June 26th, 2011
07:00 PM ET

Book of the week on Zimbabwe

This week's "Book of the Week" is Peter Godwin's The Fear.

It's a beautifully written, harrowing account of the ruin of a country.

The country is Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, where Godwin was born.

The year is 2008.

That's when the nation's long time tyrannical ruler Robert Mugabe lost an election and brutalized his nation as punishment.

Here's the blurb for the book:

In mid 2008, after nearly three decades of increasingly tyrannical rule, Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old Robespierre of Zimbabwe, lost an election. But instead of conceding power, he launched a brutal campaign of terror against his own citizens. Peter Godwin, author of the brilliant memoir When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, was one of the few outside observers to bear witness to the terrifying period that Zimbabweans call, simply, The Fear.

At great personal risk, Godwin returns secretly to the country that was once his home. He visits the torture bases, the burning villages, the death squads, the opposition leaders in hiding, the last white farmers, the churchmen and diplomats putting their own lives on the line to stop the carnage.

Threaded through with personal history, The Fear is the brave and astonishing record of a dictatorship gone mad.

Accompanied by his sister Georgina, Godwin journeys through the ravaged, once-familiar landscape. They visit the grave of their sister, killed during the civil war. As they pour red “lucky bean” seeds from the coral tree in their old garden into the runnels of the letters on her gravestone, they call their mother, now living in exile in faraway London. ‘Where would you like to be buried when you die?’ he asks her.

‘At home,’ she says. ‘In Africa. Next to your father.’

Told with a brilliant eye for detail and Godwin’s natural storytelling gifts, this is a story framed by personal loss. But most deeply, it is a moving and stunning account of a people grotesquely altered, laid waste by a raging despot. It is about the astonishing courage and resilience of a people, armed with nothing but a desire to be free, who challenge a violent dictatorship.

And in the spirit of Ryszard Kapuściński's The Emperor, Godwin takes us inside the dysfunctional court of Robert Mugabe as he battles to stay in power even at the cost of destroying his country.

The Fear is, finally, an important, brilliant testament to humanity’s ability to transcend fear, to rise up, even in the face of astounding adversity.

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Topics: Book of the Week

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Diane Fitzpatrick

    Fareed, I enjoy your Sunday show on CNN. I especially enjoy the discussions and interesting guests. The story on Iceland's contstitution really got me thinking! I do think we would benefit from a constitution that was easier to amend. The electral college needs to go- so undemocratic.

    June 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  2. SarahPalin

    I can see ZimBobWay from my back yard.

    June 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  3. Ehis Ayere

    I love your show

    June 27, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  4. melcha

    For an alternative view of Zimbabwe i recommend 'Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities' by Ian Scoones.

    June 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  5. mghani

    I am so sick and tired of hearing white Zimbabweans, especially farmers whine and complain about the injustices they have suffered under Mugabe. The only thing surprising about white farmers being killed is that so few of them have been killed so far. Considering the white supremacist history of Zimbabwe one would think that White farmers would be extinct by now! Mugabe is far from perfect, and I believe his biggest mistake was that he waited so long to begin his Land Reform programmes; this should have begun on the very first day he came into power, instead he waited for the last minute to push for land reforms, only because he needed to win an election, as land reforms even now inspite of Peter Godwin, CNN and the rest of the media are quite popular among Zimbabweans. And according to Ian Scoones new book 'Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities', for good reason. I cant wait to see Ian Scoones interviewed by Zakaria or at least have his book promoted!

    June 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Linda

      What ignorance you display. White farmers are by no means the only people suffering under Mugabe's dictatorship. Get some facts before making absurd public comments.

      June 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
      • mghani

        This coming from someone who relies on CNN for information. Tell me do you also believe that Obama and NATO are engaged in a humanitarian mission in Libya? For a sensible review of this silly book read this intelligent and 'informed review by a ' black African writer'. You know there is such a thing in the world as a black African writer! The title is : The only thing to Fear is the Fear itself.

        June 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Peter Lewis

      Agree Mugbae's biggest mistake was to wait so long (18 years?) before attempting the Land Reform. As said, this should have been initiated (carefully planned and gradually introduced) from the very beginning. In particular this could have ensured that those taking over farms were capable (trained up beforehand and/or 'on the job') of running them as effectively as previously, instead of the chaotic and violent taking over of farms (if reports are true) by people who in many cases were apparently unqualified or unwilling to run them. In addition, the internal use of tyrannical police-state methods of 'government' (as reported) and external application of sanctions can only make matters worse for he majority of Zimbabweans.

      October 3, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  6. American living in Zimbabwe


    No CNN information here...this is straight from the people who live there. I lived there for nearly two years. The level of poverty within what used to be a thriving city is saddening. True, there was extreme racism in Zimbabwe...but replacing one tyrant over another is not the fix. Corruption and violence have surrounded Mugabe's time as Prime Minister. He has forcefully obliterated any that opposed him and improsoned anyone who rallied others against him and his regime. I have talked to the people (more black than white) running the hospitals, the grocery stores, the farms, and the local businesses and they are disheartened by what their country has become. Especially when the "Political Elite" live so well....while the poor (who placed Mugabe in power) suffer needlessly.

    I am not replying as to the subject matter of this book....but to the subject matter of your post. Are you that close-minded to not believe that a man who had all of the best intentions (Robert Mugabe) rose to power could become corrupt and exploit his own country and people to the point of ruin?!? It is happening as you read this. Wake up.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  7. mghani

    American living in Zimbabwe,

    Where did i ever say Mugabe was a saint. And you speak about the devastated economy of Zimbabwe. if you feel so much for the poor black people of Zimbabwe then maybe you support the idea of sanctiopns against the economy being lifted. It would go a long way in easing the misery!

    July 10, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  8. challenge

    I sympathize with the white farmers. But, I truly pity the black farmers who never got a chance to farm in Zimbabwe. Those who did – even temporarily – the results were pennies! Let's not narrow the focus to white farmers when black farmers have suffered far, far greater than aniy white farmer or white man in Zimbabwe. People who write books have in many cases – no clue as to what they write. Only the narrow focus on "twisted" dreams.

    August 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  9. earlyyears

    Mugabe went above and beyond reason in defending white Zimbabwean's economic prosperity in the early years, and to a lesser extent now. The reason for the failure of black farmers is largely because of their lack of capital. Land is not a farm – especially in the modern economy where labour, seeds and machines are necessary for profitability.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

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