Book Review of King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild
What some have considered to be the first international scandal of
the modern era took place in the Congo from 1890 until 1910. King Leopold
II of Belgium was at the head of this so-called scandal. Although Europe
and the rest of the world seemed to have forgotten the victims of these
crimes, there is a considerable amount of material to use when attempting to
recreate the horror that took place in Leopold's Congo. This is exactly
what Adam Hochschild is attempting to do by writing this book. By using the
written words of mostly Europeans and Americans, which creates a distorted
view of history, he wants to show that the Holocaust type event that took
place in the Congo is something that should never be forgotten in our
history. Hochschild also wants to show the heroism that took place
afterwards in what became the first human rights movement of our time.
Hochschild does an excellent and detailed job of showing how clever
and cunning (like a fox) Leopold was in obtaining and maintaining his hold
in the Congo. Early on Leopold became obsessed with the idea of colonies
and the profit that they could bring to his country. In the beginning he
did not attempt to cover-up this ambition, but soon realized he needed to in
order to have the approval of those countries around him. The metaphor
Hochschild uses to explain Leopold's venture into the Congo is brilliant.
He compares Leopold to a director of a play and explains how he directs his
actors and stagehands, such as Henry Shelton Sanford and Henry Morton
Stanley. By acting as the director and guiding his actors and stagehands,
Leopold finds the angle he needs and that is pretending to engage in a
philanthropy movement in the "dark continent."
In Chapter 9, "Meeting Mr. Kurtz," Hochschild provides a good
description of the novel, Heart of Darkness, and in the process enlightens
the reader about the true background and meaning to Joseph Conrad's novel.
Early in the book, Hochschild mentions the novel and how it has been studied