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Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness Paperback – October 9, 2001
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From the Inside Flap
Filled with honesty and rich description, Facing the Congo is a sophisticated depiction of today's Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country brought to its knees by a succession of despotic leaders. But most mportant, Tayler's 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.
From the Back Cover
—The New York Times Book Review
“Heart-stopping, breathtaking adventure. Facing the Congo is a book worth reading and rereading.”
—Morning Edition, National Public Radio
“Facing the Congo does what a travel book is supposed to do. It presents a vividly described world that brings the reader as close to the Congo as words can do, inspiring the type of wanderlust that can only be sated by one’s picking a spot on a map and just going.”
“Tayler goes off the beaten path to give us a much deeper version of the truth, and unlike so many other gonzo travel writers, he is not politically naïve.”
—Robert Kaplan, author of Balkan Ghosts
Top Customer Reviews
In the 1990s Tayler traveled up the Congo on a freight barge to Kisangani and back down on a native canoe (pirogue). Throughout the narrative I found myself cringing at some of the descriptions and wondering why anyone would put themselves through such a trial. In retrospect it was a very foolhardy adventure. The problem was, however, once he was in the middle of it there was nothing to do but finish, dangerous though it was.
Throughout the tale, Tayler's white face provokes and incites the people along the Congo River. There's no getting around it and at times his life is in real danger. One wonders, however, how he could come to some of the decisions he made. He hires a guide he barely knows, a guide whose incompetence is maddening. The guy buys a shotgun (with $300 of Tayler's money) that doesn't work, he lets his family use all the precious drinking water to do laundry and he spouts passages from the Bible and Zaire's employment law at night or while they're paddling downriver. What a nightmare.
The lives of the Zaireans, in many cases, appear to be hell on earth. Their hand-to-mouth existence causes them to take desperate action, resulting in corrupt officials and military constantly angling for bribes, fellow barge passengers begging Tayler for anything, boldly demanding he give them money and food or, worse, trying to rob him, or (if they could get away with it) murder him with machetes. As a "mondele" (white man) he's seen with great suspicion about his motives but also as a bottomless source for riches.Read more ›
Now, Jeffrey Tayler in "Facing the Congo" tells the story of his attempt to recreate Stanley's voyage down the Congo river. He begins as did Winternitz, taking a barge up the river in the mid 1990s. As there are virtually no roads in the Congo region these river barges are the only transportation available to the average Congolese. They function as floating villages, filled with merchants who trade manufactured goods for forest products along the river route. As if that isn't enough for a book, Tayler then buys a pirogue (canoe), hires a guide, and attempts to paddle back down to where he started.
"Facing the Congo" is an excellent record of his trip. He is a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer and as is the case with most good travel writing the book is not only a record of his voyage, but also a record of self-discovery. Especially interesting are his interactions with the Congolese people he encounters along the way: people who usually can't fathom why a foreigner would be travelling the way he is. Other writers might simply depict such encounters in a comical or stereotypical fashion; Tayler makes an honest attempt to see their world through their eyes. He even manages some sympathy for the military and secret police officials that block his path. A good choice for any armchair traveler or anyone interested in Central Africa.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Worth reading once, with enough danger and intrigue to hold my attention til the end. Although not the author's fault necessarily, the abrupt ending to his journey almost seemed... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mungo__Park
Very fine book on the chaotic nature of the Congo and the river.Published 5 months ago by W. Millar
I'm beginning to think people *wish* Tayler had been shot by thugs or half-drowned in a whirlpool or decapitated by cannibals. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Nicholas Robinson
Riveting, voyeuristic, insightful, fair and evenhanded look at the complex lives of those living among the Congo seen through the eyes of an expat American attempting to travel the... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Matt Anthony
I was very disappointed with this book. Rather than a 33 year old man seeking himself, I found a naïve, clueless debutant. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Philip Compte
I had heard that some people ,on Amazon,were dismissive of Taylor and his trip. I read the book in about 3 days as well. Read morePublished 24 months ago by georgiana anderson
Here's the deal, Jeffrey Taylor is an absolutely fantastic descriptive writer. He utilizes a wide and eccentric vocabulary that really brings Zaire, and the people he encounters,... Read morePublished on July 25, 2014 by Troy
This book was not what I expected nor as it is advertised as an adventure story about this man challenging the Congo and it s dangers. Read morePublished on October 9, 2013 by gene hines