Black Ulysses (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Jef Geeraerts’ first novel, Gangrene, won the prestigious Belgian State Prize for its literary and stylistic quality and for its wrenching portrait of a white colonial administrator governing an African village. This sudden praise also brought with it a storm of controversy. The novel was seized by the Minister of Justice and was put to trial for allegedly being bawdy and obscene. The added publicity sealed the success of Gangrene and it became a European bestseller, much to the chagrin of the Minister of Justice’s office. The subject Geeraerts has brought to light, beginning with Gangrene and now in Black Ulysses, has been part of the author’s actual experiences as an assistant administrator in the Belgian Congo; the violent emergence of the Belgian Congo as a nation is forcefully illuminated in Black Ulysses.
Many quite understandable but highly regrettable aberrations have occurred in modern history as a result of lack of planning when power changes hands. Such has been the case in the Belgian Congo, where there are constant reminders even today of colonial refusal to back out gracefully from Southern Africa. The early 1960’s saw the final vestiges of Belgian control of the Congo crumble; the fight to fill the void began immediately, accompanied by an onslaught of atrocities across the land. Black Ulysses, written in stark and grotesque prose, relies on raw imagery which appeals to the...
(The entire section is 1915 words.)
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