Death in the Sahara: The Lords of the Desert and the Timbuktu Railway Expedition Massacre

Michael Asher, Author, Dean King, Foreword by
Michael Asher, Author, Dean King, Foreword by , foreword by Dean King. Skyhorse $24.95 (286p) ISBN 978-1-60239-630-2
Reviewed on: 03/31/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-1-61608-594-0
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In 1880, the French government sent 100 men into the unexplored Sahara to scout the path for a possible railway from the coast. Here, Asher depicts a grim saga of treachery, endurance and slaughter along the way. In the desert, the expedition ran afoul of Tuareg tribes, warlike nomads who had resisted outsiders for a thousand years. Betrayed and attacked, the surviving soldiers made a grueling four-month trek back to the coast; only a dozen survived, some by eating their companions. As a veteran explorer of the Sahara, Asher offers intense descriptions of desert customs and landscapes, so much so that at times the actual narrative of the expedition fades in comparison. No Frenchman survived to write his memoirs (only Arab soldiers attached to the expedition), and the lack of primary source material makes Asher’s task unenviable. Far too many times, he attempts to enliven the story by explaining what the soldiers thought and felt, even as they are being killed. Despite these shortcomings, his telling remains a fascinating saga of a brutal desert world suspended somewhere between the medieval and the modern. (May)

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