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Pandora in the Congo

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,257 ratings  ·  119 reviews
It is 1914 when Marcus Garvey, a bedraggled British manservant, emerges from the depths of the Belgian Congo. He is the sole survivor of an ill-fated mining expedition in which both his masters, William and Richard Craver, died and from which their African porters fled. Garvey returns to London carrying two diamonds of extraordinary size, spinning a story too unspeakably t ...more
Hardcover, 441 pages
Published April 3rd 2008 by Canongate Books (first published 2005)
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3.84  · 
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 ·  1,257 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Once in a while, I am possessed by the desire to read something truly bizarre, brilliant and yet slightly inscrutable, a book that is so … creative and unique that it cannot help but expand one’s consciousness. I’ve found it quite difficult to come across such books –first, there’s just not that many of them written, and those that are, usually exist as hidden gems that rarely surface on my media feeds.

It is in this spirit that I one day came across and acquired Pandora in the Congo. The cover
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'll be honest. When I first picked this up, I was intrigued but not overwhelmingly excited about reading it.

And then I started. Within seconds, I was hooked. The protagonist's name is Thomas Thomson, which immediately sets up a tone of whimsy and sort of naivety, which is exactly how the protagonist portrays himself. All one needs to know is Mr. Thomson was the ghostwriter of a ghostwriter of a ghostwriter and that leads him to a position working for a barrister writing the story of a prisoner
Rowland Pasaribu
Pandora in the Congo is narrated by Thomas 'Tommy' Thomson, writing what he says is the same book yet again -- some sixty years after he first wrote it. It's a bit different this time, as he writes the story behind (and around) the story as well, but still .....

Thomson grew up in an orphanage, so well-liked there that they let him stay another four years after they were supposed to send him out into the wild world at fifteen. He developed a love of reading there, and the ambition to become a wri
David Nickle
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
On one level, it’s an African adventure novel of the kind that Edgar Rice Burroughs used to pen. On another level, it’s a wry critique of those stories from a post-Colonial perspective. Tommy Thomson (not the painter) is a hack pulp writer at the turn of the last century, hired to retell the story of Marcus Garvey (not the one who inspired the Rastafarians), a servant who is accused of murdering two well-to-do explorers in the depths of the Congo.

The story that emerges runs deeper than that: int
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book a lot. It starts like an old school adventure story but turns into something different. What makes it so interesting is, that the story is so unpredictable. Anything could happen. And the different levels of narration help to keep you busy guessing.
I also liked the final revelation and the "moral" of the story. This book would make a great movie.
Actually his first book "Cold skin" is being adapted to the big screen right now. I will definitely check it out soon!
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Well this was unexpectedly cool. A great and sometimes brilliant story. Early 1900's. A writer is taking down the story of a man returned from Africa. Where as the servant of two evil aristocrats he had amazing adventures, and fell in love with a woman from a race that lives in a tremendous cavern under the earth. Hah hah. It was good! The writer in the book had an interesting story as well that even though it happens after is wound up in with the Africa tale.
Angel 一匹狼
Mar 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Edit. Authors should remember this word every time they write a novel. They may be in love with what they have written, but that doesn’t mean a shorter and more compact novel wouldn’t be better. That is the biggest problem “Pandora al Congo” has.

And it is a pity because the novel has a great beginning, funny and mysterious, some flashes of brilliance, and some interesting ideas (how we romanticize other cultures, twisting some of their cultural aspects to fit our views of the others or how some
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was fantastic. I'm not sure what I expected, but this was one of those rare books that met (or exceeded) the reviews.
The modern cleverness and playfulness merged perfectly with the story-in-the-story rip-roaring H.R. Haggard adventure part.
Pinol does simultaneously tear those to pieces while exalting them.
He comments slyly on things like racism which are endemic in the pulp novels while including hugely (and appropriately) racist characters. There are a host of villains and heroes, with m
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A-frickin-mazing! Whoa.
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Creative, crazy and fun. I loved it.
Shannon Warnagiris
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely the wildest book I've ever read.

I saw it on the New Books shelf at the library and just picked it up, something I almost never do. I went home and finished it in two days. Something that's more impressive once you know I'm a full time student and work several part time jobs. But I was so shaken by this book I just kept reading it.

I've never read something so enormously fictitious, and yet written in a manner that I had to remind myself at several points that it was in fact a
Peter Goers
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book within a book within a book. A triumph.
Cooper Renner
Great concepts. Begins well, ends well. Really drags in the middle.
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit too long for my taste. Great humor and plot twist!
Serge Stroynov
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unexpectable and unpredictable storyline. Adore it inspite of obvious mistakes.
Jules Jones
I got this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer programme, and probably wouldn't have picked it up if I'd simply seen it in the bookshop. But the description in the ER programme intrigued me, and I'm glad I read it.[return][return]It's a multi-layered pastiche and parody of the old pulp African adventure stories, with two interlocking stories set early in the twentieth century, narrated by one of the protagonists as an old man late in the twentieth century. As the novel opens the narrat ...more
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Tommy Thomson is a young man with ambition - he wants to be a writer. When he is given the chance to help a friend by ghostwriting pulp fiction he grabs the chance even though he gets no recognition for it as he is ghost writing for another ghost writer.

