I read another book by Frank Westerman. I was impressed by his book on El Negro. Now I was given as a present another one of his books. While reading this book STIKVALLEI I made many notes to keep track of his encounters with many people and many situations and many stories.

What is the story of this book? Let us go back to the year 1986. The country is Cameroon. The place is Nyosvalley. The count was at least 1200 people who were found dead. Found dead? Yes, found dead.

What happened, so that 1200 people entered the state of death? This is one line of the research of Frank Westerman. The other line is the line of the stories that were being developed  and told and passed on by many protagonists who lived in the area or who were connected with the area.

Westerman follows scientists, politicians, playwrights, christians (Dutch Roman Catholic workers), muslims (a few), local people, invaders, young people, old people, western educated, locally educated, Francophone people, Anglophone people. He listens to their stories (real and created), their arguments, he listens to what they do not tell him, he delves into archives, he travels to Cameroon and other places to meet people. He notices the scientists (e.g. vulcanologists) who oppose one another with conflicting theories.

He looks at another event, at Lake Monoum, also in Cameroon, just two years earlier. He disects myths and stories and facts.

The book reads like a historical monograph and a detective and a literary exposé. Gripping from beginning till end. It is not an easy read, but very worthwhile.

Westerman looks at the myths people create to find an explanation of the disaster that took place. But my question to Westerman is: what kind of myth do you create yourself? What are his presuppositions? 

It is clear that the scientists create their own myths (stories, explanations). There is not one clear scientific concept to explain what happened in the Nyosvalley. So, how to judge these scientific diverging ways?

Human life and what a human being brings forth is more complicated than a scientific formula (or myth, or story, or explanation).

There are three good maps, focussing on the area under research.

A French translation has been published. The rights to translate the books have been sold to Sweden, Italy, Croatia, Spain and as mentioned France. So take your pick and buy and read this book. You will not regret it, I hope. I did not regret reading it. 

Frank Westerman – Stikvallei – 2013 


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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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