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Undistorted view

by Tillmann Elliesen
Denis Johnson: In der Hölle [Inside Hell]. Tropen Verlag, Berlin 2006, 186 p., €18.80, ISBN 978-3-932170-90-4

In the early 1990s, Denis Johnson, an author with no prior African experience, travelled to Liberia and Somalia on assignment for three US magazines. The outcome was three gripping reports, discussing the darker sides of the continent. Johnson has been accused of perpetuating old clichés, but in fact he only reports what he has seen – without any apparent emotion. Several times, Johnson admits he does not understand what he is seeing and what is happening to him. His book provides an undistorted and at the same time extremely personal impression of chaos, destruction and people’s suffering in African ­civil wars. In English, these three stories were published along with others from The New Yorker in “Seek: Reports from the edges of America and beyond“. (ell)