King Leopold's Ghost..

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WR 122 11 August 2010 King Leopold’s Ghost: Illuminating Congo’s Heart of Darkness King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild is a sweeping and often revolting account of the atrocities of the Belgian colonization of the Congo and its aftermath. Using a variety of writing techniques, Hochschild creates an engrossing narrative which not only unveils a dark chapter in our global history, but also fosters an empathy in the reader to the victims of the barbarity of the time. The story unfolds around the turn of the twentieth century when European powers began to explore and colonize Sub-Saharan Africa. Belgian king Leopold II laid individual claim to the enormous chunk of land surrounding the Congo River and proceeded to strip the land of its resources, including, but not limited to, rubber, ivory, and people using a deadly system of forced labor. Under the ironic and spurious guise of humanitarianism, Leopold built himself an empire in central Africa, lining his pockets and satisfying his egotism, becoming the largest individual landowner in the world, while the brutality of his reign slashed the Congolese population by 10 million people, or approximately in half (Hochschild, 233). The narrative is uplifting at points as it also tells the story of the courageous few Africans, Europeans, and Americans that stood up to Leopold in what, in hindsight, was the first major humanitarian effort of the twentieth century (Straus). The book strikes a fine balance between literary fiction and statistical evidence. Hochschild often invokes Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness as an allegory, despite academia’s typical regard for that work as fiction. In fact, Hochschild spends nearly an entire chapter, “Meeting Mr. Kurtz,” on the comparison. He quotes Conrad as saying, “Heart of Darkness is experience ... pushed a

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