In the heart of a civil war-torn African nation, primate researcher Hope Clearwater made a shocking discovery about apes and man . . .
Young, alone, and far from her family in Britain, Hope Clearwater contemplates the extraordinary events that left her washed up like driftwood on Brazzaville Beach. It is here, on the distant, lonely outskirts of Africa, where she must come to terms with the perplexing and troubling circumstances of her recent past. For Hope is a survivor of the devastating cruelities of apes and humans alike. And to move forward, she must first grasp some hard and elusive truths: about marriage and madness, about the greed and savagery of charlatan science . . . and about what compels seemingly benign creatures to kill for pleasure alone.
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August 01, 1995
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Excerpt from Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
I never really warmed to Clovis - he was far too stupid to inspire real affection - but he always claimed a corner of my heart, largely, I suppose, because of the way he instinctively and unconsciously cupped his genitals whenever he was alarmed or nervous. It was rather endearing, I thought, and it showed a natural vulnerability, in strong contrast to his usual moods: raffish arrogance or total and single-minded self-absorption. In fact, he was self-absorbed now as he sat grandly at ease, frowning, pursing and unpursing his lipscompletely ignoring me-and from time to time sniffing absentmindedly at the tip of a forefinger. He had been similarly occupied for upwards of an hour now and whatever he had stuck his finger into earlier that day had obviously been fairly potent, not to say narcotic and ineradicable. Knowing Clovis as I did, I suspected he could maintain this inertia for ages. I looked at my watch. If I went back now it might mean talking to that little swine Hauser.... I debated the pros and cons: spend the remaining hour I had left to me here with Clovis or risk enduring Hauser's cynical gossip, all silky insinuation and covert bitchery?
Should I tell you about Hauser now, I wonder? No, perhaps not; Hauser and the others will engage us as we meet them. They can wait a while; let us return to Clovis.
I changed my position, uncrossed my legs and stretched them out in front of me. A small ant seemed to have trapped itself under the strap of my brassiere and I spent a few awkward minutes trying vainly to locate it. Clovis impassively watched me remove first my shirt and then my bra. I found no insect but discovered its traces -- a neat cluster of pink bites under my left armpit. I rubbed spit on them and replaced my clothes. As I did up the top button on my shirt, Clovis seemed to lose interest in me. He slapped his shoulder once, brusquely, and clambered into the mulemba tree beneath which he had been sitting, and with powerful easy movements he swung through the branches, leapt onto an adjacent tree and was away, lost to sight, heading northeast toward the hills of the escarpment.
I looked at my watch again and noted the time of his departure. Perhaps now he was going to rejoin the other members of his group? It was not unheard of for Clovis to spend a day on his own but it was out of the ordinary-he was gregarious, even by chimpanzee standards. I had been watching him for three -hours, during which time he had done almost nothing singular or unusualbut then that too was worth recording, of course. I stood up and stretched and walked to the mulemba tree to examine Clovis's feces. I took out a little specimen bottle from my bag and, with a twig, collected some. That would be my present for Hauser.
I walked back down the path that led me in the general direction of the camp. A large proportion of the trails in this part of the forest had been recently cleared and the going was easy. I had had markers and directional arrows nailed to trees at important intersections to help me find my way about. This portion of the reserve, south of the big stream, was far less familiar than the main research area to the north.
I walked at a steady even pace -- I was in no particular hurry to get back-and in any event was reasonably tired. The real force of the afternoon's heat had passed; I could see the sun on the topmost branches of the trees but down here on the forest floor all was dim shadow. I enjoyed these walks home at the end of the day and I preferred the confined vistas of the forest to more impressive panoramas -- I liked being hemmed in, rather than exposed. I liked the vegetation close to me, bushes and branches brushing my sides, the frowsty smell of decaying leaves and the filtered, screened neutrality of the light.