Passing the time while he and his shipmates wait for the tide to turn, Marlow, a seaman, tells of his journey up the Congo, a journey in search of ivory, wealth and power. His tale is dominated by the distant but fascinating figure of Kurtz; worshipped and feared by invaders and natives alike, he is a paradox – beloved, Messianic, yet bizarre and dangerous. Marlow comes to be obsessed by Kurtz and is drown inexorably towards him and his terrible end.
Apparently this book happens to be the inspiration of the movie “Apocalypse Now” (starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall). If you would like to see the movie before or after reading the book feel free to do so, though, I have to admit, I haven’t watched it. The movie, according to IMDb got 8.5 stars out of 10 stars, rated by a substantial number of people. Rotten tomatoes rated it at 99%. Like I said this book is the inspiration: the story (according to the according to the aforementioned web-sites) is adapted to Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Before you read this book, I should probably warn you that it has caused not a little controversy: for example, after describing Joseph Conrad as a man “blinkered… with xenophobia” and his work, Heart of Darkness, as “an offensive and deplorable book” that dehumanized Africans and incorrectly portrayed them as the anti-thesis of civilization. He also added that for such reasons, especially due to the fact that it “depersonalizes a portion of the human race”, this book should not be considered a great work of art.
A number of people agree with him, though one adds that it is important to be “sensitized to how peoples of other nations perceive Africa”. I will leave it to you to decide whether Chinua Achebe and those in agreement with him were right or not. But, a few days ago, as I was trying to see what other people thought of this book, I came across this book, but under authors and what-not, I found other names: Catherine Anyango (of Swedish and Kenyan parentage) and David Zane Mairowitz. I found a glowing review for this edition of the book, which was published in 2010. Why not try it out?
Anyway, my dad gave me this novel when I was finishing my secondary school – he must have had a reason, right? But if you find it too much for you (of which there seems to be a 50-50 chance) please try the new edition of this book.
All the same, here is another book about central Africa (specifically Congo) that you should try out:
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE – BARBARA KINGSOLVER
Barnes and noble: 4.3/5
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
At least I can be quite sure that you will enjoy either – if not both – of the above novels. If you ask me, there is no harm in trying.
AFRICAN NOVELS REVIEWS