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The Zanzibar Chest
Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006531210, Paperback)A deeply affecting memoir of a childhood in Africa and the continent's horrendous wars, which Hartley witnessed at first hand as a journalist in the 1990s. Shortlisted for the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction, this is a masterpiece of autobiographical journalism. Aidan Hartley, a foreign correspondent, burned-out from the horror of covering the terrifying micro wars of the 1990s, from Rwanda to Bosnia, seeks solace and solitude in the remote mountains and deserts of southern Arabia and the Yemen, following his father's death. While there, he finds himself on the trail of the tragic story of an old friend of his father's, who fell in love and was murdered in southern Arabia fifty years ago. As the terrible events of the past unfold, Hartley finds his own kind of deliverance. 'The Zanzibar Chest' is a powerful story about a man witnessing and confronting extreme violence and being broken down by it, and of a son trying to come to terms with the death of a father whom he also saw as his best friend. It charts not only a love affair between two people, but also the British love affair with Arabia and the vast emptinesses of the desert, which become a fitting metaphor for the emotional and spiritual condition in which Hartley finds himself.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:13 -0400)
"In his final days, rising from a bed made of mountain cedar, lashed with thongs of rawhide from an oryx shot many years before, Aidan Hartley's father says to him, "We should have never come." Those words spoke of a colonial legacy that stretched back over 150 years through four generations of one British family. From great-great-grandfather William Temple, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in defending British settlements in nineteenth-century New Zealand, to his father, a colonial officer sent to Africa in the 1920s, building dams and irrigation projects in Arabia in the 1940s, then returning to Africa to raise a family - these were intrepid men who traveled to exotic lands to conquer, to build, and to bear witness. Finally there is Aidan, who becomes a journalist covering Africa in the 1990s. Weaving together stories of his childhood in Africa, his family's history, and his experiences as a reporter, Aidan tells us what he saw." "After the end of the Cold War, there seemed to be new hope for Africa but again and again - in Ethiopia, in Somalia, Rwanda, and the Congo, the terror and genocide prevailed. In Somalia, three of Aidan's close friends were torn to pieces by an angry mob. Then, after walking overland from Uganda with the rebel army, Aidan was witness to the terrible atrocities in Rwanda, appearing at the sites and interviewing survivors days after the massacres. Finally, burnt out from a decade of horror, Aidan retreated to his family's house in Kenya where he discovered the Zanzibar chest his father left him. Intricately hand-carved and smelling of camphor, the chest contained the diaries of his father's best friend, Peter Davey, an Englishman who died under mysterious circumstances over fifty years earlier. Tucking the papers under his arm, Hartley embarked on a journey to southern Arabia in an effort not only to unlock the secrets of Davey's life, but of his own. He traveled to the remote mountains and deserts of southern Arabia where his father served as a British officer. He began to piece together the disparate elements of Davey's story, a man who fell in love with an Arabian woman and converted to Islam, but ultimately had to pay an exacting price."--BOOK JACKET.
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