Congo Hardcover – 27 Mar 2014
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‘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
‘A Big, fat, rich, readable tome … The book is alive with stories, and Reybrouck’s love of the nation and its people comes across strongly’ Independent on Sunday
‘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
‘A masterful and gripping account … makes you rethink the entire project of modernity’ Yuval Noah Harari, Guardian Summer Reads
From the Back Cover
The gripping saga of one of the world's most devastated countries
The Democratic Republic of Congo currently ranks among the world's most failed nation-states, second only to war-torn Somalia. David Van Reybrouck's Congo: The Epic History of a People traces the history of this devastated nation from the beginnings of the slave trade through the arrival of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the ivory and rubber booms, colonization, the struggle for independence, and the three decades of Mobutu's brutal rule. Van Reybrouck also examines the civil war--the world's deadliest conflict since the Second World War. Still raging today after seventeen years, the Congolese war is driven, in part, by the demand for the rare-earth minerals required to make cell phones.
Van Reybrouck has balanced hundreds of interviews with meticulous historical research to construct a many-dimensional portrait of the rich and convoluted history of Congo. Taking pains to seek out the Congolese perspective on the country's history, Van Reybrouck creates a panoramic canvas wherein the child soldiers whom he encounters in the eastern rebel territories talk candidly about their choices and misfortunes, and where elderly Congolese--some of them more than one hundred years old--reminisce about their lives in a country where the average life expectancy has dropped to forty-five.
Vast in scope yet eminently readable, both penetrating and deeply moving, Congo does for Africa what Robert Hughes's masterful and novelistic The Fatal Shore did for Australia. Van Reybrouck takes a deeply humane approach to political history, focusing squarely on the Congolese perspective and returning a nation's history to its people. Published to rave reviews in Belgium and the Netherlands in 2010, Congo has now been gracefully translated by the exceptional Sam Garrett, most recently the translator of Herman Koch's bestselling The Dinner.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
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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It is like I was living the moment back home.
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