Epic, yet eminently readable and profoundly moving, the winner of the Prix Médicis essai 2012 and the AKO Literature Prize traces the fate of one of the world’s most devastated countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With a span of several hundred years and an enormous cast of characters, ‘Congo’ chronicles the most dramatic episodes of the nation’s history, the people and events that have determined Congo’s development – from the slave trade to the ivory and rubber booms; from the arrival of Henry Morton Stanley and his meeting with Dr Livingstone to the brutal regime of Belgium’s King Leopold II; from the struggle for independence to Mobutu’s exploitative rule; and from Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s world famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ to the civil war over natural resources that began in 1996 and still rages today.
David Van Reybrouck interweaves his own family’s history with the voices of a diverse range of individuals – charismatic dictators, feuding warlords, child-soldiers, elderly, female smugglers, and many in the African diaspora of Europe and China – to offer a deeply humane approach to political history, focusing squarely on the Congolese perspective in an attempt to return a nation’s history to its people.
Reviews of Congo
- ‘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