Read Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux Online


In Dark Star Safari the wittily observant and endearingly irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. In the course of his epic and enlightening journey, he endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances. Gauging the state of affairs, he talks to Africans, aid workers, missionaIn Dark Star Safari the wittily observant and endearingly irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. In the course of his epic and enlightening journey, he endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances. Gauging the state of affairs, he talks to Africans, aid workers, missionaries, and tourists. What results is an insightful meditation on the history, politics, and beauty of Africa and its people, and "a vivid portrayal of the secret sweetness, the hidden vitality, and the long-patient hope that lies just beneath the surface" (Rocky Mountain News). In a new postscript, Theroux recounts the dramatic events of a return to Africa to visit Zimbabwe....

Title : Dark Star Safari
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ISBN : 9780141037295
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 565 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Dark Star Safari Reviews

  • Jeff
    2019-06-15 01:24

    Planes, trains and automobiles……and a ferry; rickety, smelly mini-buses; a dugout canoe, taxis and a cattle truck.I give mad props to Theroux for humping it from Cairo to Cape Town at the age of 59, but this type of transport (he only used a plane once: to fly into Khartoum) would scare away the more discerning traveler – me. This makes me even more grateful for Theroux’s firsthand account of Africa.Foreshadowing book spoiler: He quotes and draws comparisons from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. A lot. I like to read the occasional travelogue. A good travel writer gives you a window into their adventures, combining wit, history and insight into the present day doings of the area/country/continent they are visiting. As to humor: Bill Bryson (thankfully) looks for the punch line, Theroux’s humor is of the curmudgeonly sort – here, for example, pointing out the contradictory nature of the work of missionaries and aid workers. He spends pages raking a missionary over the proverbial coals – using his own thorough knowledge of the Bible to continually punch holes in her arguments. As much as I love a good verbal pummeling of a hypocrite, this was, even for me, excessive.After traveling through several of the poorer countries of Africa, and, although many aid workers have their hearts in the right place, he sees foreign aid rapidly removing all incentive from Africans to do things for themselves. The vicious cycle goes like this: Country despots skim off significant portions of aid for themselves, little of it, if any, ever reaching the intended, who remain poor, jobless and hungry, thus drawing the need for still more aid.Theroux’s book isn’t a total festival of misanthropy. He visits old friends (he was in the Peace Corp), makes new friends, hangs out with hookers, and generally appreciates the pace, beauty and “otherness” that is Africa.So far the Theroux travel books have been engaging enough to want to continue reading them – a decent mix of humor, history and bumpy rides.Theroux’s Bottom line: African cities are a mess; the true generous and open spirit of the African people still exists in the villages.And here’s the requisite wacky movie (see above) gif:Is that a Nubian Banana or are you just happy to wake up next to me? (see my updates below if you really require an explanation)

  • Emily
    2019-05-29 04:19

    WHY do I keep reading books by this man? For some unknown reason I assume that I'll garner some great knowledge form his books or be more amused than frustrated. Thus far: not. Instead I'm annoyed by his arrogance and his assumption that he's different from other white people in Africa because he "knows" that the aide system is faulty or because he lived there in the 60's. Just because you have a backpack and a history with Africa doesn't make you an expert, and Theroux whining about the fact that Africa hasn't lived up to its promise since he was there last only makes him look like all the people he criticizes. He wants Africa to make leaps and bounds in its economic and political policy, but then how would he be able to write so endearingly of the street urchins and the poverty? After all, seeing those things and writing about them makes him strong and experienced, right? I agree that the current Western participation in African affairs is getting Africa nowhere, but I don't assume that makes me a genius or that I have my finger on the pulse of African issues. If you want to write a book about Africa, write about AFRICA and about how cool you are because you can travel there and not have any concern for your safety. If you want to write a travel book, write a travel book and don't be so bloody sanctimonious! Don't travel in crappy cars or eat bad food just so you can prove that you've "lived like an African." How condescending, to assume that Africans don't know anything better.Can anyone tell that this guy annoys me? And yet, I'll probably read another of his books because I want to actually feel like he's not as much of a schmuck as I think he is. I can admit that the book has some insightful or well written passages, but in general I think it's another white person thinking he's got Africa down. Shut it. I'll bet he took a big bottle of hand sanitizer everywhere he went, he just didn't write about that.

  • Caroline
    2019-06-19 22:07

    Grrrrr! Oh how this man irritates yet enthrals me!I have just tramped down through Africa in the footsteps of Theroux, sighing and tsking, yet unable to put the book down. This man is a genius writer, yet so darn cantankerous, curmudgeonly and scathing that he made me want to throw the book on the floor and mash it. Even when he relishes a place, it often seems that it is the dirt, the stink and the squalor that inspires him. It's a kind of machismo. Proof that he isn't a tourist, but a bona fide explorer and traveller.Yet he does take us where we - tender visitors on river cruises and to safari lodges - would fear to go. He gets under the fingernails of Africa, on one heck of a magnificent journey down the spine of this vast continent. There were some places I was fascinated to read about - like Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the wilderness of the Shire River - and some I found boring - like Egypt, or his travels across Lake Victoria. But all the time he kept pulling us forward through this often torturous land. Time and time again he shows us how subsistence farming and subsistence living have replaced the grandiose stamp of colonial history, and he conveys both respect and disgust for these changes. He spits vitriolically at the idea of aid to Africa, and the culture of dependence that he feels it has created. Herewith an extract about his views about charity in Milawi: (view spoiler)[ " The working of society was in the hands of charities, running orphanages, staffing hospitals, doing triage in the pathetic education system. They were saving lives - you couldn't fault them - but in general I despaired at the very sight of aid workers, as no more than a maintenance crew on a power trip, who had turned Malawians into beggers and whiners, and development into a study in futility." (hide spoiler)]He seems so determined - especially in central Africa - to see things in a negative light. At one stage he visits the school where he used to teach when young and in the Peace Corps, castigating it's demise - the loss of teachers, the stolen library books and the falling-down buildings. Yet he meets up with an ex-pupil who is obviously doing brilliantly well. Surely the heritage of that school would seem to lie with its pupils - the people that Theroux taught in younger and perhaps more idealistic days. Schools are not just bricks and mortar. The more he moves further south the more he mellows. His views about Zimbabwe are positively uplifting, in spite of his recognition of its problems. In South Africa he brilliantly evokes the extreme contrasts - the wealth, culture and wonderful animal life, versus the crime, and the tough life experienced by the poor in squatter camps outside Cape Town. On the very last leg of his journey, as he travels back from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the famous and luxurious Blue Train, a girl in one of the townships stops by the train to beg for food. He gives her nothing. As they start to move off she lobs stones through the window. It seemed a kind of retribution for the sourness of his writing.

