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AFRICA

DARK STAR SAFARI:
Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

Author: Paul Theroux

In the travel-writing tradition that made Paul Theroux's reputation, Dark Star Safari is a rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa. Going by train, dugout canoe, "chicken bus," and cattle truck, he passes through some of the most beautiful — and often life-threatening — landscapes on earth.

This is travel as discovery and also, in part, a sentimental journey. Almost forty years ago, Theroux first went to Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in the Malawi bush. Now he stops at his old school, sees former students, revisits his African friends. He finds astonishing, devastating changes wherever he goes. "Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it," he writes, "hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you can't tell the politicians from the witch doctors. Not that Africa is one place. It is an assortment of motley republics and seedy chiefdoms. I got sick, I got stranded, but I was never bored. In fact, my trip was a delight and a revelation."

Seeing firsthand what is happening across Africa, Theroux is curious and wittily observant, and his readers will find themselves on an epic and enlightening journey.

First published in 2003.

From Publishers Weekly
"You'll have a terrible time," one diplomat tells Theroux upon discovering the prolific writer's plans to hitch a ride hundreds of miles along a desolate road to Nairobi instead of taking a plane. "You'll have some great stuff for your book." That seems to be the strategy for Theroux's extended "experience of vanishing" into the African continent, where disparate incidents reveal Theroux as well as the people he meets. At times, he goes out of his way to satisfy some perverse curmudgeonly desire to pick theological disputes with Christian missionaries. But his encounters with the natives, aid workers and occasional tourists make for rollicking entertainment, even as they offer a sobering look at the social and political chaos in which much of Africa finds itself. Theroux occasionally strays into theorizing about the underlying causes for the conditions he finds, but his cogent insights are well integrated. He doesn't shy away from the literary aspects of his tale, either, frequently invoking Conrad and Rimbaud, and dropping in at the homes of Naguib Mahfouz and Nadine Gordimer at the beginning and end of his trip. He also returns to many of the places where he lived and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher in the 1960s, locations that have cropped up in earlier novels. These visits fuel the book's ongoing obsession with his approaching 60th birthday and his insistence that he isn't old yet. As a travel guide, Theroux can both rankle and beguile, but after reading this marvelous report, readers will probably agree with the priest who observes, "Wonderful people. Terrible government. The African story."
© 2002 Cahners Business Information

$15.00 (softcover)

Other titles by Paul Theroux:

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World Heritage Sites
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The Sahara
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General
Ethopia
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Tanzania
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Cameroon
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Democratic Republic of the Congo
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Burundi
Sao Tome e Principe
NORTH
General
Algeria
Egypt
Libya
Morocco
Tunisia
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South Africa
Botswana
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General
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Mali
Nigeria
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