On June 30th 1960, Congo declared its independence from Belgium. In his speech at the ceremony, the Belgian King Baudouin applauded the work of his countrymen during the colonial period, calling his great-granduncle Leopold II, who was responsible for the death of approximately ten million Congolese people, a genius. Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese Prime Minister, gave a now-famous speech in response. He denounced the atrocities that occurred under the Belgian rule and praised the Congolese struggle for freedom in the years leading up to 1960.
In her lecture, Lieselot De Taeye will discuss the roles Congolese and Belgian novelists have imagined for Lumumba: which characteristics have they ascribed to the young politician and how have they portrayed the consequences of his speech? By analyzing and comparing the characterizational strategies these authors employed, she will examine how they dealt with their personal and national identities in their representations of this historical chapter.
Lieselot De Taeye is a Belgian scholar specializing in Dutch and Flemish Literature. Her dissertation focuses on the non-fictional writings that arose in néerlandophone literature in the context of the counterculture of the 1960s. She currently works as a visiting scholar at the Institute of European Studies at UC Berkeley. Her research seeks to compare and analyze fictional and factual representations of the events surrounding the Congolese Independence, paying special attention to the different ways in which Flemish and Congolese authors have given shape to this shared past.