This week we feature the current favorites and obsessions of journalist and author Anjan Sundaram. Sundaram is the author of Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo, which has been optioned for a screen adaptation by actor Manish Dayal. (Read an excerpt from the book.) He is an award-winning journalist who has reported from Africa and the Middle East for the New York Times and the Associated Press. His writing on Africa has appeared in many publications, and he graduated from Yale where he studied mathematics. In a Guernica interview with Aditi Sriram, he talks about how and why he became a freelance journalist in war-torn Congo.
1. Elephant’s Dream — a beautiful, mesmerizing video documentary about the Democratic Republic of Congo by Kristof Bilsen currently showing at film festivals around Europe. The documentary explores the place of the absurd in a severe tragedy, and how the absurd can give comfort and meaning to life. Congo’s war, with its 5 million dead, offers a particularly stark backdrop for such a study.
2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — a masterpiece of a book by Philip K. Dick. The film Blade Runner was based on it, but the film operates mostly at an aesthetic level. The book is highly relevant today, speaking of our relationship with each other and our environment, living and dead. When I read it, each page and each scene, I felt I would have made the same choice as the author. Though I don’t read science fiction at all, I wished I had written that book. (Audiobook on Youtube.)
3. Photographer Michael Christopher Brown’s images of children playing in empty airplane carcasses in Congo. I think these photographs say so much about the destruction and joys in a place like Congo. These airplane graveyards are Congo’s playgrounds. Congolese children don’t have to play with toys; they have a whole broken country in which to play. I loved these images so much that I have an essay in Telegraph magazine about them.
The graveyards of old aircraft in Congo have become playgrounds. Children steal into them to play in the fuselages, to hang upside down from wheel shafts and walk over the wings. Boys and girls in many places have to imagine aeroplanes from toys in their hands. Congo’s children have an entire, broken country in which to play.