Category Archives: Congo

Whited sepulchre

Marlowe-Dalrymple in Europe’s heart of darkness

Dalrymple once took a job in the tropics, and his employer sent him for a medical examination to check that he was fit for hardship. He writes:

My medical was just like the one that Marlowe underwent in Heart of Darkness, before he went out to the Congo.

Marlowe’s medical was in Brussels, a city, Marlowe says, that ‘always makes me think of a whited sepulchre’. And then Marlowe adds, ‘Prejudice no doubt.’ Dalrymple confesses to

a similar prejudice. Brussels shows us our glorious future: bureaucracy and sex shows.

How Mobutu bared his teeth against the rotten imperialists

Prophet of ‘national authenticity’

One man who was keenly aware of the political advantages to be derived from assumption of victimhood was Mobutu Sese Seko, Dalrymple reminds us. In order, Dalrymple explains,

to overcome the effects of a colonial past, and in the name of authenticity, Mobutu decreed that all Zaïrian citizens abandon their European names — to which they had been accustomed since birth — and take on African ones. Likewise, no one was henceforth to wear a collar and tie; instead Mobutu had designed a national costume, which he imposed. In this way, he made himself all-important.

However,

when he had a toothache, he commandeered a jet aëroplane of the national airline and flew to Paris for dental treatment.

Leading by example: Mobutu models his abacost (‘à bas le costume’) menswear designs

Jet aircraft of the type commandeered by Mobutu for visits to the dentist