  • AC
    2019-06-01 03:12

    This was my first Theroux and, on finishing it, I couldn’t fully judge of the tone of a book that was written near what will likely be the end of his career, after a certain cynicism has taken root. Since then, I’ve read The Great Railway Bazaar (his first travel book) and now a good chunk of Ghost Train.First, it has to be said that this book is very NOT-P.C. (to say the least!). Theroux has what often appears to be an open and unapologetic contempt for many of the black Africans he meets and describes -- certainly a contempt for what they’ve made of themselves and of their societies. There is a contempt for the entire African/ThirdWorld AID industry (whose representatives he sneeringly refers to as ‘agents of virtue’), those smug, insulated, liberal do-gooders riding about in their large, white Land Rovers, hanging around the fancy swimming pools of the luxury hotels, never mingling with the people they claim to help, not even willing to lend a hand to a stranded white man in need of a ride, spending wads of OPM (Other People’s Money) not simply in ways that are unhelpful, but in ways (Theroux believes) that are positively harmful. He cites books like The Lords of Poverty and The Road to Hell, as well the opinions of many Africans (black and white) who confirm this bias (he may be right in this; I’m in no position to judge). On the other hand, he shows great sympathy for the white South African and (formerly) Rhodesian farmers, who many of us would tend to view as being reactionary forces. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book brought down upon Theroux’ swampy head a heap of anger – and, indeed, charges of out and out racism.But it’s not so simple, because he also quite obviously has a deep love and respect for the old African societies he viewed so hopefully in his youth, when he spent 3 years in the Peace Corp in Malawi and had (during the years of his early friendship with V.S. Naipaul) a Nigerian girlfriend. He seems (albeit in his wholly curmudgeonly way) to be motivated not by race-hatred, but more by an absence of white guilt – quite a different thing. So, when people shout out to him, ‘Hey, White Man”…, he gets fed up and says – “Hey, you want me to call you ‘Hey, Black Man’?” and people (that is, Blacks) respond, not surprisingly, in a positive way to this bold assertion of his own rights to individuality. People respect you when you respect yourself.Theroux is, indeed, quite the cosmopolites – fleeing the artificiality of the developed world, in search of the authentic, of the ‘noble savage’, if you will…, if such remains – and he is an experienced and exuberant libertine (for all his protestations of restraint) for whom there must have been more than a little of the Richard Burton lurking in his wanderings.Is this racism? Well…, it is a slippery slope, no doubt…Nor is Theroux an entirely admirable personality. As a writer, even at his best, there is always something of the hack about him. Some of the writing in Safari is particularly cheesy, and his best works, his travel writings (I’ve never read the novels), are largely based on a formula and gimmick. His cynicism and the occasional mawkishness are well known. And his history with Naipaul, for all his self-justifications (Sir Vidia’s Shadow), leaves something to be desired on BOTH sides: it must be said, in reading this late work (pub. in 2002) that Theroux is someone who seems to have grown, and to have grown better and deeper, and more urgent…, which is not often the case with men (women, perhaps, are different), who are more frequently diminished by success and by aging. For all his flaws, in other words, Theroux has increasing been willing to look the beast… the beast of his personal weaknesses, of his mortality, and of his love… nay, his lust for life… a love ultimately doomed by the facts of nature… directly in the eye. And the result is a certain poignancy and beauty that is fully in evidence in this wonderful book.This book is a redux. Having lived and traveled long ago in Africa, just during the period around Independence, he decided to go again in 2001 (or thereabouts), and to travel alone, without lots of money and without any entourage, by bus, train, walking – each stage of the route dictated by chance – from one end of Africa (Cairo) Xto the other (Cape Town), along the Eastern half, through Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawai, South Africa, sleeping in cheap hotels or hovels, on busted down rusty buses and trains, basically ‘bumming thru’ Africa’…. And this, without a phone or blackberry, not as a 25 year old or a 34 year old (Great Railway Bazaar), but at the age of 60…!! This was quite feat, as those of you who are in your mere twenties will someday realize.And what he saw was that Africa, so hopeful in 1972, has become ruinous. Ruinous because of the effects of colonialization; because of the effects of freedom, and corruption, and the profound and dire incompetence of the Africans themselves; because of the AID agencies who build Dams and projects that no one will ever use, instead of helping the Africans thatch their roofs; because of the stupidity both of modernity AND of those who will not be so easily modernized.His description of the Grand Hotel in the town of Beira, Mozambique (347), a huge colonial skeletal structure facing the Indian Ocean, decrepit, “had been taken over by plunderers and invaders. These homeless people were living in the guest rooms and had cooking fires going on the balconies and had rigged up tends on the verandas. Some were emptying buckets of shit over the rails; their laundry hung limp on strong-up lines. The building was a vast crumbling pile of broken stucco and rusted railings, filled with ragged squatters. Smoke issued from most of the rooms. I supposed that for some people this looked like the past, but to me it had the haunted look of a desperate distant future, an intimation of how the world would end, the Third World luxury resorts turned into squatters’ camps.” (Cp. the collapse and ruin of Mbeya, in Tanzania, at 270f.)Or the story of the Wagogo, living in the hot, dusted, ruined plains of Tanzania, 30 of them huddled under the shade of a single tree to escape from the blasted rays of the midday sun – but who never thought, to escape from this, simply to plant a few extra trees...At any rate – this is a powerful and moving book, despite its flaws.

  • Steph
    2019-06-19 01:07

    This book was a great read for a student of international development/relations. I understand the author's cynicism, admire his risktaking, and appreciate his insight into the impact of decades of foreign intervention in Africa. I didn't feel he was overly arrogant for a journey of this depth and magnitude; it certainly added to the story, for better or worse. It was an enjoyable read, full of analysis, rather than simply description.

  • Jody
    2019-06-07 01:25

    Theroux is a pompous ass. A just-compelling-enough pompous ass.

