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Travels in the Congo

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The Belgian Congo (now the countries of Congo, Zaire, and Central African Republic) has fascinated travellers for centuries with its mysterious and brilliant landscapes and its rich tribal cultures. While the area is investigated in the most minute detail, Gide is clear about his position as the responsive outsider. He does not claim cultural familiarity - rather, he treat The Belgian Congo (now the countries of Congo, Zaire, and Central African Republic) has fascinated travellers for centuries with its mysterious and brilliant landscapes and its rich tribal cultures. While the area is investigated in the most minute detail, Gide is clear about his position as the responsive outsider. He does not claim cultural familiarity - rather, he treats all that he describes with the authority of a writer whose startling awareness makes places and people live indelibly in the imagination.


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The Belgian Congo (now the countries of Congo, Zaire, and Central African Republic) has fascinated travellers for centuries with its mysterious and brilliant landscapes and its rich tribal cultures. While the area is investigated in the most minute detail, Gide is clear about his position as the responsive outsider. He does not claim cultural familiarity - rather, he treat The Belgian Congo (now the countries of Congo, Zaire, and Central African Republic) has fascinated travellers for centuries with its mysterious and brilliant landscapes and its rich tribal cultures. While the area is investigated in the most minute detail, Gide is clear about his position as the responsive outsider. He does not claim cultural familiarity - rather, he treats all that he describes with the authority of a writer whose startling awareness makes places and people live indelibly in the imagination.

30 review for Travels in the Congo

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    In July 1925, French novelist André Gide, accompanied by filmmaker Marc Allegret, his lover, took a ten-month trip that encompassed the French Congo, touched briefly on the Belgian Congo, and then swung north to Chad, the territory of Ubangui-Shari, and coming back to the ocean via a long journey through the entire length of Cameroon. What with the tsetse flies, the ringworm, and strange jungle fevers which killed not a few of their party, this was not in any way deluxe travel. Although Allegret In July 1925, French novelist André Gide, accompanied by filmmaker Marc Allegret, his lover, took a ten-month trip that encompassed the French Congo, touched briefly on the Belgian Congo, and then swung north to Chad, the territory of Ubangui-Shari, and coming back to the ocean via a long journey through the entire length of Cameroon. What with the tsetse flies, the ringworm, and strange jungle fevers which killed not a few of their party, this was not in any way deluxe travel. Although Allegret was some thirty years his junior, Gide ran into considerable difficulties toward the latter part of the trip as they passed through a devastating heat wave in a country that had been scorched by brush fires. Toward the end, Gide was almost blind and required strong medicines to enable him to sleep; and Allegret was besieged by toothache and fever until the last few hundred miles. What I like about this book is that Gide did not clean up any of the text afterwards to make a more literary impression. The last hundred pages are almost like a death march as they went from Fort Lamy to their port of embarkation at Douala. It was painful to read because one feels the pain that the two Frenchmen felt. Yet despite their agony, Gide always had interesting observations to make about the flora, fauna, and native human populations they encountered. Most writers about Africa at that time did not quite view the natives as quite human. Gide, on the other hand, goes out of his way to be fair and friendly (perhaps, given his sexual proclivities, too friendly). He also makes an effort as he writes to distinguish the characters of his various African lieutenants, from the cook boy to his factotums. There are descriptions of scores of different African cultures met along the way. Although I have never felt any deep love for Gide's fiction, I felt that he had the makings of a great travel writer. I could only wish that the edition I read had a glossary which explained many of the italicized terms that were tossed around. I finally figured out what a matabiche was (a tip), but I could never quite see what kind of body of water a marigot was. Also no attempt is made to translate the many quotations from the Latin, French, and German. Be that as it may, I thought that Travels in the Congo was a real find -- though it had been nestling on my bookshelf untouched since trade paperbacks went for $1.95. Finally, I was interested to hear that Gide was not only a big fan of Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness, but he read his edition at least four times in the course of his trip. Also, the book is dedicated to the memory of Conrad, which I thought was a nice touch.

