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Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart (2007)

– tekijä: Tim Butcher

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
8383719,157 (3.94)55
VINTAGE VOYAGES- A world of journeys, from the tallest mountains to the depths of the mind When Daily Telegraphcorrespondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H.M. Stanley's famous expedition - but travelling alone. Despite warnings that his plan was 'suicidal', Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers.… (lisätietoja)
  1. 30
    Chasing the Devil: On Foot Through Africa's Killing Fields (tekijä: Tim Butcher) (ominogue)
  2. 10
    When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (tekijä: Peter Godwin) (bergs47)
  3. 00
    Myrkkypuun siemen (tekijä: Barbara Kingsolver) (CatherineRM)
    CatherineRM: I love both these books and they nicely juxtapose each other with their Congo total immersion albeit one fictional and one factual. Tim Butcher traces the Congo River from its source through the dense equatorial land that the protagonist of the Kingsolver book occupied with his suffering family. Both books made a lasting impression on me and I have great time for Africa as I lived in Tanzania - close to Congo geographically for most of the time - and it has a big place in my heart. Read both books and be enriched!… (lisätietoja)
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englanti (34)  hollanti (2)  Kaikki kielet (36)
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 36) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
A very interesting travel story. Butcher weaves the history of the Congo with his own trip to and along the river. The main weakness is that he does not have enough interactions with people along the way. He explains this himself:

> Venturing out of the shade, I faced the same dilemma that I encountered in every place I visited in the Congo. I wanted to nose around, ask questions and take photographs, but I did not want to catch the attention of the local authorities with all the attendant hassle of having to explain who I was, pay bribes and beg not to be arrested as a spy. Also, I was feeling so enervated that I was happy to skulk into the same hut where the crew were restoking and simply avoid the midday heat.

Even still, I found the book useful. While I had heard the history before, the travel grounded it for me. And it is quite a surprise to have a trip like this in the 21st century.

Some quotes:

> Several of the walkers had large African snails stuck to the side of their leaf bundles. The snails did not have to be tied on, as their gooey, muscular foot kept them firmly attached until the moment when they were taken off and cooked. The only other food we saw was cassava paste tied in small rectangular leaf packets.

> 'I think the last time I saw a vehicle near here was 1985, but I cannot be sure. All these children you see around you now are staring because I have told them about cars and motorbikes that I saw as a child, but they have never seen one before you arrived.' He carried on talking, but I was still computing what he had just said. The normal laws of development are inverted here in the Congo. The forest, not the town, offers the safest sanctuary and it is grandfathers who have been more exposed to modernity than their grandchildren.

> By 1949 the colonial authorities boasted 111,971 kilometres of road across the Congo. By 2004 I doubt if there were more than 1,000 kilometres left in the entire country.

> My mother told me of large pods of hippos she saw from her river boat in 1958, sending up jets of water as they shifted their bulk out of the way of the boat. But the Congo's collapse has led to nearly all river life being shot out by starving riverside villagers desperate for protein. Our crocodile sighting was a rare treat.

> while Swahili had just one word for forest, the tribal language of Maniema had four special words - Mohuru, Mwitu, Mtambani and Msitu - for jungle of increasing impenetrability.

> This region is one of the rare places in the world that fails what I called the Coca-Cola test. The test is simple: can you buy a Coke?

> Just as campaigners today use the term Blood Diamonds to discredit gems produced in Africa's war zones, so their predecessors from a hundred years ago spoke of Red Rubber, publishing dramatic accounts of villagers being murdered or having their hands cut off to terrify their neighbours into harvesting more rubber. … Among the earliest campaigners was George Washington Williams, a pioneering African American who travelled by boat as far as the Stanley Falls in 1890 and did something nobody had ever thought to do before; he recorded the testimony of the Congolese themselves. His writings contained eye-witness accounts of the first genocide of the modern era, inspiring him to coin a term that is now used widely, 'crimes against humanity'.

> While maintaining the illusion of handing over a single country to the black Congolese, the authorities in Brussels secretly backed the secession of Katanga from the Congo, financing, arming and protecting the pro-Belgian Katangan leader, Moise Tshombe, in return for a promise that the Belgian mining interests in Katanga would be protected. It was one of the most blatant acts of foreign manipulation in Africa's chaotic independence period, and it culminated in one of the cruellest acts of twentieth-century political assassination, when Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese national figure to win an election, was handed over by Belgian stooges to be murdered by Tshombe's regime. Lumumba's mistake was to hint at pro-Soviet sympathies. ( )
  breic | Jul 29, 2019 |
[Blood River by Tim Butcher

A significant number of the review on LT are pretty negative about the book. I disagree and found Blood River to be one of the better books I have read this year.