  • Daren
    2019-05-28 20:30

    For me this is the best Paul Theroux that I have read.It was better (in my opinion) that his other travel non fiction (The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, The Old Patagonian Express, Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China), and I think there are a couple of reasons.Firstly, in Dark Star Safari the travel was not all by train. This meant there was more to write about. In his other books (which I also enjoyed - don't get me wrong), there is only so much he can describe about the train itself, and the method of travel. This book opened the door for more descriptive writing about travel method.Secondly, and probably more importantly, while Theroux was his usual pessimistic, fault finding, negative self, he was being far more accurate with his assessment of Africa. What I mean is, in other books where he tears into the people, the places & the culture, they are often not all as bad as he makes them out to be. In this book, a lot more often than not, the situations he describes negatively are in fact pretty dire. So this brings an accuracy to his pessimism. Thirdly, Theroux has an opinion which he spends a lot of the book discussing - his premise that continued foreign aid in Africa has a negative effect rather than a positive effect - and this lets him examine and re-examine with examples this theory. The fact I buy into this, probably makes this book more enjoyable for me as a reader.So to the book - Theroux travels overland (mostly - there was a short ride in a small plane due to border difficulties) from Cairo to Capetown. He takes in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Some places he is visiting for the first time, others he is returning to, and has a frame of reference. He spent time in Malawi in the Peace Corps, and as a teacher in Uganda, so has some comparisons to make there.Along the way, he makes literary references - some involving people he knows and meets, others purely by reference. He also reconnected with people he knew from his previous time in Africa, including the President of Uganda!“I had some good friends - really funny ones. My best friend was a guy called Apolo Nsibambi. We shared an office at the Extra Mural Department at Makerere, and then I got a promotion - became Acting Director - and I was his boss! I used to tease him for calling himself “Doctor” - he had a Ph. D. in political science. I mocked him for wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase and being pompous. I went to his wedding. He came to my wedding. And then I completely lost touch with him. I wonder what happened to him.’ ‘Doctor Nsibambi is the Prime Minister of Uganda.”All up, one of the best books I have read this year. Five stars.

  • David Sarkies
    2019-05-31 01:27

    A trek through the heart of Modern Africa16 May 2015 Well, I have already written three blogposts worth of thoughts on this really interesting book, however I will simply touch on a few more important points for those of you who don't have the time (or the inclination) to read through what I have written elsewhere (and the links to those posts are below). Anyway, this is the diary of a journey that the author took from Cairo, across the African continent, to Cape Town. His original intention was to travel entirely by land, however since the Sudanese border was closed (and the fact that he wanted to travel legitimately, meaning no sneaking over the border, and no bribing officials) a couple of legs were by plane. Anyway, Theroux had been in Africa in the 60s, first as a teacher in Malawi and then as a university lecturer in Uganda. However due to the deteriorating situation in Uganda at the time he, and his wife decided to leave and ended up settling in England. Years later Theroux decided that he wanted to go back to Africa and visit some of these places to see what had changed, but to also simply escape and wander across the continent completely cut off from the modern world. The story of his journey, while not necessarily eye-opening, is interesting to say the least. The first theme that comes up regularly in the book is that of the modern tourist industry, an industry that Theroux really does not particularly like. In a way the industry is simply another form of entertainment where tourists go and see a sanitised version of the continent, whether it be to the ruins of Ancient Egypt, the big game parks of central and southern Africa, or the cheap coastal resorts. Okay, I must admit that I quite enjoy travelling myself, however I have also experienced this modern industry where travel agents do their best to book you into some of the most expensive hotels simply to jack up their commissions, and where you are shielded from the worst excesses of some of these countries. In places like Tanzania the tourist enters via a shiny new airport and is whisked away by minibus on sealed road to the game parks. What they do not see is the grinding poverty and the decaying infrastructure off of the main route. Decay is another thing that is repeated throughout the book. Africa in many cases is a land that is in decay, and in a way it is simply because the locals do not have the mindset that those of us in the developed west have. While we may be regularity repairing our homes and maintaining our roads, the Africans have never really done that in the past and the only reason much of this infrastructure was built was thanks to the European settlers. As the wave of independence spread across the continent many of the colonial governments were expelled to be replaced by governments consisting of the local people, people who had no experience in running a modern state and people who too easily succumb to corruption. While western countries may give aid to the government, or provide assistance with trade, much of this money never makes it to the community level and instead disappears as soon as it hits the minister's desk. Theroux seems to be very critical with regards to the aid industry, and while I am only going by his word, in a way I am not surprised. The question that is raised is why is it that many of these countries are still living in abject poverty despite all of this money and all of the agencies working here tirelessly for decades. Theroux suggests that a part of it is because aid is big business, and if these countries were lifted out of poverty then there would no longer be any work for them. Another suggestion is that these organisations don't educate the local population, but rather do everything for them. For instance they dig wells and the build schools, and then they leave, and while the community may have this brand spanking new building, they don't really know how to keep it in good condition, and as such it begins to decay. Another thing is that these countries are really cheap and this provides young aid workers an adventure that doesn't cost all that much. Thus they can sit in their resorts sipping margaritas by the pool, and then go out performing some project that in the end will do nothing for the community. I guess it all comes down to the old axiom – give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Don't get me wrong, I believe aid agencies do a lot of good for many of the communities that they help. Sure, Theroux suggested that these agencies love disasters because it brings them money in the form of donations, but famines are even better because while a natural disaster may occupy the minds of the western world for a couple of weeks, a famine can last a lot longer. It is with disasters that these agencies really begin to shine because many of these countries do not have the infrastructure, or even the resources, to be able to deal with the consequences of a disaster, which means that these agencies can get feet on the ground to supply food and medical aid quickly, which helps prevent the spread of diseases. While the disaster may have an immediately effect, if help does not come quickly, disease can quickly take hold and end up leaving a much, much greater death toll. Yet these is also the problem with the fact that if you simply give things to people then these people become to expect these gifts. Some may scoff at the idea that giving a beggar money only works to encourage them, but the sad truth is that in many cases it does. I have even heard stories that here in Australia backpackers will pose as beggars to top up their travelling allowance. Granted, there are people out there that are genuinely in dire straights – in particular the mentally ill that simply cannot take care of themselves. Rent increases are increasingly marginalising people and pushing them out onto the streets, and when somebody hits the street, it is very hard for them to turn their life back around. However there is some truth to the fact that simply by giving money to people doesn't necessarily help them, it simply rewards them for in effect doing nothing. This is also why I have concerns about giving houses to the homeless. Don't get me wrong, I believe that everybody should have a roof over their head, but then there are many of us who work really hard to maintain that roof over our head while others are misusing their funds and regularly getting bailed out by the government, and it is not just the undeserving poor, it is the corporate world as well. Anyway, I'll finish off there, though this is sounding like I have suddenly drifted far over to the right. This is not the case because not everybody has the skills or the ability to sell themselves that others have. However everybody should be entitled to receiving a far rewards for the work that they put in, but some people just find it really hard to find work. This is where I believe assistance needs to be provided, not by simply giving people money, but by providing meaningful work that pays a decent wage so that they might also participate in society – oh and also getting rid of the advertising industry that uses psychological manipulation to enslave the masses into a debt that they cannot ever pay back. Part one of my post can be found here. Part two of my post can be found here. Part three of my post can be found here.

