Seven Houses in France:
by Bernardo Atxaga
translation by Margaret Jull Costa
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During the height of the Belle Epoque, while comfortably ensconced in his palace in Brussels, King Leopold II of Belgium perpetrated a series of shadowy maneuvers that succeeded in making him the sole owner and master of an area almost 10,000 miles away: the Congo river, the land surrounding, and the people who lived there. Through Leopold never personally set foot in Africa, his merchants and gendarmes stripped the land of ivory, mahogany, and rubber; kidnapped, mutilated, and lynched local populations; and left about ten million dead over the span of twenty years.
This is the landscape of Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga's black comedy Seven Houses in France. The major characters are disgruntled officers in Belgium's Force Publique who casually brutalize locals while dreaming of riches—for example, the preposterously
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