cover image Madame Livingstone: The Great War in the Congo

Madame Livingstone: The Great War in the Congo

Christophe Cassiau-Haurie and Barly Baruti, trans. from the French by Ivanka Hahnenberger. Catalyst, $19.95 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-1-946395-47-4

The complexities of war are explored with a curious what-if twist in this elegantly drawn adventure. When Belgian military pilot Gaston Mercier flies into Albertville on Lake Tanganyika in the Congo in 1915, he finds himself at the distant end of two European empires (Belgian and German) carrying on their continental conflict with thousands of African proxies. While the plot focuses on Belgian efforts to sink the heavily armed German ship Graf Von Götzen, the heart of the story is Gaston’s growing friendship with “Madame Livingstone,” a kilt-wearing multilingual Congolese guide who claims to be a son of Doctor Livingstone, and who attempts to avoid picking sides in European fights (“this is my country, I go where I like. The borders are your doing”). As their relationship deepens, Mercier confronts his country’s bloodstained history in the region. Congolese artist Baruti—who has an intriguing autobiographical connection to one of the protagonists—washes rich colors over the pages, which mix sumptuous landscapes with tightly framed dramatic action. Cassiau-Haurie’s dialogue can be stiff, and his script veers awkwardly between rollicking adventure tale and interrogation of colonialism. But overall it’s a well-researched drama of human connections forged in an inhumane period.[em] Agent: Ivanka Hahnenberger, VIP. (June) [/em]