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Journey without Maps (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – March 1, 1992

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the best travel books this century.” – Independent

Journey Without Maps and The Lawless Roads reveal Greene’s ravening spiritual hunger, a desperate need to touch rock bottom both within the self and in the humanly created world.” – Times Higher Education Supplement


From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Graham Greene set off to discover Liberia, a remote west African republic founded for released slaves. 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. He found that neither poverty, disease nor hunger seem to be able to quell the native spirit.


From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 249 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140185798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140185799
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,701,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Balbach on February 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Graham Greene is a famous 20th C novelist ("The Orient Express") who also wrote a few travel accounts. This is his first, when he was 31 years old and left Europe for the first time in his life to experience the uncivilized "dark heart of Africa" by traveling through the back country of Liberia in 1935. It was a 4-week, 350-mile walk, mostly through an unchanging tunnel forest path, ending each day in a primitive village. He had about a dozen black porters who would carry him in a sling, although he walked much of the way.

It's written with a very "old school" perspective, with one foot in the 19th (or 18th) century of romantic colonial imperialism, and one foot in the pre-war 1930s perspective of deterioration, rot and things falling apart. Heavy whiskey drinking, descriptions of the festering diseases of the natives, and plethora of bothersome insects, the run down European outposts and a motley cast of white rejects fill many descriptive pages.

It reminds me a lot of Samuel Johnson's "Journals of the Western Isles" (1770s) when Johnson, who had never left England in his life, decided to go to Scotland to see what uncivilized people were like. Just as Johnson brought Boswell who would go on to write his own version of the trip, Greene brought his female cousin Barbara Greene (who remains unnamed in the book and largely unmentioned), who went on to write her own version of the trip in the 1970s called "Too Late to Turn Back", which mostly contradicts Grahams version.

I can't say I totally enjoyed this book, I found Greene's attitude irritating - but therein lies its value, as a snapshot of prewar European zeitgeist.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Graham Greene was weary and appalled by the world atrocities of the early 20th century. He decided to go looking for life as basic and unspoiled as it was in the beginning. He chose to do so in Liberia, the African nation that had always been under black rule and not colonized or fleeced by Europe in modern times, though even it was a western construct, carved out of the continent by Americans as a homeland to repatriate freed slaves (or, as Greene says, a place to hide mulatto offspring). His trek on foot lasted the month of February 1935, and JOURNEY WITHOUT MAPS is his account of what became a transformative experience.

The title is derived from the fact that there were no true maps available of Liberia at the time. He relied on a caravan of native porters and a lot of guestimations as to what direction and how far it would be from village to village. Once leaving the ragged European communities near the coast, he and his party plunged into that virgin world he sought. What he describes in exquisite detail is now familiar to us via decades of National Geographics but was then, to someone who had never left Europe at that point, a culture shock. He learned to leave behind his English insistence on time table and surprise at naked, ritually scarred bodies, the persistent sound of drums and the utter poverty of villages. He did not let go his own clothes or whiskey or discomfort over rats and insects. He is eventually waylaid by sickness, and in the healing process comes out with a new, more life affirming personal vision. Though it seems as if the details of the daily marches, the insects and discomforts are so much of the same, by the end you see the impact of the experience.
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Format: Paperback
Not an adventure when compared to fictional safari tales in which the intrepid travellers fight off fierce lions and savage "natives" in every chapter. Instead, an enjoyable and realistic account of Greene's arduous and near-disasterous trek through Liberia. Greene travelled with his cousin, Barbara Greene, who also wrote an account of their journey--Too Late to Turn Back. Interesting contrasts between the two books if you can find copies of both. I had to order a copy of Barbara's book from a used book store in England.
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Format: Paperback
In 1935, Graham Greene, hoping to find the human "heart of darkness", embarked on an ambitious (foolhardy?) expedition into unmapped Liberia. JOURNEY WITHOUT MAPS is the book he wrote when he returned. More than simply a travel journal, it stands tall amongst both English travel literature and Graham Greene's works.

Greene traveled with his female cousin, Barbara Greene (who also wrote a book on the expedition, "Too Late to Turn Back"). From Freetown, in Sierra Leone (then a British colony), they traveled by rail to near the border with Liberia. Then, with a few native servants and about 25 native carriers, they trekked 350 miles across northeastern Liberia and then southwest to the coast, arriving in Grand Bassa four weeks later. Along the way they encountered and endured heat, torpor, and myriads of cockroaches, ants, spiders, jiggers, and rats. They also witnessed exotic native life and customs, particularly the dances of masked devils, and they were exposed to some of the mysteries of the secret bush societies. But they were equally a novel curiosity to many of the villagers they met, who would gather around the open hut provided them at the end of a day's march:

"There was nothing you could do without their noticing it; to draw a handkerchief from the pocket caused a craning of necks. It worked a little on the nerves, this constant stare; but you had to recognize the superiority of their attitude over the white man's to something strange. We were as good as a circus; they had no wish to stuff us or skin us or put us in cages.
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