THE TROUBLED HEART OF AFRICA: A History of the Congo

Robert B. Edgerton, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-30486-7

During the past few years, the Congo, long exploited for its natural resources and among the most corrupt countries in Africa, has been explored by a number of authors. Most of these books have been journalistic accounts, but Edgerton offers a historical narrative of a country ravaged by colonial exploitation and the corrupt rule of a native despot. His story is familiar, but it is told accurately and well, from the arrival of Portuguese explorers in the 16th century through the recent, brief rule of Laurent Kabila. The author doesn't neglect the detrimental role played by the West: the rule of Belgium's King Leopold symbolized the worst of colonial exploitation. But Edgerton (The Fall of the Asante Empire), a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, refrains from turning this into an anti-West morality tale. He shows how Arab invaders spread cannibalism and notes that Africans have not redeemed themselves when in charge of the country. As a result, there's little reason to doubt Edgerton's conclusion: "Even if an agreement about elections and army integration were, by some miracle, to take place, there is no reason to believe that peace would be restored" to this embattled country. This book serves as a basic primer on how one of the world's most mineral-rich countries was turned into one of its greatest tragedies. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.(Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
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