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My Mercedes is Not for Sale: From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou...An Auto-Misadventure Across the Sahara Paperback – July 15, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767928695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767928694
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Van Bergeijk decided he could make a few bucks by buying a rusted-out 1988 Mercedes 190 Diesel in Amsterdam and reselling it in a Third World country. The clunker had 220,000 kilometers on its odometer. The three-month trip takes him from Holland through Morocco, across the Sahara, and into a variety of countries in Africa. Along the way, he runs into such obstacles as minefields, banditry, and a teenage desert guide who loves Tupac lyrics. There isn’t much food or water, but there is no shortage of sandstorms. He is equipped with a bar of soap, some duct tape, and a pair of women’s nylons to patch up his car’s many breakdowns. There’s much more, including a coup that he somehow survived. This has all the makings of a horrendous journey—and it is—but his dauntless, lighthearted style of writing makes the trip sound almost like a romp. --George Cohen

About the Author

JEROEN VAN BERGEIJK is a journalist based in Amsterdam and has written for The New York Times, Wired, and many other publications in Europe and the United States.

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Customer Reviews

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Outstanding book, and a great read.
Dave B
I could envision his own journey though his amazing articulation and his upbeat spirit.
GusLosAngeles
He even knows how to tell a good story, but there just isn't one.
Douglas J. La Rose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on August 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
A road trip across the Sahara in a battered 17-year-old Mercedes with 136,000 (at least) miles on it doesn't seem like the kind of trip to undertake alone. Particularly if you don't know the first thing about car repair.

Nevertheless, Dutch journalist Bergeijk can't get the idea out of his head after attending a friend's wedding in Ougadougou in West Africa. Falling into the back of a clapped-out wreck of a Mercedes, held together with rust and baling wire, he discovers the car was originally from Holland.

He's always wanted to drive a Mercedes, so why not across the desert? Determined to have an adventure and make a profit - determined being the operative word - Bergeik sets out with copies of "Sahara Overland," a "Lonely Planet" guide and a Mercedes repair manual that might as well be in Greek.

He encounters lost souls, con men, thieves, low lifes, cut throats and tourists. Little is as he expects it to be. "Or, to put it another way, wherever you go in the world, sooner or later you run into other people and then the party's over."

Entering the desert, he refuses a guide. Within minutes, of course, he's lost and bogged in sand to the axles in a minefield. Yes, a literal mine field. After being rescued, he gets a plate fixed to the bottom of his car to keep sand out of delicate parts and hires a guide.

The guide is a supercilious, chain-smoking, 20-something rap fan. And the road turns to smooth, impeccable asphalt - the new Trans-Sahara Highway. Which is being swallowed by sand almost as quickly as it can be built. "The problem, of course, is maintenance - like everywhere in Africa."

Bergeijk punctuates his narrative with riffs on life in Africa - his take on the African attitude toward the future, poverty, the wealth of the West.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By gonzobrarian on September 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
I find that travel writing is one of the best ways to attune to one's inner gonzo. Perhaps it's best explained by the saying truth is stranger than fiction. Indeed, the mere experience of finding yourself in sand-swept Nouakchott, Mauritania, just after leaving a comfy flat in Amsterdam can hammer home said reality is a fine feeling to savor.

Especially from the comfort of a good book, which is what My Mercedes is Not for Sale: From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou...an Auto Mis-adventure across the Sahara delivers. Jeroen van Bergeijk tells the story of his seemingly innocuous quest to deliver his car, a Mercedes-Benz 190 D through Saharan Africa in a grand quest to...wait for it...sell it.

But it is so much more than that. After a brief introduction to the culture of Mercedes-Benz as well as his own car, he immediately takes the reader to the dust, deception, poverty, corruption and overall culture of Western Africa and its obsession with the automotive throwaways of Europe. Peppered with the historical outlook of various historical/literary visitors such as James Riley, Mungo Park, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the culture becomes more engrossing. It's a comedic, frightening, even meaningful romp through countries like Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Togo and Burkina Faso in search of some adventure as well as a quick sale.

The great thing about this book is that it's not geared toward the hardcore car enthusiast, but rather the culture of someplace deemed exotic or authentic; the car is merely the vehicle, ahem, of such authenticity. Which is, he states, in the spirit of Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (to which he often refers), the act of trying to grasp the essence of a place.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By W. Wemer on July 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
While this travelogue may not have the "laugh out loud" humor factor like others in the genre, Van Bergeijk provides a vivid and brutally honest account of his hair-raising and oftentimes tragic voyage through a region even the most seasoned world travelers rarely visit. Complete with historical and geopolitical tidbits, this book is stands out as a fine piece of travel journalism.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Raoul Duke on August 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
If your idea of a great vacation is getting into a car and driving somewhere new and exciting, you will enjoy this book. This is one of the best travel/road trip books I have read in a long time.

As pointed out in a previous review, the book is not intended to be very funny, like books by Maarten Troost or Bill Bryson, but I really enjoy the author's writing style. He does an excellent job of describing the many interesting characters he encounters on the way and weaves in many interesting facts and history about Western Africa. I also enjoyed the author's forays into the philosophical aspects of automobiles and his discussions of "Zenn and the Art of Motorcycle Repair." As an interesting side note, the author includes several chapters that detail his attempts to locate previous owners of his Mercedes, which I found interesting and entertaining.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Falcon Conrail on July 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
I loved the book, it really spoke to me! The book is an adventure story masquerading as a travel essay. It's a fun and easy read, I knocked it off in a few nights and really it was inspiring. In the book the author buys a 190D in Holland and drives it through the Sahara dessert to the country of Burkina Faso to sell it. The book even has pictures. As a 190E owner I really appreciate what this man went through. While it is a travel story, it's a lot more, there is a technical journal side to it, a philosophical side to it, an introspect and a retrospect. I am a fan of "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance", and the author speaks a bit about that in the book too. It is more of an examination of what Persig was getting at when he spoke about quality.
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