  2. 4 out of 5

    محمود النوري

    يعتبر كتاب يوميات وأدب رحلات، الحقيقة أنه ثرثرة فارغة ومافيش حدث واحد ربط في ذهني حتى، معرفش اتكتب تحت تأثير مخدر معين أو في حالة سكر، كويس أن حجم الكتاب مش أكبر من كدة يعني.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    This is not a mere travel book. Apart from the mostly dull and sometimes somewhat poetically floating observations of the Central African nature, this travellog documents the way the colonial administration treated the local people: structurally hardly human and without respect for their culture and traditions. The last aspect has led, via Gide's report to the French government, to discussions in the French House of Representatives and an international conference in Geneva about Gide's accusatio This is not a mere travel book. Apart from the mostly dull and sometimes somewhat poetically floating observations of the Central African nature, this travellog documents the way the colonial administration treated the local people: structurally hardly human and without respect for their culture and traditions. The last aspect has led, via Gide's report to the French government, to discussions in the French House of Representatives and an international conference in Geneva about Gide's accusations. One of the main difficulties in trying to get grip on the situation in the African colonies was, that, in fact, private trade companies like the 'Compagnie Forestière' dominated the colonies, and the officials in France had hardly any of the necessary knowledge nor the motivation to get things, far away, done properly. So mainly this is a worthful historical document. (And than 'Voyage au Congo' only covers the first - inland - part of Gide's journey; more personal difficulties were still to come, as experienced on the way from Fort Lamy to Douala and documented in 'Retour du Tchad', published in 1928). JM

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    “Travels in the Congo” is an artifact, a strange viewfinder showing hard to access parts of Central Africa circa 1925 from the perspective of a very oddly chosen “special envoy of the Colonial Ministry.” Andre Gide (a controversial, avant-garde French playwright) is shuttled around in a Tipoye (a porter-conveyed chair about which he is often wringing his hands with guilt, “As a general rule we use our tipoyes very little, as much because we like walking as to spare our wretched bearers.”), on ho “Travels in the Congo” is an artifact, a strange viewfinder showing hard to access parts of Central Africa circa 1925 from the perspective of a very oddly chosen “special envoy of the Colonial Ministry.” Andre Gide (a controversial, avant-garde French playwright) is shuttled around in a Tipoye (a porter-conveyed chair about which he is often wringing his hands with guilt, “As a general rule we use our tipoyes very little, as much because we like walking as to spare our wretched bearers.”), on horseback, in various boats and sometimes, to his credit, he walks on his own feet. Gide’s entourage often exceeds seventy people forcibly requisitioned to transport the ponderous equipment of his unclear mission for less than two francs per person, per day. There is little structure or revision to Gide’s reflections—which is why the book never gathers the sort of momentum that makes something hard to put down. Now he is talking about chasing butterflies and poisoning colorful beetles, next he is reflecting on the precarious health of the over-worked and underfed men in whose company he travels, then he ruminates on the capabilities and qualities of Africans in general and often he shares, in captivating detail, the precise nature of the hospitality and celebrations that he enjoys in a tiny village, a dusty Sultanate or in a kingdom of the Cameroonian highlands. It is typical for Gide to back two sentences like these up against one another: “The natives had all got either the itch or the mange or the scab, or something of the sort; not one of them had a clean, wholesome skin. Saw for the first time the extraordinary fruit of the barbadine (passion-flower).” Much of this book’s charm comes from this unaffected, almost scatterbrained and rarely judgmental attention. Gide’s eccentricities also result in numerous awkwardly comical moments. For instance, “Wanting to get a taste of solitude and feel more intimately the closeness of the forest, I quickened my step and began to run, in an attempt to escape, to outdistance the porters. In vain! They all immediately started off at a trot to catch up with me. Thoroughly annoyed, I stopped and made them stop, drew a line on the ground, and told them not to pass it until they should hear my whistle from a long way ahead. But a quarter of an hour later I had to go back and fetch them; they had not understood, and the whole convoy was being held up.” Throughout, Gide does his best to show charity and love towards the people who serve him or show him hospitality; he wants to distinguish his line of thinking about Africans from that of the people he considers prejudiced, “When the white man gets angry with the blacks’ stupidity, he is usually showing up his own foolishness! Not that I think them capable of any but the slightest mental development; their brains as a rule are dull and stagnant—but how often the white man seems to make it his business to thrust them back into their darkness.” As his trip progresses, he gets closer to some of his assistants and develops deep-rooted admiration for several Africans as well as various sorts of African music, architecture or customs. Supposedly, some of his criticisms of the way that European businesses and governments took advantage of Central Africans gave momentum to movements for reform. Ultimately, this journal is not about a transformation of Andre Gide or a carefully plotted criticism of anything—though moments of transformation and criticism can be discerned. This book should be read for the wealth of carefully observed details that bring to life a period in Central Africa’s history that I have never seen described so well and with such fantastically accidental humor.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed Maatallaoui

