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Into the Heart of Darkness: Switzerland, Hitler, Mobutu, and Joseph Conrad in Urs Widmer's Novel Im Kongo

Peter Arnds
The German Quarterly
Vol. 71, No. 4 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 329-342
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German
DOI: 10.2307/407730
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/407730
Page Count: 14
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Into the Heart of Darkness: Switzerland, Hitler, Mobutu, and Joseph Conrad in Urs Widmer's Novel Im Kongo
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Abstract

Urs Widmer's Im Kongo establishes a triangular relationship between Switzerland, Nazi Germany, and Mobutu's Congo. This article sets out to examine how the Swiss past, Switzerland's stance vis à vis Nazi Germany, resurfaces in the present as depicted in the text. In writing about the Congo Widmer reveals the continuity of Swiss involvement in colonialist practices in the age of post-colonialism. He does so in three ways: First, structurally and symbolically he relates the Congo to Switzerland in order to establish a link between Hitler's nefarious actions and those of Mobutu. Second, through intertextuality with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Widmer's text reflects the continuity of colonial oppression with post-colonial exploitation. Third, the juxtaposition of the two settings allows him to refer to the Ausländerfeindlichkeit of present-day Switzerland as a continuation of the hostile attitude shown toward refugees during the Third Reich. At the same time, this attitude reflects a continuation of the Eurocentric colonial view. After examining these points the article concludes by attempting to answer what this novel contributes to the process of decolonization and to the diminution of the Eurocentric perspective.

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