Stephen Witt's Reviews > In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo

In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz by Michela Wrong
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's review
Feb 23, 2014

really liked it

As a candidate for the past century's worst country it has no parallels. In order you've got: pillage, rape, genocide, more rape, CIA-sponsored political assassinations, a brutal dictatorship, the world's first genuine "kleptocracy", corruption on a grand and almost immortal scale, bad interior decorating, a surfeit of Louis Vutton luggage, hunger, AIDS, bankruptcy, civil war, more genocide, more civil war, and even more rape. There is even a fucking decaying nuclear reactor there, if you can believe that (I still can't.)

Anyways, as a history of the Mobutu period this is a cracking good read. Like King Leopold's Ghost, it's mostly just a catalog of one absurd horror after another, punctuated by mini-bios of the colorful characters responsible: Mobutu and the "Big Vegetables." This is a good template for writing about Africa, I think, but there's a predictable downside: the author comes across as pretentious and slightly uneven in tone (not dissimilar from yours truly,) and like most whites in Africa spends too much time focusing on the quirky ex-pats who populate her immediate social sphere and not enough on the 60 million plus black Africans who've been catching it in the shorts for a century plus. For this I give her a single demerit.

Still, I mean, read it already.
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05/19 marked as: read

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Merilee not to mention the nuclear fuel rod that ended up among the Sicilian Mafia because someone lent someone else his keys....

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