cover image Into the House of the Ancestors: Inside the New Africa

Into the House of the Ancestors: Inside the New Africa

Karl Maier. John Wiley & Sons, $24.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-471-13547-0

Although many books have portrayed the problems of today's Africa, Maier, former Africa correspondent for the Independent of London, takes a more hopeful view. His aim is not to sanitize the image of sub-Saharan Africa but to ""celebrate the spirit"" of ordinary people striving to better their world. Thus he describes trailblazers like a Ghanaian sociologist working to help the elderly, and he explains how Mozambique's once socialist government adapted to the spirit claims of traditional chiefs and healers. Taking issue with the widespread pessimistic view of ""coming anarchy,"" he notes that a country like Sierra Leone has had democratic elections rather than descending into chaos. Yet Maier's sobering portrait of Rwanda acknowledges only a slim hope for peace and justice, and he laments the unrealized potential of behemoth Nigeria. This book is not comprehensive but anecdotal; France's enduring influence or Western policies toward Africa are hardly broached. But even if Maier seems Pollyannish at times, this is a reasonable counterpart to accounts that focus only on conflict. (Feb.)