  • W
    2019-05-21 20:21

    "Safari," in Swahili means "journey," and is Theroux’s reason for returning to Africa: to escape a life usurped by schedules, appointments, e-mails and cell phones. After 40 years, Paul Theroux returns to Africa where he began writing. At 60, no one has so conquered the genre like Theroux. But this return to Africa is more rumination than entertainment, and it is depressing. His first years in Africa—as Peace Corps volunteer and University teacher—saw a continent full of hope and promise. Today, the "dark star" has regressed back into the "Heart of Darkness." From Cairo to Cape Town, Theroux discovers Africa as another planet. He now sees Africa as a continent that might have been. He roils over things that do not now exist: roads, schools, government, security. All the aid and effort of all the colonials and do-gooders have failed; in fact, they have compounded the failure. You can read this grim assessment in any newspaper or library, but what lifts this tirade beyond rant is his personal experience and expectations he knew once in the heydays of independence for Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. His resentment of isolated humanitarian workers and backpacking college students riding around in shiny new Land Rovers, visiting game preserves and trekking companies, who presumptioulsy refuse him a lift, is his anger at this failure. This book is brilliant not because it uses the dissolution of Africa to portend the dissolution in Theroux’s turning 60, but because it is brilliant writing about a dear topic to a talent who is coincidently turning 60. The continental perspective is self-revelation. Africans call him "mzee," old man, a title of respect. He writes clearly, affectionately, depressingly, but always with clarity and perception--and with the understanding that he will not return again.

  • WarpDrive
    2019-06-19 21:14

    A reasonably well written and interesting book about Africa. There are very interesting bits about places rarely visited by Westerners (such as Sudan) that are surprising and vividly narrated by the author. Quite heartbreaking is the terrible condition in which many countries in Africa still find themselves in, and the author's cynicism is very understandable, considering the history and the realities which Africa must face. His insight into the impact of decades of foreign intervention in Africa (including the work done by International Aid organizations) is also pretty disheartening. So much has to change in Africa before real improvement can kick start.A honest book containing a cynical but sincere assessment of reality in this long suffering continent.

  • Tim
    2019-06-19 22:16

    Near the end of Paul Theroux's north-south journey across the African continent, from Cairo to Cape Town, he allows himself the luxury of a swanky South African train trip, a rare mode of transportation for this usually spartan traveler in this fascinating trek on board cattle trucks, minivans packed to the roof with Africans, rickety matutus, canoes and proper boats. During a train stop a child begs in a prayerful way. Theroux, from the train, can't bring himself to toss food to her. After the train starts, the girl flings stones through his window, just missing him. Such "What do you do?" moments in relation to charity are a big part of this journey for Theroux, who, as a white man, is descended upon by Africans of every age almost everywhere he goes. For the poor on the continent, begging is a way of life.On a bigger scale, attempts to help Africans help themselves through endless charity is counterproductive. Money goes in the pockets of corrupt politicians, aid is resold. Foreigners had been helping them so long that Africans lost interest and motivation.But there's much more to Theroux's travels than gripes about donor nations. And on this safari, it is people, not animals, Theroux seeks out. Thirty-five years after Theroux lived in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher, he returns in 2000 (or thereabouts) to find the continent worse off than he left it. He finds countries poor and dangerous, mean cities of little hope.Theroux's tale acquires more dark momentum the closer he gets to the equator. Starting out amid pyramids and Sudanese proving irresistible to European types ("We find Nubian banana"), he seeks people he knew from his Peace Corps days and ordinary strangers who have contempt for him because of the color of his skin or who want nothing more than to go to America; people trying to take advantage of him or treating him with real kindness. We do not love Theroux, but we cannot help but admire his courage in often taking the most difficult route possible and for his sharp way with words. His pace is leisurely; he doesn't have a schedule, and his family doesn't know where he is. He likes it.Theroux covers many aspects of African life: Waiting for a visa, waiting for transportation ("In a place where time seemed to matter so little, there existed a nihilism that was also a form of serenity and a survival skill."); ancient infrastructure, vehicles, buildings ("That's what happened in Africa; things fell apart."); dangerous types said to be around the bend ("'There are bad people there,'" the direst warning, heard time and time again); those trying to help, with varying degrees of real commitment ("Aid workers are the last to offer travelers assistance."); hopelessness of city life ("African cities became more awful — more desperate and dangerous — as they grew larger.")It's not all hopeless (the journey has its funny and uplifting moments), and not all of "Dark Star Safari" is concerned with black Africans — there are white Africans too, of course, and the horrors of the government-sanctioned seizure of white farmers' land in Zimbabwe (and the brutal murder of whites) and the frustrations of whites in the new South Africa who now live in a far more just society but find themselves on the outside looking in, are touched upon.Theroux likes all this, the grains of hope, the beauty of Africa, its contradictions and horrors: "I had fulfilled one of my fondest yearnings at the outset of my trip, for this was the territory I lit out for, and cruising down this empty river in a hollow log was pure Huck Finn pleasure."It's a pleasure for us, too, but an often disturbing one.

  • GeckoEcho
    2019-05-21 02:19

    Mayn! This flipping book was an endlessly patronizing, infinitely tedious rant from a burdened white man. Perhaps the most annoying travel book I read. Gah!Take 54 seats Paul Theroux. I'd recommend Dark Continent My Black Arse if you're looking for a Cape to Cairo travelogue. Infinitely better.Edit: Thisarticle? This article right here is The Truth. While the review is about The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari, it might as well have been reviewing this book. Excerpts"As Theroux-watchers will know, his sub-Saharan travelogues read as if he had taken Binyavanga Wainaina’s sarcastic instructions on “How to Write About Africa” literally. He is, as the sharp-eyed blog Africa Is a Country remarks, “so reliable that way”. He mints generalisations and insults at such a clip that they soon begin to outstrip even the most gifted parodist..."The rhetoric is so offensive and plain bizarre to anyone making her or his life in “Africa” that I had no option but to pretend that we were in a different genre, to keep imagining the book as a comic novel with a deliberately unlikeable narrator.Bankrupt in more ways than one, then, this is a book I would recommend only as a teaching aid or to someone interested in tracking the final sub-Conradian wreckage of a genre, rusting away like the hulks of tanks that so fascinate the narrator along the roads in Angola. It is imbued not just with the narrator’s old age but the senescence of an entire genre..."---And there you have it. Don't waste your money on this book.