    متعة السفر لا حدود لها، متعة لا يعرفها إلا القلائل، أندري جيد واحد من أولئك القلائل... ... قادما إليها من تونس، يصف جيد مشاهداته في مدن الجزائر، بل هو يمعن في الوصف، يكاد لا يغفل شيئا، يصف الشخوص والأمكنة، يصف الحياة البئيسة، يصف الروائح النتنة، ويصف الطبيعة الآسرة، نفسها حالة الطقس كان يصفها. لم يكن جيد يحتاج إلى البحث عن عمل أو وظيفة، فثروته التي ورثها عن والده البورجوازي تكفل له العيش في رفاهية. فعاش جزءاً من حياته في شمال إفريقيا متنقلا من تونس المدينة إلى بسكرة، ثم إلى توكورت، ومن بوسعادة إلى متعة السفر لا حدود لها، متعة لا يعرفها إلا القلائل، أندري جيد واحد من أولئك القلائل... ... قادما إليها من تونس، يصف جيد مشاهداته في مدن الجزائر، بل هو يمعن في الوصف، يكاد لا يغفل شيئا، يصف الشخوص والأمكنة، يصف الحياة البئيسة، يصف الروائح النتنة، ويصف الطبيعة الآسرة، نفسها حالة الطقس كان يصفها. لم يكن جيد يحتاج إلى البحث عن عمل أو وظيفة، فثروته التي ورثها عن والده البورجوازي تكفل له العيش في رفاهية. فعاش جزءاً من حياته في شمال إفريقيا متنقلا من تونس المدينة إلى بسكرة، ثم إلى توكورت، ومن بوسعادة إلى الجزائر (البليدة)، ومنها إلى بسكرة مرة أخرى... يرتحل أياما ويقيم أخرى. أي سحر في الجزائر هذا الذي تملك كاتبنا الفرنسي، أي قوى خفية كان يراها ولسنا نراها، ربما هي البساطة التي لم تكن الأزقة الباريسية تعرف لها طعما، ثم لماذا شذت نظرته عن نظرة أقرانه الغارقين في النرجسية والاستعلاء؟ تلك النظرة التي لم تكن ترى في الجزائر أكثر من مقاطعة فرنسية...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jamila

