Tim Butcher

more photos (1)




Mikey B.
493 books | 57 friends

Fawad J...
680 books | 21 friends

Nina Ch...
919 books | 85 friends

Paul
6,721 books | 615 friends

Rebecca...
9,020 books | 816 friends

Dlmrose
3,330 books | 193 friends

Val
Val
2,104 books | 120 friends

Emma
1,010 books | 724 friends

More friends…



Tim Butcher

Goodreads Author


Born
in Rugby, Warwickshire, The United Kingdom
Website

Genre

Member Since
May 2011

URL


Tim Butcher is a best-selling British author, journalist and broadcaster. Born in 1967, he was on the staff of The Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009, covering conflicts across the Balkans, Middle East and Africa. Recognised in 2010 with an honorary doctorate for services to writing and awarded the Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, he is based with his family in Cape Town, South Africa.

To ask Tim Butcher questions, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Tim Butcher The current ebola crisis in West Africa certainly churns my mind. Poor Johnson Boie, the sterling guide who acted as gatekeeper for my understanding…moreThe current ebola crisis in West Africa certainly churns my mind. Poor Johnson Boie, the sterling guide who acted as gatekeeper for my understanding of rural Liberia when we walked across the country in 2009, texts me daily. I read avidly. He has retreated – on the advice of health experts – back to his home village up in Lofa County, where the outbreak began in Liberia, and is doing everything possible to keep his community safe.
At first my thoughts were of linkage. I came across ebola when I wrote my first book, Blood River, on my journey through the Congo. Ebola was identified there for the first time in 1976, taking its name from a small river called `Ebola’ that runs into the Congo River north of the riverine settlement of Bumba.
I had reported in 2000 on an ebola outbreak in northern Uganda and got to learn the basics of the disease: a filamental virus, harboured by bush animals most likely bats, once it jumps from the animal to human the virus invades cells, replicates like mad and after 21 days of incubation acts like a wrecking ball to blood vessels, smashing capillary walls and causing the patient to bleed out. Blood loss is so bad catastrophic the patient basically dies of dehydration.
But I also learnt two other things. If treated by healthworkers who stay healthy, the patient can survive if kept hydrated. Survival rates if – and it’s a big if – healthworkers stay healthy are much, much higher than the scare stories of the media suggest. I also learnt that all ebola outbreaks recorded have taken place either in the Congo basin or within overland transport links of the basin.
So my first big thought was: how did it jump 2,000 miles north and west to Guinea, where it first appeared before spreading to Sierra Leone and Liberia? Scientists are debating how this might have happened but there is no clear answer yet.
As the crisis grew bigger, my next thoughts were about another unique feature of this new outbreak: it has reached urban populations. This has never happened before and this makes it so much more important from a global perspective.
We know HIV only became globally pathogenic because it spread to a large urban area ( the Congo, again I am afraid to say – Kinshasa ) and now the same has happened to ebola. Will ebola go globally pathogenic?
My thoughts then turned to Douglas Adams and his refrain `Don’t Panic’. If we panic and give up on helping the West African communities currently blighted, then it is more likely to become a global problem. I recalibrated the refrain to `Don’t Panic Yet’. As long as common sense prevails and good health care arrives, this outbreak will be dealt with and it will not spill globally. But this means the world will have to get involved, because of my next thoughts.
There were about how the fantastic people of West Africa, people like Johnson, are so chronically let down by their hopeless, corrupt, ineffective governments. We know ebola is containable using methods that are not that expensive or demanding in expertise, what is known as `barrier nursing’ where healthworkers are protected.
I know Salone and Liberia have first class health practitioners more than capable of dealing with the outbreak. What they don’t have is the gear, resources and equipment. And here, the local governments are to blame. When I passed through Salone in 2009 on the Chasing the Devil trek, there was one working X ray machine in the government sector. There were lots of broken ones but only one working one. And that comes down to stolen budgets, corrupt management and incompetent administration.
Remember more than 200 people died in Freetown, capital of Salone, just a couple of years ago because of cholera, one of the most manageable diseases in the world. Clean water means no cholera and yet that is beyond the abilities of a government in an economy that grew 33 per cent two years ago (yes, 33 per cent real growth in one year, OECD figures).
Then my thoughts turned to Graham Greene. His 1935 journey passed through the exact hot zone for today’s outbreak. All the places named in reports today sounded familiar to me as I passed through them when following his route and it made me re-read his original diary which I have a copy of. The first name he gave the book that would become Journey Without Maps was different. It was `Journey in the Dark’.
It made me think of Joseph Conrad and the literary millstone he hocked Africa with when he chose the title `Heart of Darkness’ for the novel he wrote out of his own experience on the Congo in the 1890s. Was Conrad presciently hinting at a dark health crisis, then morphing and replicating in the African bush into what would become HIV? Was Greene hinting at another health crisis lurking in the jungle that he crossed?
My thoughts keep churning at every turn of this virus-led ebola health crisis.
(less)
Tim Butcher Dominic – thank you for such a direct and powerful question. Not sure there is a direct and powerful answer but what follows is my best effort. The…moreDominic – thank you for such a direct and powerful question. Not sure there is a direct and powerful answer but what follows is my best effort. The best way forward for DRC lies in the hands not of outsiders (diplomats, aid workers, UN types, writers) but its own people. While many readers of Blood River ask if I am pessimistic about the future for DRC, I prefer to say I am realistic: the problems are immense but the human capital of the people I know from there is so magnificent that I am sure they have the ability to turn it round.
History tells us that dark places can move towards light, acute problems can be solved. Dickensian London is not a place you or I would like to have lived as a normal person (not middle class, not propertied, not privileged), indeed Britain was, as Marlow tells us in Heart of Darkness `once a dark place’. And yet today, London is not as Dickens describes it, David Cameron’s brutal efforts notwithstanding.
So once the Congolese take the leap forward themselves, I see great grounds for progress. But only when they are good and ready and not before outsiders have stopped kidding themselves of an easy fix.
(less)
Average rating: 4.03 · 6,854 ratings · 748 reviews · 10 distinct works · Similar authors
Blood River: A Journey to A...

