In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo (Text Only)

By Michela Wrong

‘Joyous … a book that makes other journalists weep with envy’ The Economist

‘Provocative, touching, and sensitively written … an eloquent, brilliantly researched account’ Sunday Times

One of The Economist’s best books by foreign correspondents.

A story of grim comedy amid the apocalypse and a celebration of the sheer indestructibility of the human spirit in a nation run riot: Michela Wrong’s vision of Congo/Zaire during the Mobutu years is incisive, ironic and revelatory.

Mr Kurtz, the colonial white master, brought evil to the remote upper reaches of the Congo River. A century after Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ was first published, Michela Wrong revisits the Congo as the era of Mobutu Sese Seko collapses into absurdity, anarchy and corruption. Hers is a brilliant portrait of the grotesque as confusion takes over: pink lipsticked rebel soldiers mingle with tracksuited secret policemen in hotels where fin de siecle dinner parties are ploughing through hotel wine cellars rather than see bottles lost to the new regime.

Congo, Africa’s richest country in terms of its natural resources, has institutionalised kleptomania: everyone is on the take. In a country where the minimum wage has dropped to below $150 a year, the government over twenty-five years spent $250 million providing courtesy cars. Congo has a vanity nuclear reactor built on a subsiding slope and one of its uranium rods is missing…

The Mobutu reign, successor to Belgium’s failed imperial experiment in Africa, was fed by World Bank dollars and IMF loans. Having presided over unprecedented looting of the country’s wealth, Mobutu, like Kurtz, retreated deep within the jungle to his absurdly overwrought palace of marble floors and gold taps. A century on, nothing seems to have changed at the heart of Africa: it is lawless, graceless and it slaughters its own.

Format: ebook
Release Date: 10 Jul 2012
Pages: None
ISBN: 978-0-00-738209-5
Michela Wrong has been a foreign correspondent since joining Reuters after University and has worked extensively in Africa for the BBC and has also worked for the Sunday Times. She now writes for the Financial Times.

”'A brilliant account of Africa’s most extraordinary dictator told with wry wit and delicious irony… this book will become a classic” - The Economist

”'Provocative, touching, and sensitively written … an eloquent, brilliantly researched account and a remarkably sympathetic study of a tragic land” - Sunday Times

”'Michela Wrong made the so-called 'Heart of Darkness' much less opaque to me when I visited the Congo. She can do the same for you if you read this brave and witty book” - Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great

”'Michela Wrong nimbly balances absurdity and outrage in her portrait of Mobutu Sese Seko and the wreckage he visited - with steady Western sponsorship - on the country he called Zaire. Her book is charged with pity and terror, and with the sort of sustaining humour that she rightly admires in Mobutu’s former subjects” - Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed With Our Families