The story is told by Tommy 60 years after the events looking back on how a funeral leads him to be given another opportunity to write - he is asked to interview a prisoner awaiting trial for murder with a view to writing the story of events which
Jun 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: recentreads
I picked this up hoping for a fun adventure story. It started off in a sort of comic book, fanciful, comedic style, which I found quite refreshing and promising. Unfortunately, the author repeatedly switched from this comic style to a dense, depressing realism and back again throughout the book, which ultimately destroyed the story. He seemed to want to create a thrilling adventure, but also wanted to make a point. Unfortunately, he allowed a very simple point (that despite the evil in the world ...more
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shana by: Strib
A tale within a tale, Pandora in the Congo tells the story of Tommy Thompson - an author who finds himself as a ghostwriter of a ghostwriter, etc., etc. A chance meeting gets him into a new contract, and we are tossed into the inner tale - that of Marcus Garvey, an accused murderer who tells Tommy his story to try to convince of his innocence. The tale of Garvey's trip to the Congo is hard to put down -- I personally would have been fine with less continued violence and repeition..... could've b ...more
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
Pandora in the Congo is the story of an extraordinary book, one on which lives hung in the balance. In early 20th century London Tommy Thomson was drafted by a lawyer to write an amazing tale exonerating a lowly Brittish servant named Marcus Garvey. Garvey's tale takes us to the dark heart of colonial Africa, where cruelty is common place, where the only laws are money and exploitation. When Garvey and his expedition encounter an unfathomable underground civilization the story unexpectedly draws ...more
Sara Saab
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: given-away
(3.5, rounded up). A meta-meta-metafictional romp; Rudyard Kipling if he'd've loosened his waistcoat long enough to think up something so very tongue-in-cheek. Best character: Marie Antoinette, vindictive turtle sans shell, and magnificent source of light relief in the story. My major complaint: the novel trots out an excessively male cast of characters, and is steeped in chest-beating, droll macho ideals; the main female character is more puzzle box / cipher than actual person. I counted maybe ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
The Good: surprising mix between (fake) "adventures in the colonies" type of novel and fantasy. Pinol seems to know both Africa and everything necessary for the historic touch. Additionally he can narrate and has a language which fits the subject. But then comes the bad: somewhere in the middle, he seems to not know what to do with the plot. So he lets it collapse. Or maybe he thought that was smart? If you liked the first 2/3 of the book, you'll hate the end, which is cynical and sad. If the fi ...more
Lju Anđelković Džambić
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
After I read his book Cold Skin, this one is not as surprising as I expected. Pinol knows writting, he knows how to create suspension and he is a clever writer ... here he develops the same idea in a wider perspective, but this main idea about other creatures (and everything else that comes with it) is functioning better in a Cold Skin.
Also, Pandora is adventures, but missing some deeper philosophycal level that gently appears in the Cold Skin, which levels up this novel from being ordinary adv
Jonathan Graham
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm quite sure this is the sort of book that the snobbish literati would condemn as unoriginal and unfeasible but it has turned out to be one of my all time favourite reads. In clear homage to the greats of the adventure genre, H Rider Haggard, Conan Doyle et al, this is a fabulous yarn tearing through at the most electric pace. The plot, the twists, the imagination - all are sublime and pure escapism of the most delicious sort. If this is a genre in which you delight, then read this novel at th ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Why aren't there more books like this? An adventure story, and a story-behind-the-story, and a deconstruction of adventure stories, and a critique of adventure stories, particularly jungle adventures like H. Rider Haggard used to write. I've never read any of them, though I think I saw half of She, with Richard Chamberlain. Anyway, more people should write more books like this. Cause I would read every one of them.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
Ughhh...I HATED this! It had me quite intrigued but I was not sure about it having read bad reviews. How I wish I had gone with my instincts! This was painful. There are two narratives in this book only one of which is vaguely interesting and unfortunately that particular narrative is dealt with to a much lesser degree. This was a boring, over the top, irritating book that tries to be and say too much and doesn't end up saying anything of interest.
Karen Lacey
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book. An absolute must read. The only problem with this author is he doesn't write enough books!! A ghostwriter in WWI England encounters a story unlike any other. He's paid to tell the story if a man in prison accused of killing two brothers. We then hear the amazing story of what happened in the Congo, who they met, and the bizarre love story involved, we are left we our jaws dragging on the carpet. To be a fraction as creative as this author would be a blessed gift.
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1914 London, a British manservant stands accused of murdering 2 English noblemen on a mining expedition to the Congo. He protests that he is innocent. But how much of the story he tells is true?

Narrated by a young writer hired to chronicle the expedition's events, the story Pinol weaves is genuinely exciting. It is also intricately plotted, but Pinol's whimsical and tongue-in-cheek voice keeps the reader in on the joke until the brutal end.
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ate Hoekstra
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorites. Read the book 8 or 9 years ago, and still I can see the images of Garvey in the black heart of the jungle, surrounded by strange creatures and dark events. It reminded me of the work of the amazing Edgar Allan Poe.

Lost the book somewhere between moving from one place to another, but would love to have a new copy and read it once more.
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Albert Sánchez Piñol was born in Barcelona in 1965 and is an anthropologist and writer. His writing has appeared in several journals, and Cold Skin is his first novel. Already translated into fifteen languages, it won the Ojo Critico Narrativa prize on its original publication in Catalan in 2003.
“Yes, I felt very small. The typewriter seemed larger than a piano, I was less than a molecule. What could I do? I drank more.
-pg 237”
“Most geniuses are geniuses because of the way they manage their natural talents. He was one because of the way he took advantage of the world's defects.
-pg 129”
More quotes…