“We are tired of living under this tyranny. We cannot endure that our women and children are taken away and dealt with by the white savages. We shall make war. . . . We know that we shall die, but we want to die. We want to die.”
I would not have finished this book if not for the stories of William Henry Sheppard, George Washington Williams, Roger Cassment and E.D. Morel. I trudged through the endless pages of the numbered dead. the unnumbered dead. the severed hands, mutilated bodies. burned villages and tortured African natives if only to find some relief. As if seeing King Leopold die a second death through the book would satisfy me in the end. It didn't.
King Leopold's ghost is just as real as he was. The chief mass murderer himself knows he won't rest in peace for crimes he committed on this earth so he roams around haunting Congolese people to this day. As if genocide wasn't enough!!! If you don't believe me just go to the end of the book where Hochschild details how, as the country finally began taking its first steps of independence, the CIA (under Eisenhower) shot the first democratically elected prime minister of Congo, cut up his body and dissolved it in acid to prevent Patrice Lumumba from becoming a symbol.
How much of the 20th century was built on the corpses of tens of millions of Africans? Congo went from a population of roughly 20 million people before the arrival of Leopold to roughly 10 million at his death ten years later. I just get so frustrated and tired and discouraged reading about the imperialist history on the continent that it takes everything in me to keep reading and searching to learn more. For once I just wanted to find a glimpse of the stories of the people who fought against.
Maybe that's why this book is different. Thoroughly researched and handled with tremendous care, Adam Hochschild was committed to showing the efforts of the people who did bring the problem of Congo to the international stage. If crimes go on and on, the only solace is the people who still go to great lengths to fight it.
I'd recommend this book to anyone