  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    2019-06-08 20:11

    Funny. I had a Paul Theroux on my shelf for years, untouched, and finally decided to take it with me to the Chicago Book Festival last summer where I released it. Theroux was speaking so I thought it would be cool to release one of his books just outside the tent where he was speaking. I left the book next to one of the tent stakes and went inside to hear him talk. He was a fabulous storyteller and I immediately regretted that I had given away his book. I went out to try to retrieve the book, but it had already found its way into the hands of a couple who loved the whole BookCrossing idea. Never did journal the book, but I definitely knew the book had a good home. And I've been itching to read Theroux ever since I heard him speak. I vow not to let this book go before I've given it a thorough reading. Later:I've been reading this book in bits and pieces for a couple of weeks. What a great safari it has been. Theroux has guided me through Egypt and Sudan, Kenya and Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. His adventures and misadventures have led me to conclude that I will never visit Africa outside the pages of a book. A wonderful, awful trip to a wonderful, awful place.

  • Arvind
    2019-05-28 22:05

    3.5/5 "Pessimistic Globetrotter wins d Nobel"On reading this headline during this trip, Theroux's hopes went up that maybe he had hit d jackpot. He did not, Naipaul did :)The word "pessimistic" is a little too harsh on Theroux but he is blunt, has a caustic wit at times, but like Naipaul he is observant and has empathy and hence is readable.The dust, antiquity and fundamentalism of Egypt, the complete anarchy and poverty in war-struck Sudan, Kenya, the utter despair of Malawi, Mozambique and the games missionaries and charities play in them, the politics of Zimbabwe, South Africa - all these have been very well depicted. This was my 3rd travelogue by him and will go for a ride again with d author.

  • Vilija Pauliukonis
    2019-06-21 01:10

    What an arrogant, hypocritical dick! One picks up this book hoping for an armchair traveling voyage through East Africa. What one gets is a self-righteous White Man who describes himself as grizzled and wise at the ripe age of 70-something, pointing out numerous times that many Africans guess he's in his 40s because they are so unused to seeing old men. He paints himself as impervious to the dangers of Africa because he's Been There Before, and can speak to natives in their own language. He sneers at rich, white tourists, even though he is a "famous author" who can afford to spend months traveling the slow route through several African countries. While he mocks white tourists who don't see the "real" Africa because they travel through airports, he stays in the best hotels he can find. He name drops Conrad and Dickens to sound Important without contextualizing or explaining the significance of these works to the reader.I hoped he would detail the cultures, people, and history of ancient lands that are now Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, and other nations, but he is a lazy traveler who allows his nations to blend together so blurrily that I found myself labeling the chapters by the country he was in, since there were few clues except borders that indicated he's actually moved. Either he's not very skilled at researching beyond the British classics he name-drops, or else all Africans are one and the same to him. And he calls other tourists lazy??But the worst part of all is his scorn for charities and Christians. He addresses the valid fears that aid societies are teaching Africans learned helplessness, but he offers no hope. This kind of despair is more fitting for a socio-economic work, not an armchair traveling memoir. Whatever. What is profoundly more damaging is his dismissiveness of charities in general, acknowledging only once that aid workers do good. He mocks Christians for their beliefs and evangelizing without explaining why Christian teachings are harmful for Africans. He seems to mock the belief system merely because he disagrees with it. Talk about arrogance! As for hypocrisy, he vaguely refers to his own history as a teacher in Africa, working for the Peace Corps (gasp! he worked for a charity?!), without discussing his apparent switch from pro-aid to anti-aid. And, as he is going to celebrate a birthday on his trip, he contacts several people in former areas in which he taught about appearing on a sort of comeback tour to lecture at schools. Lecture about what? He doesn't say. And it doesn't happen. Meanwhile, he verbally abuses a "Christ-bitten nag" for her charity efforts to help turn women from prostitution, and to help provide shelter for children. She tell him she will pray for his health and happiness. He tells her he will pray that reads some real history books. What a jerk.

  • Florence
    2019-06-18 20:08

    I like to experience travel with a little grit and Paul Theroux certainly is of like mind. While traveling from Cairo to Cape Town, crossing the African continent from north to south, he suffers discomfort, uncertainty, hostility, and life threatening situations. There is no public transportation through many of the countries he traversed. He hitched rides in rickety overloaded trucks and buses traveling on roads strewn with potholes and boulders. He freely expresses his disdain for aid organizations, self righteous missionaries, and he laments the downtrodden condition of his former home and school in Malawi. Mr. Theroux's prose is so detailed and vibrant that I feel like I made the journey with him.

  • Jeanette
    2019-06-03 01:28

    Curmudgeonly cogitator creeps curiously from Cairo to Cape Town. Crazy old coot! Travel writer + several months of free time = Egypt--->Sudan--->Ethiopia--->Kenya--->Uganda--->Tanzania--->Malawi--->Mozambique--->Zimbabwe--->South Africa--->Mozambique--->South AfricaRearrange the letters in "Paul Theroux" and you get "Heat Up, Luxor!"I feel it's my duty to point these things out. Make of them what you will.

