Synopses & Reviews
In the travel-writing tradition that made Paul Therouxs 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, Theroux 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 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 cant 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 as obsessively curious and wittily observant as always, and his readers will find themselves on an epic and enlightening journey. Dark Star Safari is one of his bravest and best books.
"No mere tale of travel mishaps....Safari is Swahili for journey, and Theroux's is truly fantastic." Library Journal Starred
"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." Publishers Weekly
"Engagingly written, sharply observed; another winner from Theroux." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"Readers of Theroux know that on the road he is cranky. This gives his travel books their seasoning. Here he's especially vexed by those he calls 'the agents of virtue': aid workers mostly, white people usually....Next to agents of virtue, he disdains tourists....This disdain is as facile as it is tiresome...." Harper's
"A genius of the witty insult...Theroux regales us with the humor of ill humor, maintaining a tricky balance of crankiness, curiosity and charm....Dark Star Safari howls with rage at the forgetting that lies beyond neglect, but the real specter haunting this book is old age. The author turns 60 during his trip, and to say he's tetchy about it is a wild understatement....In Dark Star Safari, Theroux reports his first trip into the last leg of life's voyage, and sends back a brooding and apocalyptic report." New York Times Book Review
"Engagingly written, sharply observed: another winner from Theroux." Kirkus
In his first new travel book in eight years, the endearingly irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. He endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances with characteristic crankiness; however, "the more difficult Theroux's travel, the more he seems to enjoy himself "(Columbus Dispatch). Theroux's journey in "Dark Star Safari is in many ways a labor of love: in the 1960s, Theroux worked as a teacher and Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda and Malawi, and his trip back to this beloved continent coincides with his sixtieth birthday. Gauging the current 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 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.
About the Author
Paul Theroux was born and raised in Medford, Massachusetts, where he attended public schools (and was a classmate of Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City; both were Eagle Scouts). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a science major and intended to pursue a career in medicine, but his desire to travel and his passion to write derailed plans for a future Dr. Theroux.
Before Theroux became a professional writer he taught in various countries. His first joband his best as a salaried employeewas as a lecturer in English at the University of Urbino in Italy. The university was housed in a duke's palace, and all of his students were young Italian women. This was in the summer of 1963. Six months later he was a Peace Corps teacher at a school in central Africa and was living in the bush. In 1965 Theroux was "terminated early" from the Peace Corps in Malawi for "engaging in politics." In reality, what he did was drive a friend's car from Malawi to Ugandaunfortunately, that friend had been forced to leave the country for siding with the opposition. For the next four years Theroux was a lecturer in English at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, where he met and married his first wife. In 1968 he moved to Singapore and joined the English Department at the University of Singapore.
In 1967 Theroux's first novel, Waldo, was published. Late in 1971 he gave up teaching to write full time and moved to England, where he lived off and on for the next seventeen years.
Theroux virtually reinvented the genre of travel writing, beginning with The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, published in 1975 by Houghton Mifflin. Since then he has dazzled critics and readers alike with books about his trips through China (Riding the Iron Rooster, Sailing Through China), Great Britain (The Kingdom by the Sea), India (The Imperial Way), Latin America (The Old Patagonian Express), the Pacific islands (The Happy Isles of Oceania), and the Mediterranean (The Pillars of Hercules).
In addition to his fourteen works of nonfiction and criticism, Theroux is the author of twenty-four novels, including Hotel Honolulu, Kowloon Tong, My Other Life, and Millroy the Magician. His novels Saint Jack, The Mosquito Coast, and Half Moon Street have been made into successful feature films, and he has won the prestigious Whitbread Prize for Picture Palace and the James Tait Black Award for The Mosquito Coast.
During his travels in the Pacific, Theroux came to love Hawaii. He is now married to a Hawaiian woman and they live in the woods on the North Shore of Oahu, among many birds and geese and bees, which form his apiaryTheroux is also a beekeeper. He spends summers on Cape Cod, not far from where he grew up.
Theroux is the father of four boys and is currently working on a book of fiction, entitled The Stranger at the Palazzo d'Oro, which will be published in early 2004.
Table of Contents
- 1 Lighting Out 1
- 2 The Mother of the World 6
- 3 Up and Down the Nile 29
- 4 The Dervishes of Omdurman 54
- 5 The Osama Road to Nubia 69
- 6 The Djibouti Line to Harar 91
- 7 The Longest Road in Africa 118
- 8 Figawi Safari on the Bandit Road 149
- 9 Rift Valley Days 173
- 10 Old Friends in Bat Valley 195
- 11 The MV Umoja Across Lake Victoria 225
- 12 The Bush Train to Dar es Salaam 240
- 13 The Kilimanjaro Express to Mbeya 261
- 14 Through the Outposts of the Plateau 278
- 15 The Back Road to Soche Hill School 304
- 16 River Safari to the Coast 329
- 17 Invading Drummonds Farm 349
- 18 The Bush Border Bus to South Africa 371
- 19 The Hominids of Johannesburg 379
- 20 The Wild Things at Mala Mala 404
- 21 Faith, Hope, and Charity on the Limpopo Line 418
- 22 The Trans-Karoo Express to Cape Town 437
- 23 Blue Train Blues 468