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The Book of the Heathen, by Robert Edric

1 rating: 5.0
a novel set in the Congo
1 review about The Book of the Heathen, by Robert Edric

Imperialism at one of its ugliest moments

  • Feb 11, 2010
  • by
It's 1897, and the Europeans are in Africa exploiting the people and the country's resources.  Most of the action takes place in the station of an unnamed British company (simply known as "The Company), at a quarry along the Congo. As the story opens, one of the Englishmen, a Nicholas Frere, has been seized and awaits the Company's official investigator who must look into Frere's alleged killing of a child. The circumstances surrounding the event are at best vague, but Frere will talk to no one, especially his friend James Frasier, about what really happened.   Frasier is convinced that Frere is innocent, and that he is being used as a scapegoat so that the rest of the world can believe that there is actually some sort of justice on behalf of the native populations.

As the cover blurb states, this book "explores notions of honor, friendship, justice and reason in a world where men have been forced by circumstance to descend into an abyss of savagery and terror." I couldn't have said it any better.  The  book really looks at the darkness that creeps into men's souls in a situation where human life is viewed as cheap and expendable, all in the name of profit.

This novel is set during the heyday  of very vocal, anti-imperialist crusaders such as Roger Casement,  who had worked in the Belgian Congo and had witnessed first hand the horrific abuse of the indigenous populations.  As an aside, if you want a good look at this time period, do NOT miss King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochshild, which goes into the topic into great detail.

Who would like this? Anyone who has an interest in this time period and in imperialism at its worst, or anyone who wants something different than the usual stuff in the bookstore shelves. I VERY highly recommend this book.
Imperialism at one of its ugliest moments

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