The book is an account by the author of an attempt to retrace the route of Henry Morton Stanley following the Congo river. Having recently read Explorers of the Nile by Tim Jeal, Stanley's story was pretty fresh in my recollection but for purposes of the review a thumbnail sketch of Stanley seems to be in order. Stanley started as a journalist and is most remembered for successfully leading an expedition to locate David Livingstone, an early explorer of the African great lakes and Nile river, near Lake Tanganyika. For most people, the line of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" is the some total of Stanley's place in the history books. However, after his meeting with Livingstone, Stanley engaged in his own explorations of Africa that were every bit as impressive as Livingstone's and the other Victorian explorers searching for the Nile.

Stanley initially set out to follow a river identified as the Lualaba. Tracing the river was one of Livingstone's goals that he failed to accomplish. The belief at the time was that the Lualaba was a major tributary of the Nile as it was a northern flowing river of considerable volume when first discovered hence it was supposed to be the true start of the Nile. Stanley's expedition proved otherwise as the Lualaba turns west and is in actuality, a major source of the Congo.

Butcher sets out to retrace Stanley's initial trip along the Congo. What makes the book so interesting is the state of modern Congo (called today the Democratic Republic of Congo). Congo is a failed state. Butcher traces the history of Congo and how it got to the state it was in when Butcher set out on his expedition. It is an ugly story of decay, corruption and civil war. Congo was consumed by the same conflict that resulted in the Rwandan genocide. That conflict spilled across Congo's borders and collapsed an already rickety state. The ensuing conflicts (sometimes known as the First and Second Congo War) has resulted in a massive death tolls. One of the great ironies of the conflicts is that no one can agree on how many people have died with estimates ranging from 5.4 million people to about a million. If the conflict is so opaque that you can have a causality rate that varies by 4 million people it is fair to say that there are a lot of unknowns.

Butcher's travel took place shortly after the conclusion the Second Congo War in a period of prolonged instability and low level conflict where there were serious questions about the stability of the accords that ended the Second Congo War.

What Butcher finds on his trip is that the infrastructure of Congo is all but gone. Where once there were highways, railways, bridges and steamships, almost nothing is left. Some has been destroyed by conflict but much has simply been wiped away by the relentless jungle. As a result, Congo has been reduced to a collection towns and cities that are cut off from each other and the broader world. The little bit of civilization present is in the form of the UN or a few aid groups that are supplied largely by air as all other infrastructure is gone. Butcher contrasts this present reality with the state of Congo in the late 50s when it was still a Belgium colony. At that time, there were roads, cars, police and so on and travelers could crisscross the country if they so chose.

The other element of the book that stood out was the level of personal risk that Butcher undertook in making the trip. Here, I had trouble relating to Butcher. The level of risk he took by going into essentially lawless areas was extraordinary. I would characterize it as fool hardy. The fact that he largely succeeded on his trek along the river seems more the result of fortune than anything else and he clearly put himself at significant risk for the project.

There is not much to be cheerful about in a book about Congo but it is a gripping story and a warning that the veneer of civilization can peel away very rapidly. Highly recommended. ( )
  Oberon | May 18, 2018 |
Although I was wary of the distasteful undertone of the book’s premise (Tim Butcher follows in the path of Stanley’s 1874-77 expedition from Lake Tanganyika to and down the Congo River), ‘Blood River’ reveal itself to be a stunning and pertinent eyewitness account of the chaos consuming present day DR Congo. Written with sharp detail and interwoven by rich local histories, this ‘personal-travel-narrative’ functions as an engaging introduction to broader Congolese history and offers a rare western glimpse into that history’s horrifying effects. A remarkable book.
( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
Although I was wary of the distasteful undertone of the book’s premise (Tim Butcher follows in the path of Stanley’s 1874-77 expedition from Lake Tanganyika to and down the Congo River), ‘Blood River’ reveal itself to be a stunning and pertinent eyewitness account of the chaos consuming present day DR Congo. Written with sharp detail and interwoven by rich local histories, this ‘personal-travel-narrative’ functions as an engaging introduction to broader Congolese history and offers a rare western glimpse into that history’s horrifying effects. A remarkable book.
( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
Butcher sets out to retrace Stanley's descent of the Congo River. While I had a few quibble early in the book about some of Butcher's claims that King Leopold's acquisition of Congo territory started the "scramble for Africa," the rest of the book is spectacular. Butcher's narrative is compelling, but also his history and social context are sensitive and clear. He alludes often to Stanley, but doesn't make the mistake of many "retracers" of getting too caught up in the "quest" to forget the real people and places around him. Fantastic. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

-

VINTAGE VOYAGES- A world of journeys, from the tallest mountains to the depths of the mind When Daily Telegraphcorrespondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H.M. Stanley's famous expedition - but travelling alone. Despite warnings that his plan was 'suicidal', Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers.

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