4.03 avg rating — 4,821 ratings — published 2007 — 17 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
Chasing the Devil: The Sear...

4.08 avg rating — 970 ratings — published 2010 — 15 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
The Trigger: Hunting the As...

4.18 avg rating — 554 ratings — published 2014 — 15 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
Because I am a Girl

by
3.57 avg rating — 98 ratings — published 2010 — 4 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
Ox Travels: Meetings with R...

by
3.77 avg rating — 132 ratings — published 2011
Rate this book
Clear rating
Heart of Darkness

by
3.40 avg rating — 273,634 ratings — published 1899 — 1040 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
From Our Own Correspondent:...

by
4.27 avg rating — 30 ratings — published 2005 — 2 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
From Jo'Burg to Jozi

by
3.76 avg rating — 29 ratings — published 2006 — 3 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
Heart of Darkness: And Youth

by
4.07 avg rating — 30 ratings — published 1902 — 6 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
Soweto Inside Out: Stories ...

by
3.88 avg rating — 17 ratings — published 2005 — 2 editions
Rate this book
Clear rating
More books by Tim Butcher…
At risk of sounding like a would-be politician, please can I have your vote?
The good people at GoodReads have set up reading lists where members can vote for books they rate highly. One such list, for Favourite Travel Books, includes my Congo book, Blood River.
I would be thrilled if you would consider giving your vote here to Blood River. To reach the list click on the link below. Thank you t... Read more of this blog post »
5 likes ·   •  5 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 09, 2016 00:54 • 137 views

Upcoming Events

No scheduled events. Add an event.

Tim's Recent Updates

The Trigger by Tim Butcher
Tim Butcher liked that Ian is now following
534082
Tim Butcher liked that Tim is now a friend of Fawad
5527956 5799286
39515645
Tim Butcher joined the group Dreamspinner Press
45452
Tim Butcher made a comment in the group Goodreads Librarians GroupAuthor doppelganger issues topic
" Thank you "
" Lucy wrote: "I think I'm done and dusted with that now and what a selection of top books Tim!" Done, dusted, got the t-shirt, Lucy. Cheers "
More of Tim's books…
“….So much crueller than any British colony, they say, so much more brutal towards the local Africans, so much more manipulative after begrudgingly granting independence. But the history of British colonialism in Africa, from Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe, Kenya to Botswana and else-where, is not fundamentally different from what Belgium did in the Congo. You can argue about degree, but both systems were predicated on the same assumption: that white outsiders knew best and Africans were to be treated not as partners, but as underlings. What the British did in Kenya to suppress the pro-independence mau-mau uprising in the 1950s, using murder, torture and mass imprisonment, was no more excusable than the mass arrests and political assassinations committed by Belgium when it was trying to cling on to the Congo. And the outside world's tolerance of a dictator in the Congo like Mobutu, whose corruption and venality were overlooked for strategic expedience, was no different from what happened in Zimbabwe, where the dictator Robert Mugabe was allowed to run his country and its people into the ground because Western powers gullibly accepted the way he presented himself as the only leader able to guarantee stability and an end to civil strife. Those sniffy British colonial types might not like to admit it, but the Congo represents the quintessence of the entire continent’s colonial experience. It might be extreme and it might be shocking, but what happened in the Congo is nothing but colonialism in its purest, basest form.”
Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

