To satisfy my curiosity, I took the trouble to surf the Internet and read history books and biographies of the historical characters so I could compare historical facts to what is portrayed in Kingsolverâ€™s book. I easily saw that she did not portray the real world honestly and fairly. She emphasized some facts and omitted other, very important ones. In doing this, she has presented a distorted worldview that, coupled with her pathetic characterization of the Christian missionary Nathan Price, makes me wonder what point she was trying to get across to the reader.
Kingsolver has her characters criticize the West, particularly the United States, for trying to intervene when the Congo became independent in 1960 and Patrice Lumumba became Prime Minister. She has one of her characters seeing newspaper headlines of "Soviet plan moves forward in Congo" and "Khrushchev wanted to take over the Belgian Congo.â€ť One of her characters hears that Eisenhower had ordered Lumumba's death. Another hears that Secretary of State Dulles sent a telegram, â€śâ€¦to replace the Congolese government at earliest convenience.â€ť
Kingsolver's readers would rightly wonder why the United States became so involved in the internal affairs of the Congo. Kingsolver even has a character mention that Lumumba asked Khrushchev to come to the Congo's aid, but the character felt that Lumumba was bluffing. What most readers wonâ€™t remember, and Kingsolver did not mention it, is that in 1959, Khrushchev brought Castro's Cuba into the Soviet circle.
All Americans should remember the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960's because it was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. I do not condone what the United States did in the Congo, but knowing about Cuba, I can realize the seriousness of Lumumba's bluff and the panic of the United States State Department trying to prevent a Soviet foothold in Central Africa.
Iâ€™m not trying to defend United States foreign policy, but just to be informed of the real facts, I read a biography of Patrice Lumumba written by his personal friend, Thomas Kanza - The Rise and Fall of Patrice Lumumba: Conflict in the Congo. In it, Kanza quotes verbatim Lumumba's request for aid to Khrushchev and states his opinion that his friend "Lumumba was involved in a dangerous, perhaps mortal, struggle; for though the West wanted to save the Congo, it had had enough of (Lumumba).â€ť
Kingsolver states the Congo was exploited for gold, diamonds, copper, ivory, and slaves. She didn't mention uranium, but Kanza did. Uranium, being of strategic importance in the cold war, still doesn't excuse the West, but mention of it would make the West's panic more understandable.