In the Land of Magic Soldiers
A Story of White and Black in West Africa
An Los Angeles Times Best Book 2003
A chilling, beautifully written narrative of African war
Sierra Leone is the world's most war-ravaged country. There, in a West African landscape of spectacular beauty, rampaging soldiers--many not yet in their teens--have made a custom of hacking off the hands of their victims, then letting them live as the ultimate emblem of terror. The country is so anarchic and so desperate that, forty years after independence, its people long to be recolonized. And the West wants to save it.
Daniel Bergner's In the Land of Magic Soldiers follows both a set of white would-be saviors--a family of American missionaries, a mercenary helicopter gunship pilot, and the army of Great Britain--and also a set of Sierra Leoneans, among them a father who rescues his daughter from rape, loses his hands as punishment, then begins to rebuild his life; a child soldier and sometime cannibal; and a highly Westernized medical student who claims immunity to bullets and a cure for H.I.V.
A story of black and white, of the First World and the world left infinitely behind, of those who would nation-build and those who live in a land of fire and jungle, In the Land of Magic Soldiers is an unforgettable work of literary reportage by "a terrific reporter with a novelist's eye" (Peter Applebome, The New York Times Book Review).