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The Catastrophist Paperback – 8 Apr 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (8 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747260338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747260332
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Ronan Bennett writes screenplays for television and film as well as novels. His third book, The Catastrophist, set in the Belgian Congo during the decolonisation struggles of 1959 to 1960, imprints a cinematic vision on the reader's eye, rendering images of indolent colonials blinded by the African sun to the realities of African decolonisation and the momentum of the Congolese independence movement led by the resolute Patrice Lumumba.

James Gillespie, Irish by origin, arrives in Léopoldsville in the hope of saving his relationship with Inès Sabiani, an Italian journalist increasingly involved in central African nationalist politics. James, "the trained observer", watches dispassionately from the wings, mystified by the politics of commitment to a political cause, but desperate for personal love and commitment from Inès. She, however, is lost to him, but found to the cause of the overthrow of the colonial occupation of the Belgian Congo. The impasse at the heart of their love affair hinges upon the dilemma between the politics of belief and the role of art in society. This is summed up by the fact that while Inès uses her journalistic skills as an instrument of political struggle, James believes writing is the art of disbelief. As In&eobtuse;s remarks: "Politics of that sort demands conviction, fiction demands doubt."

The Catastrophist, justly shortlisted for the 1998 Whitbread Novel Award, is an insightful and patient study of masculine self-delusion that--even better--shows the good sense to keep it's distance from overplaying it's narrative claims to insight into In&eobtuse;s' psychology. In fact, this novel derives much of its psychological realism precisely from its depiction of the pain and confusion of a man who cannot understand why a woman can say "I am still loving you", but not be able to give up her life for him. --Rachel Holmes

Review

A mighty achievement... vision, imagination and gravitas (Times)

The Catastrophist Ronan Bennett - coverage to date

'Bennett's writing is as lush and sensual as ripe mangoes. His characters are complex and sympathetic. The tone, which is perfectly pitched, and the exotic setting collude to evoke an era of colonial decadence'
Financial Times 13th/14th June



A writer to watch, a genuine and gifted novelist (Cole Moreton, Independent)

As lush and sensual as ripe mangoes (Financial Times)

'The finding of a voice and what one says with it is central to The Catastrophist... Along with its politics The Catastrophist is an intensely erotic novel'
Linda Grant Guardian, Wednesday 17th June



'Bennett is a writer to watch, a genuine and gifted novelist'
Independent, Saturday 27th June



I have not read such a good thriller in years (Ian Thomson, Evening Standard)

Compelling... the power of this fine novel lies in its detached subtlety.... a memorable book with a ring of deeply felt authenticity (Hugo Hamilton, Sunday Tribune)

'Bennett's knuckle-hard prose gives the region the clarity of a punch to the solar plexus. His Congans, far from being passive mutes, are both the rhetorical and satirical equals of the Belgians whose drinks trolleys they cart and whose floors they scrub. Conrad felt they existed outside of history - Bennett shows them engaged in transforming it.'
The Literary Review, July 1998

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