The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey

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A “stunning blend of reportage, travelogue, history and meditation” by the New York Times–bestselling author of King Leopold’s Ghost (Publishers Weekly).

National Book Award finalist Adam Hochschild brings a lifetime’s familiarity with South Africa to bear in this eye-opening examination of a critical turning point in that nation’s history: the Great Trek of 1836–39, during which Dutch-speaking white settlers, known as Boers, journeyed deep into the country’s interior to escape the British colonial administration.
 
The mass migration culminated with the massacre of indigenous Zulus in the 1838 Battle of Blood River. Looking at the tensions of modern South Africa through the dramatic prism of the nineteenth century, Hochschild vividly recreates the battle—and its contentious commemoration by rival groups 150 years later. In his epilogue, Hochschild extends his view to the astonishing political changes that have occurred in the country in recent decades—and the changes yet to be made.
 
Hochschild’s incisive take on these events, noted Nadine Gordimer, “is far more than an outsider’s perception of the drama of our country. Read him, in particular, to understand the rise of white extremism which is threatening the democratic vision of the African National Congress and its allied progressive constituency among people of all colors.”
 
“A good book for anyone who wants a succinct and precise account of how this fascinating country has got where it is. . . . This is a book I recommend warmly.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu
 
“One of the most illuminating books ever written on contemporary South Africa.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Thoroughly researched, immensely readable . . . A work of vivid reportage and astute political analysis.” —San Francisco Chronicle
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About the author

Adam Hochschild is the author of seven books. King Leopold's Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was his recent To End All Wars. His Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Apr 24, 2007
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780547525228
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Africa / South / Republic of South Africa
History / Modern / 19th Century
Travel / Africa / Republic of South Africa
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Adam Hochschild
In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo--too long forgotten--onto the conscience of the West.
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