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Seven Houses in France: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 2012
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Biran is involved in smuggling mahogany and ivory, in cahoots with his lieutenant nicknamed Cocó and, back in Belgium, an adviser to King Leopold II. The racket has made all three men rich and they are close to realising their dream of a comfortable retirement back home.
Into this seedy world of Yangambi comes Chrysostome Liège, a taciturn officer who quickly impresses everyone with his marksmanship. But he does not mix well and avoids the company of women. Cocó is convinced that Chrysostome is homosexual and conspires with others to prove this. He is very wrong, which only fuels his jealousy and anger towards the newcomer. We learn that Chrysostome's aversion to women is born of an obsession with purity and a devotion to religion. Neither purity nor religion goes down well here. For the other officers such things have long since rotted away in the heat and isolation.
Biran becomes excited by the prospect of a visit to Yangambi by King Leopold, but the visit is progressively downgraded and Biran sees his hopes of fame and favour with the king fast receding.Read more ›
For the soldiers in Leopold's Force Publique, especially those assigned to remote areas like Yangambi, where Chrysostome will be working, an outside social milieu does not exist. The soldiers obey the obvious protocols of the military, but there are only seventeen Belgian officers at the garrison, and with no active rebellion by native groups to keep them occupied, at the moment, they have far too much time on their hands. Might makes right here, and once they have performed their assigned duties, they enter a world which truly becomes a "jungle"--drinking, gambling, pursuing women, shooting animals for fun, and even, in some cases, smuggling ivory and mahogany back to Europe, where the profits will allow one wife to own "seven houses in France" in seven years.
When the King plans a visit, bringing a famous dancer from Philadelphia, whom he plans to make Queen of the Congo, all garrison activity is organized to promote this. Henry Morton Stanley will accompany the King and will attend the coronation of the new Queen beside Stanley Falls.Read more ›
If that tickles your fancy, you may enjoy this beautifully constructed, exquisitely translated yarn. I did
The setting for this novel is the garrison of Yagambi, on the banks of the River Congo and the year is 1903. The senior officer is Captain Lalande Biran, who would prefer to be back in Paris frequenting the lounges of the Literati with his wife (more of her later), & releasing the odd book of poetry than commanding eighteen white officers of the Force Publique and the Askaris - native soldiers recruited to help quell the other natives who have the audacity to rebel intermittently.
Time goes really slow here, with very little to do beyond overseeing the slaves as they work, producing rubber and mahogany and keeping the natives in order. So time is spent drinking, gambling & consorting/raping the natives, there are dangers even here as STD's* seems to be everywhere, although most of the officers are not particularly worried. Except the Captain, he is so terrified of catching syphilis, that he has an officer pick & test girls for their virginity & then keep them caged until he's ready.
Captain Lalande Biran's wife, Christine, is a stunner and the reason he is out here.Read more ›