[Ronan Bennett] è The Catastrophist : A Novel [webcomic PDF] Read Online Ö The Catastrophist is simply one of the finest books I ve read in years I intend to get back here and review it with the thought it deserves But until I get out from under a pile of revisions, I just want to recommend this brilliant, complex, emotionally intelligent novel It s rare to come across a writer as gifted with the language and its expression as Bennett, but what a marvelous joy to do so.
is December, 1960 The Belgian Congo is on the verge of independence James Gillispie, a journalist and minor novelist, is in Leopoldville planning to reunite with his lover, Inez James is Irish and she is Italian They had an affair in Ireland and London, his normal home.
The novel is an exotic foreign land politically based thriller and a story of unrequited love Shortly after James reunites with Inez he meets Stipe, an intelligent, well read American who works in a non defined job at the U S Embassy Still later James is introduced to Auguste, Stipe s driver Auguste, a Congolese, is well educated and bears a card entitling him to privileges only enjoyed be whites including the right to eat in white restaurants.
James and Inez attend a party hosted by a wealthy Belgian where they witness the Belgium Army s murder of several Congolese independence demonstrators They are horrified, but as both are reporters, they realize they must write about and report what they saw Independence and the love story unfold from the massacre Both reporters have different relations with Patrice Lumumba, the short lived Congolese prime minister following independence James earnestly believes journalists should only report what they see and hear Inez is a dedicated European liberal, perhaps a communist, and slants her stories to fit her political beliefs Also, she becomes personally involved with the people she is writing about These professional and personal differences lead to their estrangement During an argument Inez calls James a catastrophist, Italian for someone who is totally objective, does not become involved and has no passion.
Independence quickly sinks into civil war James and Inez are separated Stipe and Auguste have hugely different agendas The story ends several years later in a small Italian village where James now resides to write, but actually to unsuccessfully try to reconcile his beliefs and love for Inez an impossible undertaking.
Bennet was born in 1956 and raised in Belfast After earning a doctorate in history, he turned to journalism He has written several screenplays The Catastrophist was chosen as a best book by the LAT in 1999.



Beautifully written, the story haunts you years after you re through reading it.
The book is set in late 1959 early 1960 in Belgian Congo which is lurching towards catastrophic independence Depanda when the narrator Irish English author James Gillespie flies into Leopoldville to be reunited with his Italian lover Ines Sabiana, a journalist with L Unita And it was a catastrophe Before independence the highest ranked black administrator was a mere clerk and the highest ranked black soldier was a NCO When Belgium suddenly decides to give the Congo independence in six months there is no smooth handover of power instead all the whites jump ship and the country, despite being probably the most mineral rich country in Africa is left bankrupt When Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the biggest political group and a unionist,is voted into power he makes the ill judged decision to give all public workers, other than the Army, a large pay rise and is promptly overthrown in a coup by Joseph Mobutu This leads to disintegration of the country with widespread petty and systematic brutality on both political and tribal grounds Into this political vacuum steps the vying superpowers USSR and America to further muddy the waters.
Ines, despite being a journalist is passionate about independence and seems to have decided Communist leanings whereas James is indifferent or as he prefers objective preferring to observe rather than really engage James also becomes friendly with American Stipe who works for their consulate in some undefined capacity but the assumption that it is CIA or something of that ilk This drives the two lovers apart and so James is left forlorn and desperate for things to revert to the way things were before However, it seems IMHO a relationship based merely on sex rather than anything deeper.
In many respects this is what I find wrong with this book I just never felt that James and in particular Ines never really rang true In fact Ines seemed like the dreams of a desperate middle aged man with her easy ability to orgasm and inability to have children Both are writers of sorts but both use words in different ways Ines uses her journalistic reports to promote her political zeal whereas James uses words as a barrier to hide from the events that are transpiring around him Ultimately he is forced to face reality and take sides.
On the whole I liked the author s writing style with some fairly stereotypical minor characters and he gives a reasonable account of the madness taking place in the country both before and after independence, although personally I would have preferred a little Certainly I feel that the outside world and particularly Belgium come out of it very badly, being portrayed as fiddling whilst Rome burnt beforehand and callously indifferent afterwards Much the same can probably be said about the UN However, there was certainly implied, actually it was openly stated at one point, bias within that Britain would have handled the situation better Perhaps we would have but that is probably to wider experience, ie colonies vying for independence, rather than anything else.
