Abstract

Olga Stanisławska’s reportage book Rondo de Gaulle’a [Charles de Gaulle Roundabout] was published in 2001 by Wydawnictwo Twój Styl in Warsaw. The book describes one woman’s yearlong journey across Africa, from Casablanca, to Morocco, through Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Guinea, Congo, Zaire, and Uganda to Nairobi, Kenya. Stanisławska writes about the political, economic, and social issues of numerous African countries. She describes the painful issue of modern-day slavery in Mauritania, the dramatic fate of the Tuareg nation, and recent conflicts in Chad. The book’s narrative sometimes merges with objectified, newspaper-style news, but more often ventures into a solipsistic memoir and a warm and sensual portrayal of the various communities the author visits. Stanisławska’s actual journey across Africa is complemented by her emotional and literary voyage from the paradise-like plains of the Saharan desert countries to the hellish depths of the jungle in the Congo. She frames her journey, or rather "travels," from Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa (a self-created paradise) to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (a self-imposed hell). Both of Stanisławska’s journeys–physical and literary–provide a captivating platform for studying her narrative as an unending and deeply empathic encounter with another human being. In Charles de Gaulle Roundabout there is a visible tension between the author’s need to tell a story and her anxiety that in doing so she may (mis)treat people and turn them into fictional characters, that is, make their stories finite.

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