    Dedicated to the memory of Joseph Conrad, this travel memoir explores the observations of Gide, who traveled to the Congo from 1925 to 1926. Gide's unique positioning in the Congo as a traveler "for pleasure" (his quotations) reveals the unstable relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. As one whose nationhood allows him the privilege of the observer, Gide takes part in the colonialist enterprise; yet, as one who is not in the Congo (at least not officially) to take advantage of its Dedicated to the memory of Joseph Conrad, this travel memoir explores the observations of Gide, who traveled to the Congo from 1925 to 1926. Gide's unique positioning in the Congo as a traveler "for pleasure" (his quotations) reveals the unstable relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. As one whose nationhood allows him the privilege of the observer, Gide takes part in the colonialist enterprise; yet, as one who is not in the Congo (at least not officially) to take advantage of its resources, he in many ways distances himself from the accusation of colonizer. At times critical of and at times participating in racist ideology, Gide could come to represent the ambiguous, tenuous, and contradictory relationship the French nation has over the people it sought to colonize, particularly in consideration of the "colonisation de peuplement" as in Algeria. There for as a subject of and subject to the colonized, Gide himself becomes colonized by his own weaknesses on foreign territory.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leonardo

    ...la denostación de André Gide de las prácticas de trabajos forzados en su libro Viaje al Congo (1927) había despertado con anterioridad a la guerra la conciencia pública acerca de los crímenes europeos cometidos en el África central... Posguerra Pág. 369 ...la denostación de André Gide de las prácticas de trabajos forzados en su libro Viaje al Congo (1927) había despertado con anterioridad a la guerra la conciencia pública acerca de los crímenes europeos cometidos en el África central... Posguerra Pág. 369

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Hogan

    An valuable alternative to the Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs visions of Africa.

  9. 5 out of 5

    - Alfeim

    روح الرحالة المُشبعة بكتابات الآخرين والمُفرّغة لبواطن نفسها ، لذاتها وشهواتها في محيطها. اسوء ما يصفُ شمال إفريقيا!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bunza

    Compares favorably with Gide’s fiction and has an excellent eye for detail. Several other writers of Gide’s era who tried their hand at non-fiction did not pull it off so well nor age so gracefully. The somewhat misleading title ‘Travels in the Congo’ may sound better than ‘Travels in French Equatorial Africa’ but the latter is a more accurate description. The back cover of my Ecco Press edition manages to muddy the waters further by describing the Belgian Congo as now having devolved into the n Compares favorably with Gide’s fiction and has an excellent eye for detail. Several other writers of Gide’s era who tried their hand at non-fiction did not pull it off so well nor age so gracefully. The somewhat misleading title ‘Travels in the Congo’ may sound better than ‘Travels in French Equatorial Africa’ but the latter is a more accurate description. The back cover of my Ecco Press edition manages to muddy the waters further by describing the Belgian Congo as now having devolved into the nations of Zaire, Congo and the Central African Republic, which is patently false. Only the Democratic Republic of Congo (the name recently changed from Zaire) can claim to be Belgian and there are relatively few pages of this book which are dedicated to it. The majority of the book covers parts of French colonial Africa that are now the modern Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Chad, Gabon and Cameroon rounded out by some short visits to other West African ports while in transit. Confusion aside, this is a well-written and enjoyable book about a Central Africa which has (mostly) long since past.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stéphane

    Récit d'un long périple effectué par Gide au Congo (Brazzaville et belge) et au-delà vers l'Oubangui-Chari et jusqu'au Lac Tchad. Un vrai récit de voyage mais aussi une dénonciation cinglante de l'exploitation de l'Afrique et des africains par les concessionnaires privés. Si Gide peut avoir une relative compréhension pour l'exploitation imposée par l'état - garant du bien-fondé des développements réalisés, par le biais de cette exploitation, pour la mise en valeur du pays - il expose que le seul Récit d'un long périple effectué par Gide au Congo (Brazzaville et belge) et au-delà vers l'Oubangui-Chari et jusqu'au Lac Tchad. Un vrai récit de voyage mais aussi une dénonciation cinglante de l'exploitation de l'Afrique et des africains par les concessionnaires privés. Si Gide peut avoir une relative compréhension pour l'exploitation imposée par l'état - garant du bien-fondé des développements réalisés, par le biais de cette exploitation, pour la mise en valeur du pays - il expose que le seul but des entreprises privées est d'épuiser les ressources du pays pour le profit d'une minorité de riches administrateurs en métropole. Un récit passionant par son côté très humain. Non dénué non plus d'un humour involontaire quand on imagine le grand auteur qui gambade en culotte courte après des papillons ; chasse au filet répétitive dont il ne nous épargne aucun détail.

