New Nonfiction: Congo – David Van Reybrouck

Our imprint Ecco introduces this sweeping cultural history and European bestseller to the American market. NRC Handelsblad called it “[a] monumental history of Congo . . . more exciting than any novel.” Philip Gourevitch has called author David Van Reybrouck “the real deal” and the editor notes that he’s a literary Renaissance man—historian, op-ed writer, novelist, playwright, and poet fluent in a number of languages. Those many talents are brought to bear in this vivid, anecdote-rich telling of Congo’s centuries-old battles over natural resources and slaves, imperialism and the long civil war following independence. Good advance reviews here, too.

“[A] compelling mixture of literary and oral history that delivers an authentic story of how European colonialism, African resistance, and the endless exploitation of natural resources affected the lives of the Congolese.”
 — Booklist

Belgian author Van Reybrouck begins this prolonged tale of woe with the first arrival of Europeans in this central African land, whose imperialistic intention toward its inhabitants was to ‘free them from the wolf trap of prehistoric listlessness.” His ensuing history relates the Congo’s Christianization by Portuguese Jesuits, Italian Capuchins, and eventually Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as the role played by foreign foodstuffs—such as Mexican corn and Brazilian manioc—in everyday Congolese life…. The prospect of independence from Belgium in June of 1960 held out hope for the nation, but ‘the breakneck emancipation of Congo was a tragedy that could only end in disaster. Van Reybrouck’s extensive account reveals the depth and breadth of exploitation, particularly under Belgian colonial rule, and how Congo’s story is one fraught with the toxic cycle of ‘desire, frustration, revenge.’”
— Publishers Weekly

“Van Reybrouck makes a good case for the importance of Congo to world history and its ongoing centrality in a time of resurgent economic colonialism, this time on the part of China.
-— Kirkus

Congo: The Epic History of a People (9780062200112) by David Van Reybrouck. $29.99 hardcover. 3/25/14 on sale.

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