A Scottish actress is trying her hardest to promote a book about living in Zambia for a few months in the late 1990s, an experience she describes as a harrowing, war-torn “nightmare.” It was all going fine until Zambians began reading her account and pointed out that in addition to being a pile of racist and laughably out-of-touch white savior tropes, her story evidently makes no goddamn factual sense.
Louise Linton, who has not appeared in anything you’ve ever heard of, wrote a book that came out in April called In Congo’s Shadow, a portion of which was excerpted in The Telegraph on July 1. It is... really something. Linton makes herself a “central character” in the Congolese civil war, which did not happen in Zambia. Linton has an account of hiding in the jungle from “the rebels,” whom she assumes would be particularly interested in her, because she’s so pretty:
As the night ticked interminably by, I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me. Clenching my jaw to stop my teeth chattering, I squeezed my eyes shut and reminded myself how I’d come to be a central character in this horror story.
(“Muzungu” is a Bantu word that refers to people of European descent.)
Linton claims she fled said rebels, even as a little orphan girl named Zimba with whom she had a special bond begged her to stay. Her excerpt is a little vague on how long, exactly, she was in Zambia. But this tale of civil war, ethnic strife, and a war that killed millions of people through disease and starvation has a happy ending, you see, because it taught Linton about herself:
Now that I’m a grown woman living in California and pursuing a very different dream – as an actress and film producer – I know that the skinny white girl once so incongruous in Africa still lives on inside me. Even in this world where I’m supposed to belong, I still sometimes feel out of place. Whenever that happens, though, I try to remember a smiling gap-toothed child with HIV whose greatest joy was to sit on my lap and drink from a bottle of Coca-Cola. Zimba taught me many beautiful words but the one I like the most is Nsansa. Happiness.
Linton and her publisher really love the description of her as an angelic white woman; on Amazon, part of the book’s summary reads, “A ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’, Louise was an anomaly in darkest Africa.” Darkest. Africa.
The Guardian reports that Linton’s recollections are coming in for a heaping dose of both mockery and scrutiny, mainly on Twitter under the hashtag #LintonLies. Two rather sizeable issues: What rebels? What jungle?
As BuzzFeed pointed out, a man named Gerard Zytkow also disputed Linton’s story; he owns a fishing lodge near the one where she claimed to have been posted, and says he knew Linton at the time.
“Louise was in Zambia,” he wrote. “She was a gap student originally placed at Ndole Bay Lodge on Lake Tanganyika. But she moved across to Kasaba Bay. I will leave the reasons out.”
Zytkow adds that the only “rebels” who ever showed up were there to surrender to local authorities. A few days later, another group came, unarmed, tired and thirsty, he says, begging for food. Linton was nowhere near any of this, he says, “safely at Kasaba.” He chided her for what he called “mindboggling and nonsensical fictions.”
It’s all fairly embarrassing, but Linton has chosen the “I’m sorry if you were offended” route:
She also disputed Zytkow’s account without mentioning him by name.
The book currently has dozens of very unamused one-star reviews on Amazon. This is a fun way to get your name out there!
Louise Linton. Screenshot via YouTube/Blue Ribbon Productions