  • Ryan
    2019-06-11 02:02

    In Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux travels from Cairo to Capetown over land. His journey takes him through Egypt, the Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. As much as Hans Rosling (of fame) urges his audience to see these countries as unique, I suspect that for many readers these countries are all just parts of a hazy mental map titled "Somewhere in Africa." On the legend might be the following notes:Blood Diamond was a good movie set in Africa.Nelson Mandela is from Africa and his story was made into a movie, too. Was it "The Green Mile to Freedom?"AIDSOh -- KONY 2012!Bono, Matt Damon, and George Clooney are doing something for ... some people in Africa.There are terrible events so ubiquitous that they don't even make the news anymore.I'm as guilty of this ignorance, more or less, as anyone else. And one thought I had when I bought this book was that it might allow me to come up with more specific notions about life in countries that are in Africa, as opposed to more general impressions about the massive continent.I may not have been right on that one. I was surprised by how many vague associations either showed up or else repeatedly showed up during Theroux's travelogue. Theroux meets corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, he meets people that have political views that are hardly sympathetic to the United States in a post-September 11th 2001 world, and he is shot at by bandits while riding through the desert (his seat was on the roof of the truck). Even the Lord's Resistance Army (KONY 2012) is mentioned. He constantly meets people that live in poverty and who demand charity. I'd be lying if I said Dark Star Safari inspired me to travel to Africa, and I actually found myself wondering while reading whether I would walk away from this book with more generalizations or if I would walk away from it with a more sophisticated view.There's probably a good case to be made that Dark Star has a negative or pessimistic (insufficient positive thinking!) outlook. In fact, I would not be surprised to encounter some readers of Dark Star Safari who would like to dismiss the book entirely. Theroux is not very charitable with the charity workers he encounters, though I will admit that I was also surprised by the way they treated fellow travelers, even travelers in danger of being stranded in a desert full of bandits. He meets and is disgusted by missionaries who offer help to the desperate on the condition that they accept Jesus as their personal savior. He also reads Conrad's Heart of Darkness twelve times during the trip, which is not a very sunny novel. Every country seems to be introduced from the perspective of a famous westerner (Rimbaud, Mr. Livingston I presume, Mr. Kurtz...). Even the title "Dark Star Safari" is meant to suggest that for Theroux, Africa is a dangerous wilderness that he will use to escape the center (the West).In spite of these concerns, I still felt that it would be unfair to simply dismiss Theroux's account. Many of his impressions of Africa are informed by his time in the Peacecorps. He had taught in Malawi and Uganda thirty five years prior, so when he sees ubiquitous charities that have taken on the responsibilities of the government and concludes that both countries have deteriorated since he was last there, his disappointment struck me as moving (even if I do think one part of being old is to look back on the past with rose-colored glasses).And to be fair, as often as Theroux expresses disappointment in the things he finds, he is happy to write about the positive things he encounters. He does meet aid workers and nuns that he finds sincere, and sometimes even charming, in their attempt to light a candle in the "darkness" rather than to add another chapter to the story of their lives.It would be naive to read Dark Star Safari and expect to walk away from it an expert on the eastern coast of Africa. However, the next time I read a book about Zimbabwe, for example, I will likely find myself thinking of this travelogue while reading it. The next time someone tells me that they know how to "fix" Africa, I will think of this book. I suppose I remain more or less as ignorant as I was when I first read the book, but I have a bit more context to rely on the next time someone mentions "Africa" than I did when I started.And for what it's worth, I do intend to read more of Theroux's travelogues. I found him snarky and egotistical, and I would not want him to visit my country. But I also found him honest, thought provoking, and bold.

  • Seth
    2019-05-22 21:06

    Paul Theroux does not admire foreign aid workers or the work they do. The first 200 pages of Dark Star Safari contain several accounts of rude, obnoxious, self-important aid workers, often depicted as roaring through blighted communities in expensive Land Rovers, refusing to give rides. Two aid workers tell him they are on their way to “supervise a wet-feeding,” an outreach effort that Theroux characterizes as “going to a village to dump [corn-soy blend] in a trough for people to eat.” He gets into it with those two after telling them that supervising a wet-feeding “sounds like something you’d do in a game park…to help the hippos make it through the season.” He portrays various aid organizations, World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam, Project Hope, and many others as thriving and competing in a self-interested fashion fueled by the desperate situation in parts of Africa. “Large-scale famines,” he says, ” are welcomed as a ‘growth opportunity’ and the advertising to stimulate donations to charities is little more than ‘hunger porn.'”Paul Theroux was a Peace Corps volunteer, and he taught for four years at a school in Uganda. He returned to these places while taking notes for Dark Star Safari. Things are not better, he found. The situation was worse, and yet the aid workers continued to harp on the same things:The whites, teachers, diplomats, and agents of virtue [his euphemism for aid workers] I met at dinner parties had pretty much the same things on their minds as their counterparts had in the 1960s. They dicussed relief projects and scholarships and africulteral schemes, refugee camps, emergency food programs, technical assistance. They were newcomers. They did not realize that for forty years people had been saying the same things, and the result after four decades was a lower standard of living, a higher rate of illiteracy, overpopulation, and much more disease.Foreigners working for development agencies did not stay long, so they never discovered the full extent of their failure. Africans saw them come and go, which is why Africans were so fatalistic. Maybe no answer, as my friend said with a rueful smile.I experienced the same frustration while in Tonga, especially when I considered how long the Peace Corps had been in the country. But - to respond to Theroux's cynicism - I don't measure my impact on Tonga or on Tongan society, but the difference I made on one island, in four villages, in the lives of a few dozen people. One of the reasons we were effective is precisely because we did not have a Land Rover. Or running water, or all the food and money we needed, or other foreigners to chum around with away from the locals. These circumstances made us hugely dependent on the charity and good will of the locals even as we were trying to help them. We were the ones – my wife and I – asking for boat rides and hoping for free food. We also needed their community, because we were the only foreigners on the island. We were there long enough to see some of our efforts fail, and long enough to begin to understand which of our projects were even worth the effort.Speaking of Paul Theroux and of Tonga, he has been banished from that country. Two chapters of his book The Happy Isles of Oceania are about Tonga. His interview with the ridiculous and now deceased King Taufahau Tupou IV so embarrassed the king, Paul Theroux supposedly can never return to Tonga, though I doubt that grieves him greatly.

  • Marc
    2019-06-11 04:10

    Renowned travel writer, Paul Theroux's, account of a solitary journey from Cairo to Cape Town in 2001. If you do not appreciate nostalgic, and often quite opinionated ramblings, then give the book a skip. You may enjoy a glossy safari lodge brochure better. I enjoyed his narrative because of its individualistic tone and Theroux's often contentious rantings against foreign aid workers and African governments' inability to put their people first.His nostalgia is quite evident when he writes about Malawi and Uganda where he was a Peace Corp worker and university lecturer respectively in the 1960's. A nostalgia that quickly descends into melancholy when he realises that all the good intentions of 35 years earlier have left very little evidence of progress, and in fact the situation had regressed in many cases. In his opinion. Which is what seems to rile some reviewers of his book. They find it almost offensive that he has the audacity to take NGOs and aid workers to task for what he perceives as their self serving attitude and naive blundering in the countries they profess to assist. I wonder how many of them have actually lived in Africa - and I don't mean a 2 week stint at a luxury safari lodge. As one reviewer put it, Chinua Achebe has criticised Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' for its perceived racism. Does that mean that it is a less important book despite being filled with powerful and universal analogies. I don't think so.Glimpses of a whimsical soulfulness and his honest quest for understanding shine through occasionally. There are moments on his journey when you want to salute the 60 year old for having the guts to venture into the unknown, often at some risk to himself, in order to experience seldom visited parts of Africa. Getting shot at during a border crossing, taking passage on an ancient mercantile ship across one of the big lakes and moving from one country to another, in a dugout on a jungle river, does not smack of your average sextarian. He shows a sincere interest in the views and perspectives of the local denizens, while at the same time not succumbing to condescending cowardice by not challenging some entrenched local views and customs. Theroux's Africa is one of people, not the Big Five perfectly framed for the photo album.It would be easy to write Theroux off as a grumpy curmudgeon who is merely frustrated at the fact that his particular vision of progress in Africa has not come to fruition. That, however, would be a very simplistic and ignorant reading of his entertaining book. Sure, he sometimes takes liberties with historical fact and his last 100 pages on South Africa came across as sycophantic with regards to his well known friends and one dimensional with regards to a complex country. A small distraction in an otherwise thoroughly entertaining book. A must read for 'real' adventure travellers.

