A Reporter’s Marriage amid a Central African War
A TIME Magazine Best Book of the Month (April 2023)
Featured in The Washington Post’s ‘What to Read in 2023’
Longlisted for the 2023 Moore Prize for Human Rights Writing
An award-winning journalist courageously reveals the personal cost of war reporting, vividly recalling his dangerous assignment and confronting its devastating impact on his family.
After ten years reporting from central Africa, Anjan Sundaram is living a quiet life in Canada with his wife and new-born. But when preparations for genocide emerge in the Central African Republic, he is suddenly torn between his duty to his family, and his moral responsibility to expose the conflict.
Soon he is travelling through the CAR, driven by a possible spy—discovering ransacked villages and locals fleeing imminent massacre, fielding offers of mined gold, and hearing of soldiers who steal schoolbooks for cigarette paper. When he refuses to return home, journeying instead into a rebel stronghold, he learns that there is no going back to the life he has left behind.
Breakup illuminates the personal price paid by those bearing witness on the frontlines of humanitarian crimes across the globe. This brilliantly introspective, strikingly grounded account of perilous warzones and inner turmoil is sure to become a modern classic.
‘A riveting account of a country and a marriage falling apart. . . . Sundaram’s writing style is sparse and understated but pregnant with meaning, creating an atmosphere that is vivid and haunting.’ — The Telegraph
‘Breakup is a… personal book… While many people know about the risks of mental health problems among journalists, less may be aware of the potential challenges when it comes to holding down relationships, maintaining other forms of consistency, or settling into what may be deemed a more “normal” life.’ — The Irish Times
‘Political and private, harsh and tender.’ — The Telegraph India
‘Works in the same fragmented modernist key as the prose of William Faulkner… Readers expecting conventional wartime journalism won’t find it here… What they’ll find instead is a unique snapshot of one of the world’s forgotten zones: a grainy photograph where not all of the color spectrum is present, lending an unnerving and memorable impression.’ — Los Angeles Review of Books
‘Sundaram has etched out a unique place in modern writing on Africa.’ – The Markaz Review
‘Anjan Sundaram is one of the great reporters of our age. He writes with exceptional courage and deep humanity. An inspiring chronicler of the world and the spirit.’ — Fergal Keane, BBC foreign correspondent and author of The Madness: A Memoir of War, Fear and PTSD
‘An immensely powerful work, bringing to light, in compelling intimacy, an emblematic conflict that deserves far more attention than it currently gets in mainstream media.’ — Philippe Sands, author of East West Street and The Ratline
‘Heroic frontline journalism about a conflict (and a region) not even news agencies are keen to cover. Sundaram is in a league of his own. . . recalls the best of Michael Herr and V.S. Naipaul but with humanity that steals one’s breath away. To shatter one of the gravest geopolitical silences: open this book. Your world will never be the same.’ — Junot Diaz
‘The Personal and the Political’: watch Anjan Sundaram’s talk at JLF (Jaipur Literary Festival) International in Houston below.
‘Sundaram’s descriptions of wartime Central Africa are riveting, and his political analysis is intriguing . . . An introspective . . . memoir about war and family.’ — Kirkus Reviews
‘Riveting. . . . A powerful study of the forces that tear nations and people apart.’ — Publishers Weekly
‘Sundaram examines the personal costs of covering a far-flung civil war… [his] honest writing serves both the personal and political well.’ — Booklist
‘A remarkable and needed chronicle of a war gone missing from the collective moral conscience.’ — Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
‘A wonderful blend of the public and personal, of war and love, told in clear and beautiful language.’ — Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends
‘War destroys countries. War destroys love. At its heart, Breakup is about a forgotten war in a country far away. But it is also a universal story, beautifully written and passionately told, of a seeker on a dangerous journey, about the power of love and the eventual redemption that a child and family can bring. Breakup captures this in all its pain, joy, sadness, and mystery.’ — Janine di Giovanni, author of Ghosts by Daylight: Love, War, and Redemption
‘War reporters aren’t supposed to talk about their own lives: they’re supposed to focus only on the lives and deaths of others. But, inevitably, the experience of war radically disrupts the lives of those who report it. Anjan Sundaram’s determined commitment to inform the world about the conflict and certain genocide in the Central African Republic probably cost him his marriage. This compelling and vital account about the war he witnessed and the aftershocks that played havoc in his personal life is not self-indulgent. What it reveals is how the desire for truth and justice can unite people around the world, and how, too, it can tear their own lives apart.’ — Lara Pawson, former BBC journalist and author of In the Name of the People and This Is the Place to Be
‘A masterpiece. I was enraptured by the prose and it took me through a whole range of intensely felt emotions. I love all of Sundaram’s books but this one hit me hardest.’ — Richard Grant, the New York Times bestselling author of The Deepest South of All
‘I marvel at those journalists who put their lives in peril covering conflicts in countries that most people don’t know exist. Breakup is so gripping that I had to remind myself to breathe. Sundaram’s unflinching reflections on his inner conflict—his doubts, his terror, and the toll his work takes on his marriage—are even more admirable. This is an extraordinary work that will linger in my mind.’ — Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
‘A breathtaking story, a rare testimony from a foreign journalist that highlights the incredible experience of an oppressed people caught in the crossfire of lawless militiamen in a country almost forgotten by the international media. I recommend that you read this reportage.’ — Didier Kassaï, author of A House Without Windows
‘Penetrating, courageous, indelible. Anjan Sundaram is an astonishing writer and this is such an important narrative, a terrain so few of us know. We should all read it.’ — Sunjeev Sahota, author of China Room
‘Sundaram’s style in Breakup is like no other contemporary writer’s I’ve read: elegant, pregnant, allegorical. It is a rare kind of experiential writing that trusts its readers and captures the ambiguities of modern life.’ — Eve Fairbanks, author of The Inheritors
‘A compelling journey of hatred and horror, of compassion and courage, through the wreckage left by French imperialism in the Central African Republic, what should be one of the most prosperous and productive countries in the world, leading the way for Africa. I can hardly imagine the bravery it took to compile this invaluable record.’ — Noam Chomsky
Anjan Sundaram is an award-winning author, journalist and television presenter, whose war correspondence has won a Frontline Club Award and a Reuters prize. Hailed as a ‘successor to Kapuscinski’, his previous books are Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship (an Amazon Book of the Year) and Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo (a Royal African Society Book of the Year). Sundaram has reported from Central Africa for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, Granta, Foreign Policy, Politico and The Associated Press. His books have been featured by Christiane Amanpour and Fareed Zakaria on CNN; by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show; and on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week and Start the Week. Sundaram graduated from Yale University and holds a PhD in Journalism and Literature from the University of East Anglia.