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Congo : The Epic History of a People

4.32 (3,125 ratings by Goodreads)
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Hailed as "a monumental history . . . more exciting than any novel" (NRC Handelsblad), David van Reybrouck's rich and gripping epic, in the tradition of Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore, tells the extraordinary story of one of the world's most devastated countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Epic in scope yet eminently readable, penetrating and deeply moving, David van Reybrouck's Congo: The Epic History of a People traces the fate of one of the world's most critical, failed nation-states, second only to war-torn Somalia: the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Van Reybrouck takes us through several hundred years of history, bringing some of the most dramatic episodes in Congolese history. Here are the people and events that have impinged the Congo's development--from the slave trade to the ivory and rubber booms; from the arrival of Henry Morton Stanley to the tragic regime of King Leopold II; from global indignation to Belgian colonialism; from the struggle for independence to Mobutu's brutal rule; and from the world famous Rumble in the Jungle to the civil war over natural resources that began in 1996 and still rages today.

Van Reybrouck interweaves his own family's history with the voices of a diverse range of individuals--charismatic dictators, feuding warlords, child-soldiers, the elderly, female merchant 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 and returning a nation's history to its people.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 639 pages
  • 160 x 236 x 44mm | 819.99g
  • English
  • Maps
  • 0062200119
  • 9780062200112
  • 181,318

Back cover copy

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.
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Review quote

Van Reybrouck s extensive account reveals the depth and breadth of exploitation, particularly under Belgian colonial rule, and how Congo s story is one fraught with the toxic cycle of desire, frustration, revenge. --Publishers Weekly"
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Rating details

3,125 ratings
4.32 out of 5 stars
5 47% (1,474)
4 40% (1,256)
3 11% (329)
2 2% (56)
1 0% (10)
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