The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux
I enjoyed Theroux’s Dark Star Safari some years ago. Whenever I encounter his travel writing, I do like it. I don’t always necessarily share all his political views on Africa, but he does have some valid concerns with foreign aid. I really like his writing because he is a traveler and has an exploratory spirit.
He was 70 when he did this tour which is probably his last travel of Africa. This last travelogue has him travelling through South Africa, Namibia, a bit of Botswana, and finishing it Angola. He writes about how Africa has changed in the fifty years since he first stepped on the continent.
The book has a fascinating anthropological bent especially when discussing the Bushmen of Namibia. Africa is not always a happy or light topic. Theroux is an honest and candid author this way, but this book was a bit dispiriting at times. After he reached the almost inhospitable Angola, Theorux would ask himself “What am I doing here?” Not a question any traveller should ask themselves often when travelling really.
Overall, I would recommend Theroux’s writing to someone who really wants to read about contemporary Africa. It may not be an easy read, but his experiences on the road says a lot about the continent world. It definitely speaks more than the news (or lack there of) we get about it.
Read July 6-7 2013.