THE HOUNDS OF HELL by Jean Larteguy


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Fiction and galloping documentary are harnessed to pull this Congo novel from the time of Lumumba's assassination in Katanga to somewhere near the present. Stretched out in a Lilliputian typeface, it is told through the eyes of three mercenaries who have been imported from France (with de Gaulle's permission). Their job is to organize the semblance of an army to impress the native population, other African states and the U.N. (The novel's last irony is that the mercenaries are but niggardly cogs in a much larger power struggle). As they are informed, ""Gentlemen, Katanga does not exist and this is unimportant. But we want people to believe it exists and this is important."" Gumming up the works are the U.N. occupation troops; the U.N. is not only aggrieved by Lumumba's murder, but it also disapproves of mercenaries, and Belgium has sent mercenaries to protect its interests. As crises escalate, the mercenaries abandon the administration and it eventually collapses. The book's strength is its depiction of the terrifyingly naive cruelty of the blacks who have a taste of power; that's what really sticks. First published in France, its sales there already exceed 200,000. He has done less well here.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1966
Publisher: Dutton