Adventures in Africa

Gianni Celati, Author, Adria Bernardi, Translator, Rebecca West, Foreword by University of Chicago Press $22 (170p) ISBN 978-0-226-09955-2
In 1997, famed Italian author and essayist Celati accompanied his friend, filmmaker Jean Talon, on a journey to West Africa that took them from Mali to Senegal and Mauritania. The original purpose of their journey, to do research for a documentary on the methods of Dogon healers, soon became of ancillary importance. As Celati's diary-turned-book relates, the two white Europeans became lost and spent much of their trip wandering about unmoored. But more than a comedy of errors, Celati's book recounts the travails of a writer whose encounter with the unknown, the ""other,"" clarifies his understanding of himself and allows him to regain a ""state of self-forgetfulness"" from which, Celati believes, the best writing emanates. Celati is no stranger to literary adventure. In Italy, he is best known as an experimental writer, unafraid to venture into uncharted territory. But while the author is certainly experimenting, this book is still a record of actual events, places and people; it provides an unusual portrait of West African countries. Instead of following a linear plot, the narrative bounces on the melodies of Celati's keen insights. (Most amusing are his reflections on tourists, whom he portrays as a bona fide ethnic group, thoroughly a part of Africa's cultural and economic landscape.) Out of his encounter with the ""other"" is born Celati's concept of ""nothing""--the unconscious goal toward which his ostensibly reckless plot is moving. But only upon his return to orderly Paris does he fully elucidate its meaning. Celati's writing exposes the age-old power of travel to induce shedding the self and one's preconceptions. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/06/2000
Release date: 11/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
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