Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paul Theroux, an inspiration

Paul Theroux is a novelist, travel writer and master of descriptive prose, whose writing is so concise and sublime that I could finish any one of his travel books then turn to the first page and read it all over again. No other travel writer, in my opinion, matches his skill of observation and description and his ability to draw one into a story. Paul Theroux has mellowed since the days of The Great Railway Bazaar, blending more into the background, with a more mature, insightful commentary that will help carry the reader through the incomprehensible morass or suffering that he encounters every step of the way. Characters come alive on the page and there are some wonderful characters and terrifying landscapes in his latest travel book The Last Train to Zona Verde

The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari is a continuation of Dark Star Safari, published in 2003, about his travels from Cairo overland to Cape Town. Excellent book of his travel down the east coast of Africa. But Last Train to Zona Verde takes it even further with a daring journey from Cape Town, up through Namibia and finally - Angola. The author skillfully weaves the history of the colonial past with the gnarly present to give us a stark and terrifying vision of the future. Without the historical background and insights that are the backbone of this story, the current social nightmare in Western Africa (and nether regions) would be incomprehensible. The cruelty of colonialism will live on for generations on the African continent and the future looks even more terrifying.

Paul Theroux's description of his Angolan border crossing makes my crossing at Huaquillas, Peru seem like a teddy bear's picnic. I've traveled around the world and experienced similar circumstances of being jostled by hecklers, grabbed by beggars and yelled at by officials, but nothing gives me goosebumps more than Paul's description of his trek into Angola. If you want a glimpse, albeit terrifying, into the future, read The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari.