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Journey Without Maps (1936)

by Graham Greene

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7451330,379 (3.48)36
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 Greenes 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 Greenes ravening spiritual hunger, a desperate need to touch rock bottom within the self and in the humanly created world. "The Times Higher Education Supplement"… (more)
  1. 20
    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. 20
    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 36 mentions

English (11)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (13)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Graham Greene is, of course, more celebrated for his fiction than for anything else, but this, a book of travel writing as he made his way through Sierra Leone and Liberia, is a masterpiece of the genre and as worth reading today as when it was published. I haven't visited either of these countries myself, but I am familiar with the discomforts of exploring Africa - I wove my way from Ghana to South Africa overland more than a decade ago - and so much of what Greene writes rings true: the illness, the dirt, the lack of food, but also the warmth of the people he met, and the beauty of the places he saw. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Mar 15, 2024 |
Greene's description of a journey into the interior of Liberia. While there are a lot of assumptions about African culture and people, Greene is a more acute and honest observer of himself than many travelers. In my opinion, that makes this book worth reading as Greene interrogates the "travel adventure" impulse. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Of course it's very dated, but I wanted to see why it's considered a classic of travel writing. Can be summed up as trying to explore his subconscious and childhood fears by going off road in Liberia with the assistance of numerous porters for his huge amount of baggage. His cousin was with him, only occasionally mentioned. Now I want to read her book, but it's out of print. ( )
  GranitePeakPubs | Jun 2, 2016 |
What triggered Graham Greene and his cousin to march through a forsaken part of Africa? A truly masochistic undertaking of exploring misery and enduring uncomfortable moments just for the kick of writing a book (or two books as his cousin published her account too). Perhaps the lack of interaction may have been usual for the upper middle class then, but Greene and his cousin might nearly have been on separate trips as they rarely perform anything together or speak with one another. Greene actually pioneers a Thomas Friedmanesque approach of only speaking to either chieftains (CEOs) or servants.

The big take-away for me is that we in Europe are blessed with relatively benign crawly creatures whereas Africa is plagued by nasty, aggressive and invasive critters and an adverse climate. I prefer not to live in a country where books will rot away in no time. Greene learned this too and later stayed in beautiful decadent Capri where he was at liberty to enjoy his vices. ( )
  jcbrunner | Sep 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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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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 Greenes 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 Greenes ravening spiritual hunger, a desperate need to touch rock bottom within the self and in the humanly created world. "The Times Higher Education Supplement"

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