Congo is not a place, it is a continent. With Conrad’s permission, I’d like to highlight two pieces set in this unlikely country. Gorillas in the mist, starring Sigourney Weaver, requires no introduction. Everyone knows the incredible adventure of the ill-fated Dian Fossey and her mountain gorillas. In contrast, Barbara Kingsolver and her books do not often get the recognition they deserve. The naturalistic prose of this biologist-turned-writer transports us to each of the worlds she writes about. Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible takes us to Congo in colonial transition. A real story and a fictional one in a country that eternally transits between reality and fiction.
What does Bill Stoner, a university professor, have in common with accountant Marty Byrde? Both live in Missouri and both appear to be modest, grey characters. Beyond that, Stoner lives a life in which accepting one’s fate without putting a real fight seems to be the ultimate act of bravery. Byrde’s courage, on the other hand, comes from an altogether different place: protecting his family from a drug cartel. Byrde’s unpretentious resilience looks like pure Darwinism: adapt or die.
Without seeking to cause offense to Mr Twain, today I am matching a wonderful real land, Missouri, with two stories that take place there. Stoner, by John Williams, I would say is one of the best (and most heartbreaking) novels ever written, and Ozark, the great TV series starred by Jason Bateman.
Three lesser-known pearls worth visiting.