanging on the end of a young torture victim’s bed, upon which the nurses had put a fierce-some T-rex sticker-a symbol of the boy’s spirit. The dichotomy of his sons’ lives and those of the children in the land of his birth overwhelmed him.
In every act, every conversation, he flashed back to his homeland, and in doing so, he realized that he didn’t write this book for himself-he wrote it for the thousands of victims of thirty years of Mugabe rule in his beloved Zimbabwe. This was a story he was called to tell, for the simple reason that he could. He must bear witness to The Fear, bring the truth of it to the attention of the outside world, and bring hope to those actively engaged in their country’s fight for freedom from tyranny.
Knowing that Peter Godwin is a print journalist, I fully expected excellent reporting, and he definitely delivered. The book is well organized and any digressions from chronology are clear and well transitioned. Despite dealing with a huge cast of players, he gave enough information to remind the reader where they had met a person previously, and no person ever felt extraneous. Some levity is injected into an otherwise dark narrative in the form of an almost gallowsish humor. What I did not expect was the formidable strength of his ability to paint Zimbabwe in my mind-her stunning natural beauty, economic free-fall, collapsed civil structure, and complex society were vibrant within his prose.
Above all else, this book is about the triumph of humanity in the most wretched of circumstances. It is the story of people who stand, in the face of a reality so horrific that most of us can not even apprehend it, and refuse to be silenced, even unto death. Please read their story. Let Peter’s decision to write this difficult tale gain traction in your ability to share your reading experience with others you know. The fight in Zimbabwe is ongoing. If democracy is to prevail-and the suffering of thousands of torture victims be vindicated-the world must listen and speak and stand.
Star ranking: absolutely five stars
A violation of human rights anywhere is the business of free people everywhere.