Published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom and named a Richard & Judy Book Club selectionthe only work of nonfiction on the 2008 list Blood River is the harrowing and audacious story of Tim Butchers journey in the Congo and his retracing of renowned explorer H. M. Stanleys famous 1874 expedition in which he mapped the Congo River.
When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to Africa in 2000 he quickly became obsessed with the legendary Congo River and the idea of recreating Stanleys legendary journey along the three-thousand-mile waterway. Despite warnings that his plan was suicidal, Butcher set out for the Congos eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vehicles, including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a pygmy rights advocate, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers.
An utterly absorbing narrative that chronicles Tim Butchers forty-four-day journey along the Congo River, Blood River is an unforgettable story of exploration and survival.
Michel was at work in his radio station, a
standard-issue UN container at the garrison headquarters built in the
ruin of a Belgian-era cotton factory on the outskirts of Kalemie. He was
deep in thought, trying to work out how to deal with an imminent
public-relations crisis: peacekeepers in Kalemie and elsewhere across
the Democratic Republic of Congo had been caught paying local girls,
under the age of consent, for sex. Michel had just come from a meeting
where the scale of the problem had been revealed. He seemed happy for
the distraction. I introduced Benoit, an aid worker from Care
International, and told him my worries about security. 'Benoit says
there are mai-mai [local rebels] all along these tracks. Do you know
anyone local who could help me get through?'
'There is one person I know who dares to travel regularly through the bush. He is a pygmy and runs a small aid group here in town. His name is Georges Mbuyu.'
The title, Blood River, speaks volumes for the history of the region that Butcher describes as 'Africa's broken heart'. Interweaving anecdotes and historical accounts from earlier colonial explorers (such as H.M. Stanley and David Livingstone), Butcher portrays a Congo that is mostly forgotten, misunderstood, little known and destroyed.
(Reviewed by Fiona Lorrain).
Full Review (1206 words).
For much of it's length, the Congo River forms the border between The Republic
of Congo and The Democratic Republic of Congo (map of Africa). Both countries and the
river are named for the early settlers to the area known as the Kongo people, and for the Kingdom of
Kongo which controlled much of the area between about 1400 and 1914:
The Republic of Congo
Also known as Congo-Brazzerville or the Congo, The Republic of Congo was a former French colony which gained independence in 1960 and currently has a population of a little over four million. From 1970 to 1992 it was run as a Marxist-Leninist single-party state, having signed a twenty-year friendship pact with the Soviet Union. A democratically elected ...
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