Tom Stacey

The Terrified Traveller

Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart

By

Chatto & Windus 363pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Tim Butcher was for a while the Daily Telegraph’s man in Africa. In 2002, he chose a lull in the conflict that has riven the Democratic Republic of Congo since the fall of Mobutu in 1994 to follow the route of H M Stanley’s epic journey between October 1876 and September 1877 from the western shore of Lake Tanganyika to the mouth of the Congo River. Stanley thus charted the greater part of the course of that mighty river, then unknown.

Butcher’s was a plucky intention, since the Congo (which we had to call Zaire under Mobutu) has been notoriously chaotic and virtually lawless for decades across most of its territory, equal in size to Western Europe. He was ‘driven’ to make the trip by an obsession partly stoked by his mother, who, before he was born, had travelled by train across the country in its latter days as a Belgian colony. He describes setting forth:

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,