Study Guide

A Season in the Congo

by Aimé Césaire

A Season in the Congo Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Season in the Congo deals with an extremely obvious exploitation of an African country during the early postcolonial period. In 1960, Belgium very grudgingly granted independence to its colony, the Belgian Congo, in which between three million and twenty million Congolese were either executed or worked to death while toiling on Belgian rubber plantations in the colony, known as the Congo Free State until 1980 and the Belgian Congo from 1908 until 1960. After independence, the country was first named the Congo and then Zaire. In his novel Heart of Darkness (1899, serial; 1902, book) Joseph Conrad portrays the horrendous human suffering in the Congo Free State that modern historians have frequently compared to the Nazi Holocaust and to Joseph Stalin’s mass murder of Soviet citizens.

In the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s, France and England began committing themselves to granting independence to their many African colonies. The crimes against humanity committed against the black Congolese by Belgium were so awful and well known that few blacks in Africa and throughout the black diaspora trusted Belgium to act properly toward the newly independent Congo. Congolese blacks became even more suspicious when Belgian colonial authorities had Patrice Lumumba arrested because of his opposition to long-term mining leases designed to enable Belgium to continue exploiting the Congo’s mineral riches after independence. Strong international criticism forced Belgium to release Lumumba so he could participate in discussions aimed at...

(The entire section is 640 words.)

A Season in the Congo Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Davis, Gregson. Aimé Césaire. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Munro, Martin. Shaping and Reshaping the Caribbean: The Work of Aimé Césaire and René Depestre. Leeds, England: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2000.

Pallister, Janis L. Aimé Césaire. New York: Twayne, 1991.

Scharfman, Ronnie Leah. Engagement and the Language of Aimé Césaire. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1987.

Suk, Jeannie. Postcolonial Paradoxes in French Caribbean Writing. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2001.