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Congo: The Epic History of a People Hardcover – 25 Mar 2014

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--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 639 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco Press (25 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062200119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062200112
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,050,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘550 pages of wide sweep and riveting detail … Possesses the economy and deftness of the best short stories … An epic tale of ravishment … with the poetic agility of an Orson Welles. … He throws a clear light on the horrific conflicts of the late 1990s and early 2000s … The angel is in the detail strewn in great abundance throughout the narrative … The research, the devotion, the inventiveness in Van Reybrouck's writing are a gift to everyone, not just fans of African history. This book not only deserves the description "epic", in its true sense, but the term "masterpiece" as well.’ Independent

‘Van Reybrouck brings this excessive history vividly to life … He has not only read through the library he intends to replace, he has dug up new archival material and draws on living memories … The result is a book as rich and resourceful as Congo itself.’ Guardian

‘A piece of luck for English-speaking readers. This is a magnificent account, intimately researched, and relevant for anyone interested in how the recent past may inform our near future … Extraordinary.’ New York Times

‘A vivid panorama of one of the most tormented lands in the world … Van Reybrouck covers all this in engrossing detail … A valuable addition to the rich literature that Congo has inspired.’ Washington Post

‘The English-speaking world has been impatiently awaiting this translation. ‘Congo’ is a remarkable piece of work. Van Reybrouck pulls off the tricky feat of keeping a panoramic history of a vast and complex nation accessible, intimate and particular.’ Michela Wrong, author of In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz

‘A monumental history . . . more exciting than any novel’ NRC Handelsblad

‘[Van Reybrouck] has a beautiful feel for language … His eye for the arresting human detail, combined with a wry appreciation for a peculiarly Congolese form of gumption, keeps you powering through this panoramic survey of 150 turbulent years … Both intimate and immediate … Fascinating.’ Spectator

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

David Van Reybrouck is an award-winning author, acclaimed playwright, reporter, and poet who studied in Leuven and Cambridge and holds a doctorate from Leiden University. He has travelled extensively throughout Africa and has been actively involved in organizing literary workshops for Congolese playwrights in Kinshasa and Goma. He lives in Brussels.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ericmitford on 17 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the explorer and colonial operator Stanley’s activities until 2010, David Van Reybrouck’s book covers 140 years of life and, it must be said, a horrific amount of death in the Congo. Almost as epic as the history of its subtitle, ‘Congo’ is a thrilling and informative read.

As you’d expect, the book includes all the tropes of Central Africa down the years: the violence and corruption; the exploitation and the greed; institutional frailty and the fecklessness of politicians; the cruelty, chaos and waste. But there is much more here, and a lot of it surprising right up to the last chapter, a coda set in the Chinese powerhouse metropolis of Guangzhou.

Van Reybrouck’s approach has been to overcome acronym-fatigue by personalising his account as far as possible, so that his impressive sifting of secondary sources is leavened with episodes from his travels to the four corners of Congo over several years. In fact the glory of the book is the author’s first-person interviews with a whole string of engaging Congolese characters, of all ages and from all walks of life.

It would be churlish to deduct a star for the numerous typographical errors and occasional clunkiness of the English version (surely not down to the translator, who has also produced wonderful renderings of Otto de Kat’s novels). This is a piece of work that transcends such gripes. Africa’s second largest country is increasingly receiving the historiographical and literary attention it deserves and this book is a glittering addition to the canon.
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Format: Hardcover
It is a pity that the Congo elicits such little interest in the West. It is the eleventh largest country in the world, is home to 77 million people, and contains vast mineral resources, including many scarce and strategically important metals. It is positioned in the very heart of Africa. Not the least pity of it is that so few people will ever read this superb book. Van Reybrouck has chronicled the story of this huge territory from pre-colonial times right up to today. He tells this epic with incredible clarity and lucidity, unpicking the many complex strands with admirable focus. He manages to range from superpower interests and big-power politics all the way to the authentic voice of ordinary Congolese who have been eyewitnesses to their history, without ever losing the plot. Most impressive of all, despite being the son of a Belgian colonist, he has achieved a remarkable neutrality: fairness, sympathy, compassion and an understanding of all sides, while entirely clear-eyed about their stupidities, their cruelties, and their failures. In this work - a terrific fusion of primary and secondary sources - Van Reybrouck has done the Congo itself a true service. Future Congolese will undoubtedly return to it time and again to understand their past. But in this highly intelligent analysis and narrative, Van Reybrouck goes beyond the Congo itself to offer us perhaps one of the best cogitations ever on the whole subject of the west and its relations with its colonial past, and one of the most insightful discussions of the challenges besetting post-colonial societies. I really can't recommend it too highly - read it even you know nothing or care nothing about the Congo. You will be greatly enriched.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having raced through a number of books on the Congo, I can say for completeness this has the title pipped. For particular epochs of the Congolese history there are however better. David van Reybrouck 'beginning to end' story gives you - in a large volume - a real A-Z of Congo and the FULL story. The pre-Mobutu part (60% of the book) is as good as you will find, with the chapters covering the process of independence to Mobutu taking full control the notably highlight in writing, research scope and narrative. From there onward into the civil wars and Congo today the book becomes in part a series of interviews and observations. All very readable with first class writing and insights.

For a shorter history and better starter I would recommend In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz. For Congo post Mobutu there is no beating Dancing in the Glory of Monsters. If you want it all in one volume and are not put off by the size, go with David van Reybrouck brilliant work.
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