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Tim Butcher

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 06 February 2011

James Naughtie and a group of readers talk to journalist Tim Butcher about his bestselling travel book Blood River.

When Tim Butcher was appointed the Daily Telegraph's correspondent to South Africa in 2000, he became obsessed with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This vast country dominated a map of Africa on his office wall and he began to plan a journey following in the footsteps of a famous predecessor - Henry Stanley. Stanley, of Dr Livingstone renown, had travelled along the route of the River Congo in 1876-77 whilst Africa correspondent for the same newspaper.

Tim Butcher says in Bookclub that he lost all rationality - people who knew the country well told him his proposed trip was suicidal. The DR Congo stretches the same distance as Paris to Moscow and is one of Africa's most dangerous countries. Although it has immense economic resources, the DR Congo has been at the centre of what could be termed Africa's world war, and this has left it in the grip of a humanitarian crisis.

Part adventure story, part travelogue and part history, Blood River tells the account of Tim's own journey along the river in 2004. We hear about the hardships and generosity of the people he met, as well as the fear and the practical difficulties of travelling in a country that has been ravaged by war and neglected for so long.

A group of readers quiz Tim about his experience, and James Naughtie chairs the programme.

March's Bookclub title:
Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

Producer: Dymphna Flynn.


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