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Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown (2002)

by Paul Theroux

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,157577,362 (3.91)77
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.… (more)
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    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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    John_Vaughan: Chapt 2 for more on Africa - Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown. Paul Theoux
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» See also 77 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
incredible informative ( )
  betty_s | Oct 1, 2023 |
Theroux tells good stories about places he has been. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 11, 2023 |
Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar was my gateway book to travel literature. He continues to deliver and satisfy with Dark Star Safari.

Theroux travels by colonial era trains, broken down delivery trucks, dilapidated buses and overloaded mini van driven by crazed youths. He finds himself in what seems like the most desolate fly-blown, poverty stricken, slum in all of Africa only to be outdone by the next country.

Traveling at the time of his 60th birthday, he is robbed, stranded, shot at, harassed, a victim of food poisoning. Therox has a knack for meeting charactors along the way--aid workders, missionaries, fellow-writers, cab drivers and other travelers.

He is a curmudgeon, vain, highly insightful, an outstanding writer, provocative and judgmental. What makes him so appealing is that he is honest about these qualities. He does not hold back. He presents his trip and himself with the good, the bad and the ugly.




( )
  kropferama | Jan 1, 2023 |
Paul Theroux gives his reason for wanting to take an overland journey through Africa in the beginning of the book, “Being available at any time in the total accessible world seemed to me pure horror. It made me want to find a place that was not accessible at all: no phones, no fax machines, not even mail delivery, the wonderful old world of being out of touch. In other words, gone away….The greatest justification for travel is not self-improvement but rather performing a vanishing act, disappearing without a trace. As Huck put it, lighting out for the territory.” He describes Africa as one of the last places on earth one can vanish into. Theroux had been a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher in Malawi and Uganda thirty years prior—he wanted to see how it had held up.

One of the reasons I like Theroux’s books so much is because I would never take the risks and journeys he does. But I like experiencing them through him. He reads during his trips—often books and long-dead authors connected with traveling through the region—if it be Mark Twain or Rousseau. And he usually has time to stop in and chat a bit with the regional celebrity author. I keep my Amazon wishlist close by to add to as I read. Theroux is no Rick Steves. He doesn’t travel in luxury nor or his writings to encourage you to follow in his steps. His trips are usually zen banality traveling on hot smelly buses or trains that always break down. These moments are punctuated with things like being shot at or illness. A frequent theme through the book is an African warning him away from the place he is about to go because, “bad people are there.”

He is not happy with what he finds on his journey. He was criticized after the book’s release for his contempt of Aid and Aid Workers and missionaries in Africa. Paul is a curmudgeon. But it is the chapters that he writes about his visits to the schools he taught in and you can feel his disappointment at the futility he sees. He visits the graves of the couple who founded the school and describes how their unkemptness would have disappointed the old orderly couple and so he weeds their grave himself. He also visits the school itself—aid promised was stolen, and the books had all been stolen and the school was falling down. He was disappointed to find that many of his fellow African teachers had sent their children elsewhere for education, but in some cases had encouraged their children to not come back but to stay in other countries.

If you are a real-life or an arm-chair adventurer and you love good travel writing and reading about literature then check out Theroux.
( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
Brilliant travel. Got a culture shocked just from reading it. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Feb 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Theroux is often dour, although he finds hopeful signs that Africa will endure and overcome its present misfortunes in the sight, for instance, of a young African boatman doing complex mathematical equations amid “spitting jets of steam,” and in the constant, calming beauty of so many African places. Engagingly written, sharply observed: another winner from Theroux.
added by John_Vaughan | editKirkus (Jul 21, 2011)
 

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Epigraph
Large-leaved and many-footed shadowing,

What god rules over Africa, what shape

What avuncular cloud-man beamier than spears?

   Wallace Stevens, ‘The Greenest Continent’
Dedication
For my mother, Anne Dittami Theroux,
on her ninety-first birthday
First words
All news out of Africa is bad.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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Al het nieuws over Afrika, stelde Paul Theroux vast, is tegenwoordig slecht nieuws. Het enige dat we over de Afrikaanse landen horen, heeft te maken met hongersnood, massamoorden en natuurrampen Theroux had betere herinneringen aan het Afrikaanse continent. Hij dacht aan de vele gevaren, de liefelijkheid, de humor, de schoonheid van de natuur, en besloot per trein een reis te maken door het 'groenste deel van de wereld', waar hij veertig jaar geleden met veel plezier gewoond, gewerkt en rondgetrokken had. Hij was ervan overtuigd dat zijn nieuwe reis weer even plezierig zou worden. Maar Theroux vergiste zich. Hij werd beroofd, beschoten en beschimpt. De wegen waren een verschrikking, de treinen bevonden zich in een vreselijke slechte toestand en een infrastructuur bestond nauwelijks. Afrika leek in veertig jaar alleen maar bergafwaarts gegaan. De mensen waren hongeriger, armer, slechter opgeleid, pessimistischer en corrupter, en de politici onderscheidden zich niet langer van medicijnmannen. Theroux werd ziek en kon vaak niet verder reizen. Toch verveelde hij zich geen moment. Integendeel: zijn verblijf in Afrika werd een openbaring. De reis van Cairo naar Kaapstad bleek een nieuw reisboek dubbel en dwars waard te zijn.
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