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Imprisoned by the Bangwa African people when he returns for ""jujus for the white man's museum"" and more slaves, the first white man in Bangwa territory--the German Kolonialagent--pens this journal for his twin-sister lover back in finde-siècle Hamburg. By turns arrogant (""a fine civilization--for Africans""), self-pitying (""why did you send me to this hell?""), brutal and sentimental (""I would personally sacrifice a thousand nigger bastards to save my poor dog""), he continually deludes himself (""I am still determined not to escape""). Repressing his mounting panic, he records events with the flatness of a grocery list: the king's children die; cannibalistic witches are accused and die by murder or suicide; the letter he sends for help is returned with the hand of the messenger. Special to him are only the death of the dog--""poisoned by bloody niggers""--and, vividly evoked memories of childhood pink ices and pastries and a summer at Stublingen with his sister. He tries to keep up appearances, dosing himself with arsenic, laudanum, quinine, infusions, and gin, kicking the boy who loyally serves him, rewarding his mistress--a twelve-year-old Bangwa girl--with dog biscuits, and waiting stupidly for rescue. Brain, an Australian anthropologist who has worked in the Cameroons, relentlessly reveals in the bluff, whining, frightened, nasty, complacent voice of the Kolonialagent all those ""civilized"" qualities that destroy him and the system he represents. Surrounded by the dense, whirling life of people he doesn't like, the agent produces only bowel movements (""thirteen times in four hours last Wednesday""), homilies, and--improbably--some sense of his own humanness in this skillfully infuriating portrait of righteously defended moral irresponsibility.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row