- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 44 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 19 Jan. 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004JVY4TY
Chasing the Devil Audio Download – Unabridged
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Audio Download, Unabridged
|Audio Download, Unabridged, 19 Jan 2011||
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He tries to find out more about the mystical yet deadly Poro (an all male secret society that are known to murder and torture in the name of their so called arcane beliefs) and the many changing and bewildering faces and actions of the dancing devil. He reveals that he was warned by former leader, Charles Taylor, that he was far from welcome in the country, and although the threat was made years ago and Taylor is no longer in power, the threat is clearly still a weight on his mind throughout the trip. He goes into the origins of Liberia’s beginnings as a state of freed slaves from the US, the so called Americo-Liberians became the ruling class of sorts, but he also shows how that came with its own problems and bizarrely some of the very freed slaves ending up selling other people into slavery down the line. America’s own Firestone came in for heavy criticism with their conduct in Liberia, but they were later cleared of all slavery charges. The region has suffered from a succession of crippling civil wars, military coups from various men from many countries with the same violent and corrupt agendas that keep the situation forever dangerous and unpredictable. This was a revealing and enjoyable jaunt that brings one of the more historically neglected regions of Africa into focus and helped shed some light on what is a very complex and complicated part of the world.
The reader is taken on a nerve-racking, risky yet hugely exciting trip, and is able to share in this experience through the strength of the author's descriptions. The use of maps, drawings and photos adds a further layer which helps to immerse the reader deeper into the story. From the outset Tim Butcher gently encourages one to reconsider any potential preconceptions or opinions that might be held. He gives clear examples of incidents where he was anticipating a negative outcome and instead experienced a positive one, for example in the prologue. This builds throughout the book where one sees that in spite of all the possible pitfalls and dreadful things that could have happened, his group travel safely arriving unharmed at their final destination; with kindness having been shown to them by the people they encountered along the way.
The relationships that form between the author, David, Johnson and Mr Omaru are a charming aspect of the book. Beginning as strangers they form bonds of trust which develop throughout their journey and enable strength in their team. One gets a sense of the unspoken companionship, as well as security, that they feel from one another. Each gained from the friendships they formed; it takes time but in the end even Mr Omaru opens up and talks about the painful experiences he holds from the war. This closeness creates a sad feeling when at the end of their endeavour they part company.
Once more Tim Butcher has proved himself as a dedicated researcher, with the result that the reader is also given a fascinating insight into the Greenes and their trip undertaken in 1935. Although seventy-four years separate the two, there are a few wonderful moments in the book where the journeys connect through the author meeting individuals whom were not only alive during the Greenes' visit but can remember it in detail, for example the blind man in Zigida. These are thrilling discoveries that emphasise how remote the communities are: they have remained barely touched by the white outsider in three-quarters of a century.
The book provides a concise and brilliant account of the history of both Sierra Leone and Liberia. This enriches the reader's understanding and contextualises the current day observations made by the author, which are detailed and perceptive. He shows the role traditional belief systems play in shaping the cultures of the countries and gives examples of the associated taboo. In Sierra Leone he met a barrier to his questions about FGM, the women on the bus physically turned away from him, and in Liberia, like the Greenes, his group experienced local resistance to their use, as outsiders, of monkey bridges.
The theme of tribal spiritualism is more sinister; as the picture of the Poro in Liberia builds, the continuance of their prevailing power becomes clear. It is riveting reading about their use of masked devils, initiations societies, sacrifice and ritual murder. Tim Butcher's analysis is pertinent when he identifies that the restrictions posed by these behaviours can prevent community members from achieving their individual potential. Very interestingly he points out that Africans thrive away from their homeland, as shown by the fact that each year financial remittances sent back to Africa by family members living abroad total more than the investment by foreign companies in the continent.
In the book Tim Butcher's narrative is balanced and likeable; there is nothing remotely boastful or self-righteous in the voice the reader hears. This adds to the enjoyment of the story, as too does his confidence to share himself with the reader. He talks of the significance of Jane in his life and of the valuable guidance he received from Silk as a young journalist. He describes his grief at the loss of his friends Kurt and Miguel whom were killed in Sierra Leone. This incident combines with the freak accident at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the exceptional cruelty of Bendu's experience during the war, to convey the sense of tragedy that underpins the country.
Throughout his journey the author's portrayal of the many people he meets is consistently compassionate and non-judgemental. This attribute is a credit to him as a person. In addition it helps the reader to see that in spite of the devastating experience of war, there is an enduring fighting spirit that has enabled the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia to survive through the horror to carry on with life. This is the uplifting message in the book.
He leaves the reader with a final thought: the disparity between the haves and have-nots. This situation, which remains unresolved, is what caused the war in Liberia in the first place. One senses a ticking time bomb, which shows the fragile nature of the peace. This is also clear from the fact that the sensitive issue of holding to account those who are responsible for war crimes in Liberia has not, as yet, been addressed; due to concerns regarding the destabilising effect this could have. This is a matter that one continues to think about after finishing the book.
Through his gripping stories Tim Butcher is bringing these troubled countries in Africa into the minds of his readers. This is important work for which he should be congratulated. As with "Blood River", this book is an excellent read.
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Having been disappointed by Graham Greene’s Journey Without Maps, it was perhaps a strange...Read more