Karen's Reviews > King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
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Jul 05, 11


I had 2 interesting experiences relating to this book while I was reading it. First, I recieved a call from an Airmiles rep who spoke with a thick African accent, he had no difficulty spelling my last name. He told me he came from the Congo, previously a Belgian colony where many names start with "van", hence his ease with my name. After telling him I was reading "King Leopold's Ghost", we talked for quite some time about the state of his homeland. He remarked that the people of the Congo are in more dire straights today than when they were colonized by Belgium. He said that colonization brought many benefits such as medical care, education, and wages that were paid regularly. The present day dictatorship has all but erased these advances with selfish corruption. "Patrice" is a father of seven children, all seeking to educate themselves here in Canada. This encounter was a bit of a light bulb momment for me: reading is not just about a book or what you learn from it, it's about how it opens your world to people...
The other point of interest came on the last page of the book. The author writes, "One factor is the abysmal position of women and all of the violence, repression and prejudices that go with it." He writes this regarding the fact that Africa has not developed like many other countries that were also brutally colonized but are now democratic. For those of you who have read "Infidel", our discussion of that book included the realization that a culture/religion where women are abused, unloved & disrespected cannot thrive.
This book deserves to be read, though horrifying at times the tenacity of those advocating anti-slavery for Africa & the world came through as a light in darkness. (No pun intended, but Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is often refered to in the book.)
For a first review I've certainly gone on for a bit, sorry!






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message 1: by Alida (last edited Jul 05, 2011 09:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alida Amazing to receive that phone call just when you were reading this book. It is one which has stayed with me and as you said, it is very worth reading. Man's inhumanity to man never fails to astound nor does the ability of one or two men to make great changes.

And your review was not a word to long.


Sillyhuron Same thing happened to me. I was in a shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake & saw a coin from the Belgian Congo. Talked to the owner - he was a mercenary who fought there during the post-colonial civil war. And YES there were atrocities - and it was the "Blacks" fault. And was the CIA involved? Oh well, he wouldn't know about that - he was just following orders...
Like you said - you never know when History becomes a VERY current event.


Diana Raabe Karen,

I like what you wrote about opening up worlds... that's one of the great perks of reading. When my son was little, he used to say that reading books was just like going on a vacation -- visiting another land. You get that!


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