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The Book of the Heathen

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The Book of the Heathen

By Robert Edric

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Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 03 August 2000
1897. In an isolated station in the Belgian Congo, an Englishman awaits trial for the murder of a native child. Imprisoned in a makeshift gaol, Nicholas Frere awaits the arrival of the Company's official investigator, while his friend, James Frasier, attempts to determine the circumstances which surround the charge.The world around them is rapidly changing: the horrors of the Belgian Congo are becoming known and the flow of its once-fabulous wealth is drying up. Unrest flares unstoppably into violence. Frere's coming trial will seek to determine considerably more than the killing of a child. But at the heart of this conflict a secret so dark, so unimaginable, that one man must be willingly destroyed by his possession of it, and the other must both sanction and participate in that destruction. In a narrative of ever-quickening and growing intensity, The Book of the Heathen explores notions of honour, friendship, justice and reason in a world where men have been forced by circumstance to descend into an abyss of savagery and terror.

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British writer Edric (The Broken Lands) stakes a claim in Joseph Conrad territory with this haunting novel set in the late 19th century in the Belgian Congo, where the concession-holding British have mined the land to exhaustion with little regard for the starving indigenous population. The story is told through the eyes of James Frasier, an English mapmaker, whose friend, Nicholas Frere, is accused of murdering a young African girl. Frere, a British engineer, languishes in filthy jails, offering neither response nor defense. The case draws the attention of the European public, which is just beginning to open its eyes to the abuses of power in colonial Africa. Frasier is unable to understand how Frere, whom he knows to be a good man, could have been guilty. He is certain there is more to the case than anyone realizes, yet he's unprepared for the horrifying truth behind the murder or for the explosion of killing that follows its revelation. Other characters in this desolate outpost include Father Klein, a sadomasochistic and faithless preacher, whose followers include two native women, Perpetua and Felicity, despite his cruelty; and Hammad, a powerful, cynical Muslim native, who deals in the slave trade as British authorities look the other way. Edric's coldly unadorned style allows the historical facts to speak for themselves; the corruption of the colonial administration is spotlighted all the more. There are no pretty characters or easy lessons here, but the book paints a memorable picture of this ravaged stretch of jungle and the misery of the people-both European and African-who inhabited it at the height of the European empires. (Nov. 1) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

EAN: 9781862300972
ISBN: 1862300976
Publisher: Anchor Books
Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.5 centimetres
Age Range: 15+ years
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