  12. 5 out of 5

    K.E. Page

    This was enjoyable both as travel writing and as a historical document. Gide writes poetically about the scenery, the people and animals that he encounters. He documents the abuses of the colonists with no little despair and he is never less than fair in his dealings with the Africans. It is interesting to look at the map at the front of the book and consider how different its countries are from a modern map and also how different our politics are. Given the attitudes at the time, it is even mor This was enjoyable both as travel writing and as a historical document. Gide writes poetically about the scenery, the people and animals that he encounters. He documents the abuses of the colonists with no little despair and he is never less than fair in his dealings with the Africans. It is interesting to look at the map at the front of the book and consider how different its countries are from a modern map and also how different our politics are. Given the attitudes at the time, it is even more remarkable that Gide is able to be so fair and kind, teaching Adoum, one of their servants to read, for example.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeffe

    This is an interesting document. It's a journal so you get a day to day account of traveling through the heart of French Congo in the Twenties, with the backing of the French Government. Problems with porters, local chiefs and sheiks, fevers, cooks and the French companies extracting rubber from the dirt poor peoples of the region. It also sheds a light onto the nuances of racism in the colonial world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Andre Gide has a passion for humanity, nature, language and literature, as reflected in the diary of his nine month trip in 1925-26 across the Congo. He is quite forward thinking (for the time period) in his views on Africans, in his relentless pursuit of local justice and in his premonition of the future for the continent. How marvelous it would be to retrace his steps today, or at the least to speak with him.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mabrouk

    نصوص مختارة من كتابات الفرنسي الحائز على نوبل للأدب أندري جيد من ترجمة :محمود عبد الغني يتغنى فيها الكاتب بجمال وسحر الشمال الإفريقي واصفا مختلف الأماكن التي زارها من تونس مرورا بالجزائر و وصولا إلى المغرب بلغة أدبية راقية وأحاسيس فياضة قويةhttp://www.goodreads.com/review/list/...# نصوص مختارة من كتابات الفرنسي الحائز على نوبل للأدب أندري جيد من ترجمة :محمود عبد الغني يتغنى فيها الكاتب بجمال وسحر الشمال الإفريقي واصفا مختلف الأماكن التي زارها من تونس مرورا بالجزائر و وصولا إلى المغرب بلغة أدبية راقية وأحاسيس فياضة قويةhttp://www.goodreads.com/review/list/...#

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Bachmann

    Gidés Buch schwankt zwischen Reisebericht und kritischem Essay. Interessantes Stimmungsbild von Zentralafrika, Kongo und Tschad in den 20er Jahren des letzten Jahrhunderts. Manchmal etwas eintönig, hinterlässt aber beim Leser die Lust eine Abenteuerreise a la Gidé ebenfalls antreten zu müssen.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    Fascinating information about the old Africa, unfortunately mixed in with a lot of boring stuff that should have remained in a private diary.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tine Mauer

    I read it in Slovene...good itinerary. I also own a copy of this book in Slovene.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    terrible translation but well worth the read. The edition I read was published by University of California/Berkeley press 1964.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jowana Al-Tabish

    مني مصدقة اني حقول كدا لكن رحلات انيس منصور كان وصفو فيها امتع واحلى دا خلاني ما ابغا اروح للجزائر

  21. 4 out of 5

    Johan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dagny

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pilar Sastre Velasco

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elkin Ortega

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Willis

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jon Sullivan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Päivi Brink

  28. 5 out of 5

    Riu

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Masters

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bastien Degory

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