EAST ALONG THE EQUATOR: A Journey Up the Congo and into Zaire by Helen Winternitz

EAST ALONG THE EQUATOR: A Journey Up the Congo and into Zaire

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Less travel journal than political polemic, this potentially important account proves to be a shallow and ultimately tedious recital of the problems the journalist-author encountered during a circuitous journey through the former Belgian Congo, now the corruption-riddled Republic of Zaire. Bent on exposing the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko--a worthwhile objective in light of his repressive regime--Winternitz dissipates the impact of her responses to the poverty and privilege that are endemic in the central African nation. While professing a deep-seated affection for Africa and its peoples (she taught in Ethiopia in the early 70's and traveled widely), Winternitz nonetheless tends to display a very subtle sense of superiority to those Africans, both black and white, with whom she comes in contact. In a particularly troublesome passage, for example, she snipes at the attitudes of a Catholic missionary who has sent a land Rover to rescue her and her traveling companion when the two are mired in a rain-drenched back. country road--the samaritan fails to live up to the image the author had of ""a kindly old priest with a mind mellowed by the years of working under the auspices of divine love."" Besides, the mission fails to provide hot showers and the light bulb in their (complimentary) room is ""un-shaded."" In a later episode in which she is held and questioned by Mobutu's civilian security police for interviewing opposition members, the author seems as offended by the fact that her questioner's suit coat is unbuttoned as she is by his interrogation. What could have been a penetrating insider's view of today's post-colonial Africa is spoiled by a guide whose reactions are superficial and--though she would likely be the first to deny it--""chauvinistic.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1987
ISBN: 0871131625
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown