OKAPI FEVER by Philippe Diole


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A stubborn persistence characterizes the Hemingway hero of this novel and pervades the telling of the tale itself, investing it with the reiterative fever-throb of obsession. The narrator, a Frenchman come to Africa as a young man, now at forty-eight feels he is on the threshhold of a barren time (""a sterile region where man has not yet lost his strength, is not diminished, but where he is no longer capable of attracting love""). In order to escape his doom, he attaches himself to a group of four young people, also from France and fierce in their own determination to travel from Portuguese Angola to the Congo, to rescue Nicolas, a political prisoner and their acknowledged leader. The narrator stakes his destiny on the incalculable, indifferent, blonde Francine, whose body he demands but whose soul remains detached, and on the capture of the okapi, a rare and doomed creature of the Ituri Forest. As they approach their goal, he seems to have won his long struggle to make Francine ""silent, pliant, biddable"" only to have her retract in a denunciation devastating even in its pity; he further loses the okapi also seemingly safely held. He is left with the memorial mask of his murdered friend Bethmann as memento and talisman...An insistent sense of physical Africa mingles with the psychic sensations of a man ""who has killed cleanly and well""--a familiar yet palpable, curiously obtuse figure in a derivative novel which has its own undercurrent of weary compulsion.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1965
Publisher: Viking