The dean of travel writers recoils from southern Africa’s heart of darkness in this disillusioned, heartsick travelogue. Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar; etc.) recounts his back-roads trip from Cape Town to Angola, a valedictory for happier African sojourns. There are fascinating vignettes of a fallen Eden: hunter-gatherer folkways of San Bushmen enchant him with their primeval authenticity—until he realizes they are just pantomimes for tourists; at a luxury safari camp an elephant takes its revenge for exploitation. But the main action is Theroux’s gradual descent into the urban inferno. By bus and crowded cab he gravitates from the relative cleanliness and order of Namibia into Angola, a hell-hole devoid of wildlife, littered with burnt-out tanks, where sleek kleptocrats lord the oil wealth over desperate, grasping beggars. The lowest circle of the “unfixable blight” of African cities is Luanda, “joyless...hot and chaotic, inhospitable and expensive, grotesque and poor,” a “vibration of doomsday” where children’s laughter sounds “insane and chattering and agonic… an amplified death rattle.” Theroux’s prose is as vividly descriptive and atmospheric as ever and, though a bit curmudgeonly, he’s still wide open to raw, painful interactions between his psyche and his surroundings. (May 7)
Reviewed on: 02/25/2013 Release date: 05/07/2013 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.