In Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart Of Darkness,” a literary masterpiece of the highest order, the character of Mr. Kurtz, the crazed leader of a tribe of Black Africans, whose sunken heads of dead black Africans, sit atop the posts of the iron gate that surrounds his mansion. Mr. Kurtz, a Belgium Colonial director, also has a collection of sword off hands and other body parts.
Toward the end of book Mr. Kurtz’s final words are “The Horror, The Horror.” Over the last century and into the 21 century, students and teachers have argued who Conrad based this crazed and insane character on. Some have argued, Rudyard Kipling, Marlon Brandon (Who played the character of Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now.” The worst interpretation of Conrad’s masterpiece ever presented, but a great movie all the same), and some Winston Churchill.
Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost,” gives us three real possibilities. You see, Conrad’s book which is fiction is based on the six months he spent in the Congo under the murderous leadership of King Leopold of Belgium. Leon Rom, a Belgium director who met Conrad while he visited the Congo is my choice of who Kurtz represents. To his credit he had the sunken heads of Africans atop the post to the gate surrounding his mansion and a wonderful collection of dismembered body parts.
I mention Conrad’s book so much because Mr Hochschild references the book and Conrad numerous times. “King Leopold’s Ghost,” is about the brutal and inhumane plundering of the Congo by the King and his hired men. The torture of the native population could easily make one nausea. It is estimated that at least 12 million native Africans died during the reign of King Leopold. And even after his death, it continued to a lesser degree but it nevertheless continued. And while this genocide was going on the English and Portuguese governments were plundering and murdering the natives in different parts of the rich mineral continent. One needs to remember that these atrocious were allowed to go on right into the early parts of the 20th century, and in some cases into the middle of the century, and till this day a good part of Africa is at war with itself, sponsored by America, Europeans, and Asians.
This is a really good book, extremely informative, with many villains and some amazing heroes. If one wants to read a great review of this book I recommend my friend Dmitri’s review. It really get into it.