“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. I can think of nowhere else on the planet where the same can be true.” p141”
Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

“The old man might have been drunk, but he was right. Outsiders have robbed and exploited the people of the Congo ever since the days of the first European and Arab slavers. The territory that Stanley staked in the name of Leopold witnessed what many regard as the first genocide of the modern era, when millions of Congolese were effectively worked to death trying to meet the colonialists’ almost insatiable demand for resources, most notably rubber. And since independence, foreign powers have toyed with the Congo, stripping its mineral assets and exploiting its strategic position, never mindful of the suffering inflicted on its people. And that really was the point. At every stage of its bloody history, outsiders have tended to treat Congolese as somehow sub-human, not worthy of the consideration they would expect for themselves. For progress to be made, outsiders must treat Congolese as equals and they could do worse than follow the example of an amazing white woman I discovered after we got back to Kalemie.”
Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

Topics Mentioning This Author

topics posts views last activity  
The Seasonal Read...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Fall Challenge 2011 Completed Tasks - DO NOT DELETE ANY POSTS IN THIS TOPIC! 2272 684 Nov 30, 2011 09:05PM  
Around the World ...: Dlmrose- 2012 Frequent Flyer 80 145 Dec 27, 2012 11:12AM  
Around the World: Tanya's list 116 117 Dec 29, 2012 04:37AM  
Around the World: Best of 2012 54 112 Jan 31, 2013 12:02PM  
The Seasonal Read...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Summer Challenge 2013: Completed Tasks (DO NOT DELETE POSTS) 2516 646 Aug 31, 2013 09:04PM  
Ian Somerhalder F...: * Welcome 207 889 Sep 11, 2013 06:36PM  
Crazy Challenge C...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Perpetual Music Relay (PMR) Challenge 1099 290 Jan 27, 2014 06:06AM  
The History Book ...: GLOSSARY - HANNS AND RUDOLF - (Spoiler Thread) 85 71 Jul 06, 2014 10:53AM  
Crazy Challenge C...: Reidar's Challenges 18 82 Nov 10, 2014 03:28AM  
“The old man might have been drunk, but he was right. Outsiders have robbed and exploited the people of the Congo ever since the days of the first European and Arab slavers. The territory that Stanley staked in the name of Leopold witnessed what many regard as the first genocide of the modern era, when millions of Congolese were effectively worked to death trying to meet the colonialists’ almost insatiable demand for resources, most notably rubber. And since independence, foreign powers have toyed with the Congo, stripping its mineral assets and exploiting its strategic position, never mindful of the suffering inflicted on its people. And that really was the point. At every stage of its bloody history, outsiders have tended to treat Congolese as somehow sub-human, not worthy of the consideration they would expect for themselves. For progress to be made, outsiders must treat Congolese as equals and they could do worse than follow the example of an amazing white woman I discovered after we got back to Kalemie.”
Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

“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. I can think of nowhere else on the planet where the same can be true.” p141”
Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

“….So much crueller than any British colony, they say, so much more brutal towards the local Africans, so much more manipulative after begrudgingly granting independence. But the history of British colonialism in Africa, from Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe, Kenya to Botswana and else-where, is not fundamentally different from what Belgium did in the Congo. You can argue about degree, but both systems were predicated on the same assumption: that white outsiders knew best and Africans were to be treated not as partners, but as underlings. What the British did in Kenya to suppress the pro-independence mau-mau uprising in the 1950s, using murder, torture and mass imprisonment, was no more excusable than the mass arrests and political assassinations committed by Belgium when it was trying to cling on to the Congo. And the outside world's tolerance of a dictator in the Congo like Mobutu, whose corruption and venality were overlooked for strategic expedience, was no different from what happened in Zimbabwe, where the dictator Robert Mugabe was allowed to run his country and its people into the ground because Western powers gullibly accepted the way he presented himself as the only leader able to guarantee stability and an end to civil strife. Those sniffy British colonial types might not like to admit it, but the Congo represents the quintessence of the entire continent’s colonial experience. It might be extreme and it might be shocking, but what happened in the Congo is nothing but colonialism in its purest, basest form.”
Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

