#23: Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey Into the Heart of Darkness by Jeffrey Tayler (2000)
I’ve written before about my fascination with the Congo and Africa’s mythical “dark heart.” Conrad. Tarzan. Mkele-Mbembe. Stanley and Livingston and Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner. “Mistah Kurtz. He dead.” Oh, the horror, the horror.
Beyond all the myth is a country torn by war, wracked by poverty and tainted by the overexploitation of colonialism. It might hold allure as an exotic place to go for adventure, but really, it’s a place to die—or nearly so, as Jeffrey Tayler chronicled in his book Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey in the Heart of Darkness.
My fascination with the Congo began, I think, with Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.” Through sixty-six and seven, Roland fought the Congo wars with his finger on the trigger, knee deep in gore.
Or perhaps it was a Time-Life book I read at about that time, part of a series about unexplained phenomena like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, that featured tales of the mokele-mbembe, the dinosaur that lurked in the Congo’s dark swamps and jungles. The idea of such a thing captivated me; any landscape where such a beast could live had to be equally fantastic.
There’s been Conrad’s Heart of Darkness…Vachel Lindsay’s “Congo”…Henry Morton Stanley and “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” In 2000, there was Jeffrey Tayler’s beautifully descriptive Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness.
Little surprise, then, when I saw Dancing in the Glory of Monsters and jumped on it. Continue reading