I recently read A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali and thoroughly enjoyed that This was an enjoyable read but not up to that standard That said if I spot any of Ronan Bennett s books I will not shy away from picking them up.
This caught my eye at the tip shop because a therapist once said i was a catastrophist Even though there s a scene with the protagonist and his girlfriend where she accuses him of being a catastrophist, I m not entirely sure that s what he was Anyway it was a good in parts read I really liked it nearer the end where it turned into a bit of a gruesome thriller And the politics of the Congo is really interesting Made me want to find out But mostly it was just classic award winner shortlister type novel of which I ve read a million I basically knew how it was going to read before I started Not worst tip shop book I ve ever bought though.
The most interesting thing about this novel, set in the Belgian Congo at the cusp of independence, is the vulnerability and constant self questioning of the narrator He is relentless in tearing apart his own beliefs and emotions, and yet he still fails in many ways to understand his own position in relation to politics both national and personal His character is not always likable and his emotional states often felt adolescent to me, despite his forty years of age, but he seemed well constructed I can t say the same for the female lead who acted mostly as a device for the narrator to explore his angst and his lack of empathy She seemed idealized even when acting against him, and in this her believability crumbled.
Bennett handles the complicated politics of the time fairly well, although at times it felt like too much, disintegrating into lecture and poorly disguised dialogue And the ending was capped a little too neatly for my tastes, all the main characters appearing seemingly out of nowhere for the sake of wrapping up their individual trajectories Overall a decent effort, but not excellent.
Bennett reminds me a lot of Graham Greene, in a good way InThe Catastrophistas in many of Greene s novels, a middle aged European man goes to Africa in the last days of colonialism trying to salvage a doomed romance Unlike Greene, the object of desire here is actually a fully realized character, not just an idea of a woman Bennett creates a strong sense of place in his depictions of the Congo in 1960, and the failure of the relationship nicely follows the failure of Lumumba s dream for a strong, independent Congo Sad, but nicely written.
An exceptionally good read, this novel is set primarily in the Congo during the ferocious struggle for independence from Belgium that led to the assassination of popular leader Patrice Lumumba and the ascendancy of the dictator Mobutu, with assistance from both Belgium and the U.
S Amidst the savagery of those world historical events, the author manages to locate a wrenching and compelling love story between the narrator, an Irish writer named James Gillespie, and his romantic obsession, the leftist Italian journalist Ines Sabiani While Bennett does a commendable job detailing the events and the feeling of the events of 1960 61, the real pulse of the novel is the narrator s love for Ines and his own inner demons and doubts about his own place in the world and worthiness of her love in return Right alongside the blood curdling brutality of the Congolese civil war are passages of extraordinary intimacy and tenderness, of sexual passion and jealousy, of longing and the tragedy of loss Though the narrator s few comments about Ireland and the Irish conflict the Troubles did not fully erupt in Northern Ireland until 1969 are dismissive and disparaging, one need only know that Bennett was himself imprisoned at the infamous Long Kesh prison aka The Maze in the early 1970s due to suspected republican activity to be convinced that it was a likely source for at least some of the depth of humanity in this fine novel, deserving of the many comparisons it has received to Conrad and to Graham Greene.
Gillespie, An Irishman, Goes To The Congo In In Pursuit Of His Beautiful Lover In S, A Passionate Italian Journalist Unlike Her, Gillespie Has No Interest In The Deepening Independence Crisis, Nor In The Charismatic Leader, Patrice Lumumba He Has Other Business This Is His Last Chance To Make Love Work For Him I have lived disguised from myself, in permanent doubt of my own emotional authenticity and since I am never alone with myself, since I am always watching the character playing my part in the scene, there is no possibility of spontaneity I devoured this book Deeply sad, simply but elegantly written, sexy but not, as others here have suggested, pornographic , action packed, and regrettably still relevant given Kabila s strongman hold on modern Congo As much for fans of DRC s history la In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu s Congo as it is for those who fell for the romance of The Poisonwood Bible The questions Bennett raises about how detached people can be from their surroundings and from one another is the dividing line between journalists and op ed authors, historians and artists It rings in your mind when the book is over and demands considerationLike many middle aged, professional, urban men we have developed a keen amateur interest in the natural world, an attempt at an antidote, I suppose, to our paper lives Politics of that sort demands conviction, fiction demands doubt