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History in Novels and Memoirs: Alfons Vermeulen on Rural Congo (1899–1904)

From: History in Africa
Volume 39, 2012
pp. 123-142 | 10.1353/hia.2012.0006

Abstract

Abstract:

Alfons Vermeulen published a novel about his life in a Congo town as a trader in 1933 and also left drafts about the same subject for his memoirs when he died in 1965. This essay systematically compares both documents using the rules of evidence and concludes that although it does not appear to be so on the surface the novel distorts the evidence he adduces considerably more than the memoirs. At the same time though both documents are equally deeply affected by the spirit of the time of their composition. Hence the combined evidence of both documents together is not only richer but also more reliable than their separate use.

Résumé:

Alfons Vermeulen publia un roman en 1933 au sujet de sa vie de commerçant dans un village du Congo. Il laissa également une ébauche de mémoires sur le même sujet lors de son décès en 1965. Cette étude applique la méthode historique aux deux documentset conclut que, quoiqu’il n’en il paraît pas à première vue, en fait le roman dénature les données historiques considérablement plus que ses mémoires. Mais l’esprit de leur époque (Zeitgeist) affecte cependant aussi profondément l’un et l’autre document. De ce chef l’utilisation conjointe des deux est non seulement plus riche mais aussi plus fiable que leur emploi séparé.



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