Congo Song
by Stuart Cloete

“It made him laugh when people talked of Darkest Africa. In no country in the world were there so many roads. In no other had they been trodden for longer. It was simply that the European minds did not see, as roads, the little Kaffir paths that led over plain and forest, that joined village to village throughout the continent. Yet millions had passed among them: hundreds of millions for thousands of years: traders, slaves, black men and women visiting each other, men going to war, or returning from it. Why, you could put your finger anywhere down on the map of Africa, and, if you sought them, you would find roads leading to that place. Africa was like the palm of a man's hand, netted with fine paths, criss-crossed with them.”

“You know, during the war we did some propaganda in Central Africa. I had to put it across. They said tell 'em that the Germans have raped all the women in Belgium. Can you imagine that?” he asked.

“True, wasn't it?”

“Yes, it was true, but what propaganda! I changed it round. I said we had raped everybody. They thought a lot of us after that. You have to be victorious to rape. If I had said the Germans were doing it, they would have assumed we could not stop them and were losing. Enthusiastic they were after that. More tea?” He filled both cups.

- from Congo Song, by Stuart Cloete.

Here's an offbeat, dusty book from my father's bookshelf -- copyright 1943. It's the story of a small group of self-obsessed Europeans living in the Congo in the months preceding the outbreak of World War II. They pass their time with sex, espionage, and endless ruminations about the meaning of life, love and art.

There's some decent dialogue and a few good scenes, but overall this book didn't do a lot for me. I give it ** (out of ****).

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