Queen's University

Review Editor restores long-lost “wee gem”

Review Editor Ken Cuthbertson has restored and re-edited a long-lost 1933 travel book by New Yorker writer Emily Hahn.

[photo of Emily Hahn]Alumni Review editor Ken Cuthbertson, Artsci’74, Law’83, has “re-edited” and restored a long-lost 1933 travel memoir written by trailblazing feminist, adventurer, and New Yorker writer Emily Hahn.

Congo Solo (McGill-Queen’s Press, $24.95), a chronicle of her eight-month sojourn in the Belgian Congo – which has been hailed as “a wee gem of women’s historical travel literature” – has never before been available to readers in its intended form.

Prior to the book’s first publication, Hahn was forced to excise details and change names in her manuscript. She did so under threat of litigation from the well-heeled family of Patrick Putnam, the eccentric Harvard-trained anthropologist-turned-medical missionary who was Hahn’s host in the Congo.

Ken, the ­author of the 1998 Hahn biography entitled Nobody Said Not to Go, painstakingly pieced together the original version of Congo Solo after the author’s death. He drew on letters, photographs, and interviews with Hahn’s family, as well as on earlier research and interviews he had done with Hahn herself.

“This is a book that could – and I think should – be as well-known and widely read as Out of Africa, the 1937 classic by Isak Dinesen . . .

Congo Solo is the true story of Hahn’s African odyssey. Her account of her solo hike across half of Africa, at the age of 24, is the stuff of high adventure. And her description of the racism, sexism, and inhumanity she witnessed in the Congo makes for shocking and compelling reading for scholars of African history and armchair travelers alike – even 80 years later.

“This is a book that could – and I think should – be as well-known and widely read as Out of Africa, the 1937 classic by Isak Dinesen,” says Ken. “Congo Solo certainly would have been far more widely read and influential than it was if it hadn’t been published in a censored version at the nadir of the Great Depression. In the world of letters, just as in life, timing is everything.”

This new edition of Congo Solo features a map created by Review art director Larry Harris and a Foreword written by Anneke van Woudenberg, senior researcher for the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Africa division of the London-based organization Human Rights Watch.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #3Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #3
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