220 Goodreads Librarians Group — 63683 members — last activity 38 minutes ago
A place where all Goodreads members can work together to improve the Goodreads book catalog. Non-librarians are welcome to join the group as well, to ...more
25x33 Botanical Taxonomy Utopia — 7 members — last activity Aug 25, 2013 02:38PM
This group was founded to contribute to the listopia of 'Botany Reference Books' for taxonomic identification of plants and fungi in arctic, temperate ...more
152644 2015: The Year of Reading Women — 832 members — last activity Jun 27, 2016 01:27PM
Join us for a year of member-run group reads to make 2015 the year of reading women! Rules Members are free to create author threads by surname if the ...more
97 Great African Reads — 1485 members — last activity Jul 21, 2016 10:01AM
Current banner photo: Sunrise on Dune 45, Namib Desert by Dietmar Temps This is a place for people who love Africa and a way, therefore, of sharing gr ...more
142309 Underground Knowledge - A discussion group — 2420 members — last activity 2 hours, 42 min ago
This global discussion group has been designed to encourage debates about important and underreported issues of our era. All you need is an enquiring ...more
45452 Dreamspinner Press — 2006 members — last activity Aug 23, 2016 02:29AM
A place for authors and readers of Dreamspinner Press to interact.
More of Tim’s groups…



Comments (showing 1-13)    post a comment »
dateUp arrow    newest »

message 13: by Tom

Tom Thanks for the message. I had had your book on my "to-read" list for such a long time, I'm really happy I finally did. I'm planning on reading "Chasing the Devil" soon. It looks great.

I didn't spend much time in Liberia, I was only there for a week at the start of the Ebola crisis to visit my dad. Because of the Ebola risk I couldn't really leave Monrovia, but I was happy to get to see a country that you don't normally here much about. Best wishes in your future writing!


message 12: by Susan

Susan I would be happy to vote on the lists - send me the links and I will do so.


message 11: by Jan

Jan Schindler Hi, Tim,
I'm glad you liked my review of Blood River. I came to Africa through studying its art. I took an African Art History class in graduate school. I wrote a paper on the memory board of the Luba people, the lukasa. They use the board as a memory aid. The beads on it represent different events, people, etc. depending on the story they are telling. My focus at the time was on the culture, not so much the history. I think the Luba were living in the East Congo maybe a little more to the south than where you started your trek/ordeal. Had you heard of them? I did a quick search online and it seems they're not around anymore.(?)
I'm looking forward to reading your other books: the Trigger and Chasing the Devil!


message 10: by Michael

Michael Arden Hi Tim, I thought about your great book, Blood River, the other night watching Anthony Bourdain on CNN with his Congo segment of "Parts Unknown" - the tension he felt being there, a decades-long dream fulfilled, was palpable in the film. I now have a copy of Chasing the Devil and look forward to reading it along with Paul Theroux's latest, The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari. Hope all is well with you!


message 9: by Jim

Jim Shaughnessy Hi Tim,

Thanks for your message, that's really thoughtful. Loved Blood River, fascinating read.

Jim


Shovelmonkey1 Hi Tim, accepted your friend request. .. welcome to goodreads! I enjoyed Blood River very much and passed my copy on to a friend who also gave it the thumbs up. I'd love to travel in Africa and one of my ambitions is to take part in the Dakar rally.


message 7: by Susan

Susan Hi Tim,
Thanks for the friend request ... and also for your book! I loved it - looks like I'll be moving on to Chasing the Devil next;-)


message 6: by Nadia

Nadia Hey I read your book a wee a couple of months back now, and was enthralled by the idea of a trip up the Congo... other than war, rampage and pillage it's unfortunately a country that gets zero coverage, so was certainly a very interesting read!


Mathilda I read Blood River twice, thinking that i rated it to high the first time, a year later I read it again and wondered why I doubted my first rating....because of the rarity of this genre of books I try to get hold of everything available but without a doubt I will read Blood River again in the future!
ps. Also enjoyed Chasing the Devil and it is waiting for me to be re-read...


message 4: by Beth

Beth Read it twice Tim....loved the power of it.


Barnyard ISF Thank you. I love a good African account. I am working on my own adventure personal story. Some of it can be found at www.MattoleFreeState.webs.com Thank you so much.


Marieke Hi--I definitely enjoyed Blood River and am looking forward to reading Chasing the Devil. Am I crazy or did Anthony Bourdain meet up with you in Liberia when you were working on that book?


message 1: by Brian

Brian Wiersema a friend who served as a peace corps teacher in liberia recently recommended "chasing the devil".

it's a literate, superb book and a terrific read
and opens the door to a whole new spectrum of
literature on that area, including Greene's original
1935 book (at my library) and tim's "blood river".

i've read a lot of first person travel accounts.
devil tops the list. --brian wiersema


back to top