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One Hundred Years of Darkness: A Photographic Journey into the Heart of Congo Hardcover – 24 Jul 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Pirogue Press (24 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954301501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954301507
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 30.5 x 26 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,023,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon Swain was born in London and spent his early years in West Bengal and at school in England. He began his career in journalism as a teenager, working in the English provinces. After a brief stint in the French Foreign Legion, his desire to be a foreign correspondent drove him first to Paris and then, in early 1970, to Indo-China to cover the Vietnam war. He stayed until 1975, working first for Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, and then as a freelance reporter and photographer, principally for The Sunday Times, BBC, Economist and Daily Mail before he joined the staff of The Sunday Times.

Jon was the only British journalist in Phnom Penh when it fell to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. His coverage of these events and their horrific aftermath won him the first of his many awards, the British Press Awards Journalist of the Year. They featured in the Oscar-winning film, The Killing Fields, and form the backdrop to River of Time, his bestselling memoir.

Jon was on the staff of The Sunday Times for 35 years. His career has taken him to most of the world's wars and disasters. His reporting reflects wide experience in Asia, Africa - where he was kidnapped for three months - and the Middle East.

Product Description

Review

Marcus Bleasdale has clearly felt the "continued vibration" of Conrad’s words… his photographs also attest to the remarkable spirit of the Congolese people. -- Professor Robert Hampson, Royal Holloway, University of London, Conrad Editor for Penguin Books

Marcus Bleasdale has produced a sensitive but by no means sentimental portrait of an extraordinary nation and its thwarted people. -- Michela Wrong, Author of IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MR KURTZ

The raw beauty of Marcus Bleasdale¹s photographs vividly illustrates the daily human struggle for survival along the mighty Congo River in Africa’s darkest region. -- Tom Stoddart, Photographer

From the Author

Twenty years after first reading Heart of Darkness, I found myself sitting on the banks of the Congo River revisiting Conrad’s words. Waiting in Brazzaville for my first ferry to Kinshasa, I looked up from the page.
Drunken police and soldiers were whipping travellers who strayed out of line with the chicotte, a legacy of Belgian colonial rule; rifle butts found a home in the backs and temples of a group of suspected looters, later hauled screaming to jail. Chickens squawked and polio victims shouted as they dragged themselves along the ground toward the ferry and their free trip to
Kinshasa, their capital of Hell.

A few months later I found myself an inmate in a different Congo jail, watching the sad and the destitute slumped against walls. We were hungry, fed rice only three times a week. We huddled together with shadows of Kurtz cast by light from the one small window in the filthy cell door. The treatment by the guards was brutal, inflicting constant beatings, humiliation and abuse. Pairs of eyes stared at me in the darkness and I felt I was watching "the complete deathlike indifference of unhappy savages" that Conrad must have seen first-hand as a riverboat captain before he wrote
his novel.

During that first trip up the river I was struck by the enduring accuracy of the images Conrad described. With every step I took and boat I travelled on I could hear his words. It was in these shadows of riverbanks, hospitals and cells where I began to witness Congo’s true horror: the Congolese leaders have assumed the guises of their colonial predecessors and, life for the Congolese people is as desperate and as dire as it was in the time of Kurtz. Now I have spent two years following, not Conrad, but the Congolese. Seeing their shadows as he first saw them, recording with each frame their anonymous lives, witnessing through the lens of Conrad, the imprint of one hundred years of darkness.


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Simon James on 26 Aug. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Fifth longest river in the world and second only to the Nile on the African continent, the Congo river is 2720 miles long. It is also sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest thoroughfare: a living roadway up which, even at the driest times of the year, barges in excess of 1000 tons are able to penetrate more than 650 miles. But the heart of darkness referred to in the title of Conrad’s famous story didn’t originate in the unexplored far reaches of the river. Instead it slid against the flow towards the interior during the vast region’s exploitation by nineteenth century colonialists. Conrad witnessed this rape first hand in 1890, was horrified by it, and Heart of Darkness was the parable by which he described its effect upon him..
One hundred years on from first publication of Conrad’s classic story the photographer Marcus Bleasdale found himself sitting on the banks of the river reflecting on the manner in which the inheritors of the colonial past have so easily adopted the manner of their European predecessors. In his introduction to One Hundred years of Darkness he talks of witnessing through Conrad’s lens the “anonymous lives” of today’s Congolese: “as desperate and as dire today” as in the time of Conrad’s fictional creation Kurtz.
Bleasdale describes his journey in monochrome. Colour is cheaper to produce today but Pirogue Press have spared no expense, reproducing Bleasdale's imagery in delicate tri-tone. And the words of Conrad’s story intertwine themselves with Bleasdale’s contemporary captions.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Fine quality photojournalism 20 Aug. 2003
By londonreader21 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Fifth longest river in the world and second only to the Nile on the African continent, the Congo river is 2720 miles long. It is also sub-Saharan Africa's greatest thoroughfare: a living roadway up which, even at the driest times of the year, barges in excess of 1000 tons are able to penetrate more than 650 miles. But the heart of darkness referred to in the title of Conrad's famous story didn't originate in the unexplored far reaches of the river. Instead it slid against the flow towards the interior during the vast region's exploitation by nineteenth century colonialists. Conrad witnessed this rape first hand in 1890, was horrified by it, and Heart of Darkness was the parable by which he described its effect upon him.
One hundred years on from first publication of Conrad's classic story the photographer Marcus Bleasdale found himself sitting on the banks of the river reflecting on the manner in which the inheritors of the colonial past have so easily adopted the manner of their European predecessors. In his introduction to One Hundred years of Darkness he talks of witnessing through Conrad's lens the "anonymous lives" of today's Congolese: "as desperate and as dire today" as in the time of Conrad's fictional creation Kurtz.
Bleasdale describes his journey in monochrome. Colour is cheaper to print today but Pirogue Press have spared no expense, reproducing Bleasdale's imagery in delicate tri-tone. And the words of Conrad's story intertwine themselves with Bleasdale's contemporary captions. Bleasdale's own journeys on the river do not however adopt the traditional photojournalistic narrative, the images instead revealing their layered secrets slowly and in details often placed at the edges of the frame. Captions describe the subject of individual pictures as we learn of child soldiers, millions displaced by wars rarely mentioned in Europe, salaried employees of the UN sunning themselves beside hotel swimming pools, children born with Malaria and abandoned by parents, ferryboats that remain the region's lifeblood and pygmies: the original inhabitants of the Congo, apparently still renowned as trackers. But taken as a whole the photographs combine to bear witness to the greater truth: the darkness first witnessed by Conrad remains to this day.
A fascinating book and far from the last I imagine we will see from the camera of Mr Bleasdale.
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