cover image Back to the Congo

Back to the Congo

Lieve Joris. Atheneum Books, $22 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12164-7

``I didn't come here to find fault with Mobutu's regime, or to justify it. I wanted to explore life behind the newspaper headlines,'' explains this adventurous Flemish journalist, indignant and frightened when she is taken into custody with a photographer friend by Zairean police merely for plying a camera and talking with the locals. A childhood vision of the country, evoked by the tales of her missionary uncle, led to Joris's desire to see the Congo. She finds guides and friends amongst those who remember her uncle, and also through her own gregarious and empathetic nature. She gets deep into the country through bush, forest, villages and cities, dances all night in a local dive, takes a boat up the river, encounters pygmies, befriends depressed European-educated intellectuals and cynical bureaucrats, sleeps in native hotels, and observes the unresolved struggles of a country on the far peripheries of the Western world whose intrusion has left its superficial imprint on traditional ways without a synthesis. Not the country her uncle described, the Congo--both people and land-- becomes palpable in Joris's engaging and disturbing report. (Oct.)