Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lumumba Assasination & Bennett's The Catastrophist

From today's Guardian article "MI6 'arranged Cold War killing' of Congo prime minister:"
Congo's first democratically elected prime minister was abducted and killed in a cold war operation run by British intelligence, according to remarks said to have been made by the woman who was leading the MI6 station in the central African country at the time. A Labour peer has claimed that Baroness Park of Monmouth admitted to him a few months before she died in March 2010 that she arranged Patrice Lumumba'skilling in 1961 because of fears he would ally the newly democratic country with the Soviet Union. In a letter to the London Review of Books, Lord Lea said the admission was made while he was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park, who had been consul and first secretary from 1959 to 1961 in Leopoldville, as the capital of Belgian Congo was known before it was later renamed as Kinshasa following independence. He wrote: "I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba's abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. 'We did,' she replied, 'I organised it'."
For a novel set in 1950s/1960s Congo, try The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett:
In 1959, middle-aged writer James Gillespie travels to the Belgian Congo to join his young Italian girlfriend, Ines, an idealistic journalist covering Patrice Lumumba's revolution for a Communist daily. In a colony swiftly on its way to nationhood, every action seems political. But narrator James clings to his ideal of artistic detachment, which drives a wedge between him and Ines. While James makes friends with U.S. attache Mark Stipe, a stocky swaggerer who may be working for the CIA, Ines takes an African boyfriend, Auguste, Stipe's former houseboy and now Lumumba's right-hand man. Amid the tumult and intrigue of decolonization, James is forced to choose: will he cling to his ideology as a neutral observer, or help Ines and Auguste when they need him? Bennett's laconic style suits his cautious narrator precisely, recording his reluctant engagement with the Africans' cause. With deft strokes, Bennett shows how U.S. and Belgian interests, fearing Lumumba's Communist sympathies, quickly undermined his government, helping to power his rival Mobutu, who proved a bloodthirsty tyrant.
FYI: the novel is not suitable for younger readers, as it contains explicit sex scenes.

No comments:

Post a Comment