  • Chantal
    2019-06-01 22:30

    I got this mainly because:1. Paul Theroux is Louis Theroux's father and I like Louis Theroux.2. It was a Kindle bargain.And No.3 (maybe ought to have mentioned this first) I have a bit of a fascination with that vast continent that can be glimpsed from my terrace.Bearing in mind this is a good 10 years out of date I thought it was nevertheless a good way of seeing the real Africa as PT tends to go off the beaten track and retains a dry scorn for the touristy-type tours which in his opinion miss out on the real life of Africa.He also tells it in a "warts an all" style which I prefer, certainly with travel writing; I may go to those places one day and don't need a glossed over fairy-tale version of a country, thanks.I liked the fact that it's packed with literary allusions, historical facts and interesting anecdotes from previous famous travellers in Africa.But.Some of his comments made me a bit uncomfortable: while he has an attachment to Africa, particularly Uganda where he lived and worked for many years, he still manages to give the impression at times of regarding the continent and its people as "other". This includes good friends he has known and worked with for years. But no one really avoids his critical eye, certain types of well-meaning but deluded western tourists and aid-workers incur his wrath too.He also describes in great detail solicitation from prostitutes, scrutinises their appearance and mentions how persistent they are (here's a clue PT -they need the money) then emphasises his willpower in resisting while he goes off to continue writing his ongoing erotic story - always after overtures from prostitutes...slightly TMI.To sum up: a good and detailed (if slightly out of date) travel account by a seasoned traveller who recounts both the good and the bad in his unquestionably informed opinion. Would probably read another of his.

  • Don Becher
    2019-05-25 21:27

    Well either the entire continent is headed to hell in a hand basket, or Paul Theroux is one of the bigger pessimists I know. His theme seems to be in part that Europeans kept the place up and when it was handed over to those of African lineage corruption and incompetence took over. He heaps great blame on the NGO programs in Sub-Saharan countries-- essentially articulating that they have removed from citizens of many Africans nations any incentive to fend for themselves. He also has no respect for employees of NGOs, missionaries and most governmental officials. While lamenting big game hunting he heaps scorn upon tourism based on game park non-lethal tourists, while himself visiting a game park for just such a reason. Disses tourists on Nile cruises, while himself being one. Scorns those who travel by air who don see the real Africa while denigrating young folk attempting to navigate their way through the back-country on that back of a truck managed by some entrepreneurs who attempt to cater to this sort of travel. Not really sure what to think of him.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-05-22 23:29

    BBC7 Monday 17thWilliam Roberts reads Paul Theroux's book on Africa* upped to 3* just beause I am having THAT Friday feeling.

  • John
    2019-06-08 20:06

    Enjoyed it as much as the first time through. I would love to be the traveler Theroux is.

  • Nancy
    2019-05-24 00:25

    Although Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar is one of my all-time favorite books, I stopped reading him when he fell into what seemed to me to be an interminable bad mood--somewhat ironically, along about Happy Isles of Oceania, I think, in 1993, so it’s been quite a while since I picked up a Theroux travel narrative. But a friend recommended his Dark Star Safari (Houghton, 2004), and, ever trusting (and, as always, looking for a good book to read), I tried it, and was immediately hooked. It begins, “All news out of Africa is bad. It made me want to go there, though not for the horror, the hot spots, the massacre-and-earthquake stories you read in the newspaper; I wanted the pleasure of being in Africa again.” I’m a sucker for an opening line like that. There are sentences on every page of this engrossing book that you just want to write down and share with others. Theroux seems to have recovered his emotional equilibrium and shed most of his grumpiness and petulance; all of his talent for discovering the unusual in the ordinary people he meets and places he visits is in evidenced on every page of this tale of his trip overland from Cairo to Cape Town. Here’s another wonderful line, also from the first chapter: I … was heading south, in my usual traveling mood: hoping for the picturesque, expecting misery, braced for the appalling. Happiness was unthinkable, for although happiness is desirable, it is a banal subject for travel. Therefore, Africa seemed perfect for a long journey. Along the way, he celebrates his 60th birthday, revisits Uganda (where he once taught at Makerere University), and offers his opinion (not high) on the efficacy of foreign aid. He travels by nearly every sort of conveyance you can imagine: a variety of trucks, a ferry, train, bus, and dugout canoe (a particularly fascinating section) and talks to a diverse group of people from all walks of life, both Africans and others, such as missionaries, tourists and aid workers from Western countries, which gives him (and us) a well-rounded portrait of a continent struggling to find itself. Incidentally, there’s a very funny joke on page 123 of the paperback edition.

  • João
    2019-05-27 03:02

    Theroux embarca no desafio pessoal de viajar do Cairo à Cidade do Cabo por via terrestre, não tanto por vontade de visitar os lugares turísticos que vai encontrando pelo caminho, mas sobretudo pelo desejo de se isolar do burburinho do mundo civilizado ocidental. Embora tenha conseguido atingir o seu objectivo (obviamente!), a sua jornada não é fácil, tanto a nível físico como emocional. A burocracia para obtenção de vistos é imprevisível, cruzar fronteiras terrestres é um pesadelo (mas quem quer visitar a África profunda deve visitar os postos fronteiriços, aconselha o autor), as infraestruturas de transporte, quase todas construídas pelos antigos colonos britânicos, alemães, portugueses e holandeses, estão degradadas ou destruídas, as estradas do interior são acossadas por ladrões armados, sem que se saiba se os piores são os polícias, os soldados ou os bandidos. Paul Theroux, que tinha vivido e trabalho no Malawi e no Quénia nos anos 1970, fica indignado com a África que encontra passados 30 anos, onde a pobreza e o crime se generalizaram, arrasada por sucessivas guerras e por má gestão, desleixo e falta de ambição, mas não hesita em apontar culpados: os políticos e governantes africanos, gananciosos e corruptos, que precisam de manter o seu povo miserável para conseguirem auxílio humanitário dos países ricos e das ONG, auxílio que embolsam em seu favor e dos seus comparsas. Implacável nos seus julgamentos, por vezes quase misantropo, Theroux delicia-se apenas com os momentos em que está sozinho, longe de tudo, no meio do nada, sentindo o calor quente do deserto ou a chuva tropical no rosto, observando um céu estrelado ou os relâmpagos longínquos de uma tempestade, ou mesmo saboreando uma sopa de galinha à entrada de uma palhota de lama. Tudo o resto está destruído, ou não presta, ou é mau ou ignorante! Os turistas, que chegam protegidos pelo ar condicionado dos grandes autocarros, e saem apenas por uns minutos para tirar meia dúzia de fotos e ouvir umas patranhas pseudo-turísticas ditas por uns guias pseudo-informados-historicamente, são alvo do seu desdém. Este não é um homem que procure confortos e que se iniba de viajar em camionetas e comboios atafulhadas de gente, galinhas e sacos, a cair de podres, por estradas lamacentas, nem no tejadilho de camiões de transporte de animais onde é alvo dos tiros dos bandoleiros da estrada que mais que o seu dinheiro ou a sua morte, lhe cobiçam os sapatos.Uma viagem aventureira e romântica, o primeiro livro de Paul Theroux que li e que, sendo eu viciado em viagens, me deu enorme vontade de ir a correr comprar O Grande Bazar Ferroviário, O Velho Expresso da Patagónia ou A Arte da Viagem!

