About explorers and voodoo – literature and lectures

Hans-Christoph Buch compiled a variety of texts in his book Night Noises in the Forest.

“The topic was born of me,” Hans-Christoph Buch wrote in the preface. It is true that Buch’s grandmother comes from Haiti, in his extensive novels (not only in his novels on Haiti) and in the many articles he has repeatedly dealt with questions of post-colonialism and colonial history, has characteristics and origins of “structural or systemic racism”. It was analyzed and it was no coincidence that in 1990 he devoted his poetry lectures in Frankfurt to the topic ‘Proximity and distance – the building blocks of the poetics of the colonial outlook’.

Buch, born in 1944, has long been a prominent political author. As a crisis and war correspondent, he worked as a reporter for the major German dailies of what Joseph Konrad called “Heart of Darkness”: Rwanda, Liberia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Cambodia, Bosnia, Nicaragua, Paraguay and time and time again Haiti. “I’ve mutated,” the wording in the introduction to his new book attempts to downplay “from writer to war reporter, an experience that leaves not only scratches, but scars in the soul.”

“Nocturnal Noises in the Jungle” is a compendium of the disparate, a mosaic of texts that vary widely in content and form: a classic reportage, often characterized by journalistic routine down to the fine structure of the language, perhaps also by editorial guidelines. Essay (eg, “A Short History of the Voodoo Worship”), review, portrait, argument, pamphlet and – brave pieces of volume – those spirited narratives, as it were, which dilute the realistic historical tradition and enrich history with dimensions of possibility, i.e., the expansion of history – To pure imagination. In these prose miniatures, the war correspondent Hans-Christoph Buch turns into a writer – which is a good thing, because here he shows himself as a great storyteller.

In “An Unexpected Reunion,” he imagines a meeting between the great explorer and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the French naturalist and botanist Aime Bonnebland, dated September 13, 1857, which never occurred but appropriately characterizes the two heroes of the history of science. Buch uses the biography of sailor Hark Olufs, published in 1747, as the material basis for an entertaining historical adventure novel in miniature form. Reflecting the colonial history of German East Africa with photographs by Paul von Leto-Vorbeck and Karl Peters. With stories like this one, oscillating between historical facts and fictional extras, Boch Corset unites historical tradition – for him, history is an invention for which reality provides the material.

“Night Noise in the Woods” is also an important contribution to current discussions of colonial history and, above all, a well-aimed attack on political correctness characterized above all by grammar and historical distortions. What Boch calls “post-colonial discourse” appears to be increasingly appropriated, not only in Germany, by the language police of the bustling Woke movement and the ideologically hard-line culture of abolitionism, which misunderstands the current misery of a number of African nations as a legacy. from the colonial era. Boch argued, referring to the era of independence in Africa during the late 1950s and early 1960s: “People of the Walk movement underestimate or underestimate the horrific reality of civil wars and ethnic massacres.”

Even South Africa, the continent’s only economic giant, has long suffered from what Hans-Christoph Buch called the “fundamental evils of Africa”: “tribalism, corruption and brutality”. After two generations of festively celebrated independence, the nation-building process has not even begun in most African countries, and there is little or nothing to be seen of the good governance that is often invoked in development cooperation.

Hans Christoph Buch: Night noises in the woods. Postcolonial notes. Transit Verlag, Berlin 2022. 192 pages,
20 euros.

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