Saturday, 12 August 2017

Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd

This book came by recommendation by my brother-in-law, who is a big fan of William Boyd. After this initial meeting with him, I am looking forward reading more books, and I do have another one of his books in my book case, Waiting for Sunrise.
"What cannot be avoided, must be welcomed, as Amilcar had told me."
Brazzaville Beach was written in 1990, and is narrated by Hope Clearwater, a scientist. There are several stories in the novel; Hope in the present time, where we find her studying chimpanzees in Grosso Arvore in Congo. We are presented to her fellow researchers; Eugen Mallabar who is the leader and the acknowledged expert on chimpanzees, with several books to his name. He is working on his final book on the peaceful chimpanzee, when Hope discovers something that does not add up to his conclusions; Ian and Roberta Vail, who are more or less her friends and Anton Hauser that she dislikes. The whole camp seem to be full of conflicts and the behaviour of the scientists can be compared to the behaviour of the chimpanzees; there are conflicts in both camps.
"So let me ask you this: the more you know,  the more you learn - does it make you fell better?'
I don't understand.'
'All these things you know - does it make you happy? A better person?'
'It's got nothing to do with happiness.'
He shook his head, sadly. 'The pursuit of knowledge is the road to hell.'
Parallell we get Hope's story of her marriage to John Clearwater, a mathematician with ambitions  of making his name on his subject. It takes him over the edge and the marriage fails.

The various chapters are introduced by descriptions of chaos theory. The theories can be applied to Hope's life, her actions, other people's actions but also on the chimpanzees.

As the scientists are working in their isolated area they seem isolated from the world. The only connection is when one of them, once every two weeks, goes into the city to buy supplies. As the tension in the camp and the tension among the chimpanzees escalates, Hope is captured by the domestic tension of Congo. Her lover, an Egyptian pilot, goes missing as Hope goes missing as well. She manages quite well to keep her logical mind set on survival. Has she learned from the chimpanzees or it is just her scientific approach to any happening in her life?
"It seems to me that there are statements about the world and our lives that have no need of formal proof procedures."
William Boyd weaves a spider web of conflicts by humans and animals. How they interact, how to find oneself when the world is knocking on the door. What is important and what is not important. It is a thrilling novel. There are much more in the novel, than I have revealed here. I don't want to spoil the story. Boyd spent his first years in Africa, and many of his novels take place there. He is obviously familiar with the surroundings and it makes for good reading. Can't wait to read another one of his books.
"The unexamined life is not worth living"

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