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Journey without Maps by Graham Greene
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Journey without Maps (original 1936; edition 1978)

by Graham Greene

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
445523,513 (3.43)28
Member:Sandydog1
Title:Journey without Maps
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:Penguin Books (1978), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:2012, memoir, travel, Africa

Work details

Journey Without Maps by Graham Greene (1936)

  1. 10
    Too Late to Turn Back by Barbara Greene (g026r, John_Vaughan)
    g026r: Barbara & Graham Greene's complimentary/conflicting (depending on whom you talk to) accounts of their mid-30s travels in Africa.
    John_Vaughan: Too late is well written, with the family talent, and is a complimentary reading to Graham's work. The dirrening accounts owe more to artistic effects than to the deliriums suffered by her bother!
  2. 00
    Chasing the Devil: On Foot Through Africa's Killing Fields by Tim Butcher (ominogue)
  3. 00
    Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Both authors felt deeply about Africa and Greene wrote several works on this theme of inner and actual African travel. Paul returns to his Peace Corp teaching post but the books reveals his disillusionment.
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» See also 28 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
From a modern viewpoint, it's difficult to penetrate the thinking of a period when the African interior was still (to some extent) black on contemporary maps, and when an enlightened understanding of multiculturalism was not the norm. So Greene trekking through the jungles of Liberia, clearly not enjoying the process, and finding it difficult to understand what propels himself through it, is, I think, a bit of a tackle for the modern reader. Greene is much more at ease with the trappings of civilization, something which is clear in the descriptions of local, national and international politics in the book. At any rate, the book is an interesting depiction of a moment in time, and definitely a worthwhile read. ( )
  klai | Oct 9, 2010 |
Another of the "100 greatest adventure books" that I found it impossible to get through -- I abandoned Greene's book when I was three-quarters of the way through after realizing it wouldn't get much better.

I found Greene's general attitude toward those he met on his walk across Liberia and his treatment of his porters to be really irritating. Nothing much of interest happens on his walk across the country either. A grating narrator and a tepid account of what should have been a grand adventure helps make this book extremely dull. ( )
  amerynth | Jun 21, 2010 |
Good desciptive account of traveling through the jungles of Liberia and experiencing the hospitality of the different tribes. The accounts of the night crawlers when one turns off the light in the Liberian countryside was particularly revealing, made me thankful I live where I live. I was also struck by a thought that maybe the reason why African life expectancy and poverty are more related to climate and the neighborhood, then maybe they can control. ( )
  charlie68 | Mar 25, 2010 |
"One of the best travel books this century." - Independent

"Journey Without Maps and The Lawless Roads reveal Greene's ravening spiritual hunger, a desperate need to touch rock bottom both within the self and in the humanly created world." - Times Higher Education Supplement.
  antimuzak | Mar 25, 2008 |
Graham Greene is a famous 20th C novelist ("The Orient Express") who also wrote a few non-fiction travel accounts. This is his first, when he was 31 years old and left Europe for the first time, in order to experience the uncivilized "dark heart of Africa" by traveling through the back country of Liberia in 1935. It was a 4-week, 350-mile walk, mostly through an unchanging tunnel forest path, ending each day in a primitive village. He had about a dozen black porters who would carry him in a sling, although he walked much of the way.

It's written with a very "old school" perspective, with one foot in the 19th (or 18th) century of romantic colonial imperialism, and one foot in the pre-war 1930s perspective of deterioration, rot and things falling apart. Heavy whiskey drinking, descriptions of the festering diseases of the natives, and plethora of bothersome insects, the run down European outposts and a motley cast of white rejects fill many descriptive pages.

It reminds me a lot of Samuel Johnson's "Journals of the Western Isles" (1770s) when Johnson, who had never left England in his life, decided to go to Scotland to see what uncivilized people were like. Just as Johnson brought Boswell who would go on to write his own version of the trip, Greene brought his female cousin Barbara Greene (who remains unnamed in the book and largely unmentioned), who went on to write her own version of the trip in the 1970s called "Too Late to Turn Back", which mostly contradicts Grahams version.

I can't say I totally enjoyed this book, I found Greene's attitude irritating - but therein lies its value, as a snapshot of prewar European zeitgeist. It is reminiscent of "Kabloona" (1940), another prewar travel account to an uncivilized place (Arctic Eskimos) by a young European aristocrat, who also is deeply inward looking and finds a new perspective and appreciation for the "cave man" people he meets. It's very much a transition period between prewar and post-war attitudes and the fluctuation's back and forth, the sense of things falling apart, but also new-found perspective, make it a challenging but interesting work. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Feb 28, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
And this is where the book inspires. Back in 2003, reading of Greene's own troubles in Liberia, gave me a degree of comfort as I struggled to make sense of a chaotic region. They made me consider the prejudices that I, as a white outsider, might seek to project not just on to Liberia but wider Africa as well. Each time I read 'Journey Without Maps', I take something new from the experience: truly the hallmark of the best writing.

 
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To My Wife:

"I carry you like a passport everywhere."

- William Plomer: "Visiting the Caves."
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The tall black door in the narrow city street remained closed. I rang and knocked and rang again. I could not hear the bell ringing; to ring it again and again was simply an act of fait or despair, and later sitting before a hut in French Guinea, where I never meant to find myself, I remembered this first going astray, the buses passing at the corner and the pale autumn sun.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039725, Paperback)

His mind crowded with vivid images of Africa, Graham Greene set off in 1935 to discover Liberia, a remote and unfamiliar republic founded for released slaves. Now with a new introduction by Paul Theroux, Journey Without Maps is the spellbinding record of Greene’s journey. Crossing the red-clay terrain from Sierra Leone to the coast of Grand Bassa with a chain of porters, he came to know one of the few areas of Africa untouched by colonization. Western civilization had not yet impinged on either the human psyche or the social structure, and neither poverty, disease, nor hunger seemed able to quell the native spirit. BACKCOVER: “One of the best travel books [of the twentieth] century.”
—Norman Sherry

Journey Without Maps and The Lawless Roads reveal Greene’s ravening spiritual hunger, a desperate need to touch rock bottom within the self and in the humanly created world.”
—The Times Higher Education Supplement

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:47 -0400)

Graham Greene set off in 1935 to discover Liberia, a remote and unfamiliar republic founded for released slaves. Now with a new introduction by Paul Theroux, "Journey Without Maps" is the spellbinding record of Greene's journey. Crossing the red-clay terrain from Sierra Leone to the coast of Grand Bassa with a chain of porters, he came to know one of the few areas of Africa untouched by colonization. Western civilization had not yet impinged on either the human psyche or the social structure, and neither poverty, disease, nor hunger seemed able to quell the native spirit.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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