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Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey Into the Heart of Darknessby Jeffrey Tayler
Synopses & Reviews
On an unforgettable journey of discovery, Facing the Congo transports readers into the lush jungles and crocodile-infested waters of sub-Saharan Africa. Climbing the river on a barge teeming with merchants, deckhands, prostitutes, mothers, spiritual followers, fishermen, and children, Tayler participates in the lively banter of this floating marketplace, and at night drapes mosquito netting over his cramped sleeping space, relishing a few hours of solitude between days wrought with adversity and suspicion.
Yet, the climate of Tayler's trip shifts drastically when he steps off the boat packed with jeering travelers, and launches his quest to confront and vanquish this legendary waterway by descending its longest navigational stretch in a hand-carved pirogue.
"Desi [my guide] and I looked at each other, then turned to the river. Eleven hundred miles to Kinshasa...my heart was thumping and sweat stung my eyes. Raising his hands, Desi faced the blackness and began muttering a prayer, an invocation in Lingala punctuated with the French for salvation, mercy, the grace of God... We stood for a moment, as if to let the words take effect. Then we grabbed our oars and climbed aboard I at the bow and Desi astern--and pushed off."
At times lost in the fog-covered backwaters, at others faced by hostile tribes whose ancestors were murdered by those with white skin, Tayler wrestles with anxiety as he prepares for the dangers that lie with each turn in the river. Anyone possessing even a hint of wanderlust will be swept along by the whirling currents of this astonishing tale.
"Tayler is the journalistic equivalent of one of those highly charged particles that scientists fire through mysterious substances in order to determine their qualities. on his travels thorugh the world's little-visited and poorly understood regions, Tayler picks up all sorts of crucial trace elements and then brings them home in his writing with eloquence and wit." Toby Lester, executive editor of nonfiction for DoubleTake
"In this Heart of Darkness-revisited tale, Tayler (Siberian Dawn) sets out to retrace the steps of British explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who in the 1870s, accompanied by a crew of hundreds of Africans and three Europeans, sailed the entire length of the Congo River in a pirogue....Throughout his journey downriver, the author ruminates on the significance of his own life and the history of the Congo and its terrible legacy of colonialism and enslavement, asking what 'right' he or any Westerner has to venture, pockets full of cash, into a foreign land stricken with poverty and misery. Eloquent and sincere, Tayler brings immense cultural sensitivity to his journey, fully conscious that the poverty and misery are in large part due to Western hegemony." Publishers Weekly
"On his travels through the world's little-visited and poorly understood regions, Tayler picks up all sorts of crucial trace elements and then brings them home in his writing with eloquence and wit." Toby Lester, executive editor of nonfiction for DoubleTake
"In Facing the Congo Tayler portrays the people, landscapes, and dilemmas he encounters with a vividness that has stayed with me long after I put the book down. The life-and-death challenges he confronts and overcomes and the stripped-to-the bone humanity with which he confronts them are epic and epically moving." Don George, travel editor, Salon.com
"Tayler goes off the beaten path to give us a much deeper version of the truth, whether along the Congo River or in Siberian flophouses. And unlike so many other gonzo travel writers, he is not politically naive." Robert D. Kaplan, correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and author of An Empire Wilderness and Balkan Ghosts
"Captivating and wonderfully suspenseful." Alison Humes, Features Editor, Condé Nast Traveler
"Immensely Gripping." Bill Bryson
Faced with an identity crisis in his work and his life, seasoned traveler and journalist Jeffrey Tayler made a bold decision. He would leave behind his mundane existence in Moscow to re-create the legendary British explorer Henry Stanleys trip down the Congo in a dugout canoe, stocked with food, medicine, and even a gun-toting guide. But once his tiny boat pushed off the banks of this mysterious river, Tayler realized he was in a place where maps and supplies would have no bearing on his survival. As Tayler navigates this immense waterway, he encounters a land of smothering heat and intense rains, wary villagers, corrupt officials and dead-eyed soldiers demanding bribes, jungle animals, mosquitoes, and, surprisingly, breathtaking natural beauty.
Filled with honesty and rich description, Facing the Congo is a sophisticated depiction of todays Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country brought to its knees by a succession of despotic leaders. But most mportant, Taylers stunning narrative is a deeply satisfying personal journey of fear and awakening, with a message that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt compelled, whether in life or in fantasy, to truly explore and experience our world.
About the Author
Jeffrey Tayler is the author of Siberian Dawn: A Journey Across the New Russia. He writes for such publications as Condé Nast Traveler, Spin, Harper's Magazine, and the Atlantic Monthly, and he is a regular commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered." Two of Tayler's travel essays were selected by Bill Bryson for the 2000 inaugural edition of The Best American Travel Writing.
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