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“Congo. A History” by David Van Reybrouck

November 11, 2010

in a previous post on the Congolese youth movement La SAPE I have used an excerpt  from ‘Congo. A History’ a book by David Van Reybrouck ( 2010 De Bezige Bij Publishing Amsterdam).

La SAPE is a cultural underground youth movement  in Kinshasha; sapeurs dressing up, changing costumes and looks, changing  identities…3 times a day, and that’s just before lunch.

Of course, ‘Congo. A History’ is not only about fashion, music or  youth culture, it’s a well sourced document on the birth of a nation, the rise and decline of Congo, la République démocratique du Congo, the former Zaïre.

Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck describes for the first time the amazing history of Congo, from well before the arrival of the explorer Stanley to the influence of China in the last ten years and the recent economic crisis.

The birth of the new Congo was memorized by a song, “Independance Cha Cha” , composed in 1960 by Joseph Kabasele Tshamala (Grand Kalle), the father of Congolese music. The anthem of not only the nationalist movement in the Belgian Congo, but also the newly independent states of Africa  was first played at the Hotel Plaza in Brussels on January 27 1960

Le Grand Kalle & Orchestre African Jazz -Independance Cha Cha

Van Reybrouck relies not only on rare archival footage and cutting-edge research, but also on hundreds of interviews he conducted with Congolese. His eyewitness of centenarians are child soldiers, rebel leaders to smugglers, from ministers to cassava sellers. All their stories form the core of this phenomenal book coupled with data, facts and a most personal view on the past. ‘Congo. A History’ is above all  “a la recherche du temps perdu” since Van Reybrouck’s father lived and worked for years in the former Belgian colony.

The English translation of ‘Congo. A History’ by David Van Reybrouck in a bookstore near you soon!

David Van Reybrouck

The prestigious American publishing house HarperCollins has bought he world rights for the English translation of the  ‘Congo. A History’ for a “substantial amount”.  HarperCollins is one of the largest publishers of English-language fiction and nonfiction and has its headquarters in New York. The translation of the book will appear under the imprint Ecco Press.

Recently, ‘Congo. A History’ has won the AKO Literatuurprijs 2010 and the  Libris Geschiedenis Prijs 2010, two prestigious Dutch literature prizes.

Remember where you read this first! Well recommended…

3 comments

  1. “Congo. A History” by David Van Reybrouck « Soul Safari…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……


  2. cool


  3. GEACHTE ,

    Heb uw boek gelezen betreffende Congo .
    Was er voor abos nà het rapport Blummenthal , waarbij eigenlijk de zaïrezen tegen de muur gedrukt stonden betreffende nog bijkomende leningen IMF , W.B.
    Spijtig heb ik nergens opgemerkt dat er onder de congolezen algemeen geweten is betreffende de werkkracht van de vlamingen versus francofonen.
    IK denk dat er daar eindelijk eens moet begonnen worden met werken ( hetgeen de chinezen daar nu aan het doen zijn ) .
    Destijds was het geld in grote mate opgesoupeerd en waar tot dan toe de Walen schaamteloos van geprofiteerd hebben .
    In de jaren 1984 en later kwam het er op neer om nog iets te kunnen presteren met niets om handen , om te beginnen geen huisvesting en het schoonst van al in al je miserie waren zij het gewoon geworden van hen heel de tijd te verpamperen .

    Hoogachtend ,

    VAN SNICK Frans



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