James Copnall

A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts

Sudan and South Sudan's Bitter and Incomplete Divorce

Hurst 2014

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network June 20, 2014 Nicholas Walton

July 2011 saw that rarest of events – an attempt to resolve a conflict in Africa by the redrawing of borders. It saw the...

July 2011 saw that rarest of events – an attempt to resolve a conflict in Africa by the redrawing of borders. It saw the birth of South Sudan as a fully fledged country after decades of conflict going back to the days of independence. It is obviously far too early to say whether this radical surgery on Sudan has been a success, and fighting has continued in various ways over the last three years, including between Juba and Khartoum. But, as James Copnall‘s terrific book A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce (Hurst, 2014) suggests, it is not too early to see how this momentous event has affected the lives of many of those in both of the Sudans.

James’ approach, no doubt echoing the storytelling that he did as the BBC’s Khartoum correspondent, has been to pick out a handful of people on both sides of the border – including a tea seller, nomads, and a businessman – and ask what the changes have meant to them. As well as giving the redrawing of an international border a human face (or several) this also teases out some of the big issues with the subject, not least the continued interconnectedness of the Sudans. It also, I am pleased to say, makes this a particularly enjoyable book to read, as well as an informative one, and one that I recommend without hesitation to anybody interested in Africa, and not just those looking at Sudan.

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