  • Lisa
    2019-06-11 21:31

    Paul Theroux is aggravating at times. He is holier than thou, than I and than all the rest of us, so there is no other expat worthy of being in the developing world except for someone like him. This is the flaw in some of his books. But what is enjoyable about this book is how much he enjoys the adventure and the simple act of getting from one place to another in places where doing that is never easy or comfortable, and he chooses the uncomfortable routes and modes of travel.I read this as I traveled in parts of east and central Africa and many of his anecdotes seemed to be happening to him shortly before they'd happen to me. It is a good read.OKAY - HUGE DISCLAIMER TO LAST NOTE. I had lost the book in the airport when I was on about page 300 and have since found another used copy of the book and finished and the book really got better just after that point. Why - because all of Mr. Theroux's dreams and hopes of coming back to Africa years later after his wonderful Peace Corps experience as a young man turned out to be an entry into the land of disenchantment. He realizes that even in Malawai where he had lived so many years ago he saw no signs of improvement after all these years of independence and feeding development money into the country, and he seemed to find little hope. Indian shopowners were driven out of many parts of the country, essentially because these people were seen as having more than the locals. So, did some local then take over the ubsiness? No. In most cases what was destroyed remains empty and nothing has replaced it. So now no one is there to sell people needed goods in the store. Theroux's frustration comes to a head when he discusses this pheonmenon with a local Malawian: "And we are not cut out for this shopkeeping and bookkeeping and' - the former ambassador winked at me - 'number crunching.' I had never heard such blullshit...The man was saying: This is all too much for us. We cannot learn how to do business. We must be given money, we must be given sinecures, becuase we don't know how to make a profit."His frustration continues in Malawai where he meets squatters and invaders of a white famrer's property who now tell him in all seriouslness that the property owner needs to help them plow the land, give them seeds to plant. Now I say "this books i a must read for Westerners traveling to Africa for the first time."

  • C.R. Miller
    2019-06-01 04:18

    His writing about Egypt and Sudan, including the cultural and historical reflections, I found fascinating. I found the section on Ethiopia useful, if a bit superficial. Theroux really hits his stride, though, when he gets into Kenya and Malawi, where he is able to draw comparisons between the places and peoples he knew from living and teaching there back in the 1960s and those of current-day Africa. His mounting critique of foreign aid and associated NGOs as he travels south is indispensable. At first I only had minor quibbles (nothing that would have caused me to consider anything other than a five rating): referring to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as "Copts;" referring too often to an "erotic story" he was writing while traveling, without sharing more than a tiny snippet of it in this text, and his tedious over-use of the seemingly meaningless words "African" and Africans" in a way that suggested that he simply meant "black" or "blacks" but avoided those terms by using even less specific ones.In the end there were two big distractors, FIrst was his not unfamiliar penchant for flaunting his superiority (mocking NGO workers, regular tourists, and safari-goers for their habits and behaviors). Although he has a point, the fact that he isn't above helicopter rides, visits to exclusive game resorts, a gourmet meal at a luxury estate washed down by several glasses of sauvignon blanc, or drinking champagne in his private, high-end train compartment completely undermines it. He ought to admit in a more forthright way that he's a rich writer, but plays a budget traveler in this book. The other (and I'm going out on a limb here, but this is my essential reading of the book) is that the whole effort would have been more interesting and successful had he just admitted that the trip and the book revolved around his turning sixty, and all the psychological and physical issues that come with that. Those issues aside, the writing is rich, detailed, and full of substantial reflections on history and politics. Highly Recommended.

  • Glenn
    2019-06-11 22:18

    A great book which is entertaining, informative, and thoughtful. My travel book reading has been limited to Rick Steeves and Bill Bryson - Paul Theroux is a refreshing step toward the serious end of the spectrum, while still relying on a healthy dose of humor.Theroux present himself as an intrepid traveler who is willing to brave any hardship for a story. Once he gets through Ethiopia, though, more of his personal story is revealed and I found the trip through eastern Africa to be much more remarkable because Theroux spent some time in Malawi and Uganda while in the Peace Corps. Relationships from this previous life allowed him to drop in on the Prime Minister of Rwanda and other influential characters at the time of his trip. Here he also becomes somewhat more philosophical - his cynicism of foreign aid erupts as he skewers one NGO after another for poorly planned and/or executed projects. At times I found the diatribe a little discouraging, but generally heartening as a reminder that all work has an element of unknown, but should also have a healthy dose of planning on context.I did find the sections which overlapped with my first trip to Africa to be particularly meaningful, so I admit having read it with that bias. Throughout his account, Theroux produces witty and useful anecdotes and analyses of culture and politics in Africa.

  • Hank
    2019-06-05 23:15

    Legendary travel writer Paul Theroux hit a home run with this book, published about ten years ago. His adventures in east Africa, traveling mostly in rickety, dangerous vehicles and meeting native peoples from Egypt and Sudan to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and down into Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, will keep you spell-bound. I found Theroux's discussions about the impact of western aid programs and of fundamentalist Christian evangelizing in Africa to be both accurate and thoughtful. His main theme - that Africa's people are resilient but the continent's governments are awful - is indisputable and is presented with verve. I came away from the book wanting to take a trip to Africa myself, dangers and all, though a bit pessimistic that the continent's problems will ever be solved as long as we turn a blind eye here in the developed world to the causes. This is the first Theroux book I have read. I have already started the next. His writing is excellent and you will enjoy taking the trip with him.