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The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari Hardcover – May 7, 2013


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Frequently Bought Together

The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari + Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown + Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar
Price for all three: $47.68

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; F First Edition edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061883933X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618839339
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Having traveled overland from Cairo to Cape Town in Dark Star Safari (2003), Theroux intended, 10 years on, to resume the trip, this time heading north up the west side of Africa, avoiding the “safe and well-trodden routes.” Though he found some happy moments in “the kingdom of light,” the journey was to be darker, harder, and, a rarity for Theroux—unfinished. He does find hopeful change in Cape Town, beautiful desolation in Namibia, and elegance in the bush in Botswana (albeit at extortionate prices). But when he crosses the border into Angola: chaos. After witnessing scene after scene of disorganization, poverty, and despair; after decrying the disconnect between the country’s oil-rich rulers and its unemployed, idle citizens; after finding “cities that were indistinguishable from one another in their squalor and decrepitude,” he concludes there is nothing more he can learn from their suffering. Ending what seems an impossible trip, he heads for home. Ultimate in the subtitle means not best but final. As Theroux, in an autumnal state of mind, ponders his own mortality, it will be difficult for readers to imagine the world of letters without him. His ability to map new terrain, both interior and exterior, and to report from places that seldom make the news, remains undiminished. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Theroux’s back-to-Africa novel, The Lower River (2012), was Booklist’s Top of the List. But any book by the eminent author draws interest, and a national tour is planned. --Keir Graff

Review

"Thoroughly engrossing—from Cape Town to Namibia to the Okavango Delta, Theroux is his inimitable, delightfully grouchy and incisive self…At times tragic, often comical and always gorgeously written, this is a paean to a continent, by a writer unafraid to give it some tough love." —Washington Post

"He has no illusions about the fact that he is just a passing visitor (a privileged one at that), but that doesn't make his observations, or exquisite writing, any less engaging." —Entertainment Weekly (Best Book of the Year)

"Theroux is at his best when he tells their stories, happy and sad...Theroux’s great mission had always been to transport us beyond that reading chair, to challenge himself—and thus, to challenge us." —Boston Globe

"If this book is proof, age has not slowed Theroux or encouraged him to rest on his achievements…Gutsy, alert to Africa's struggles, its injustices and history." —San Francisco Chronicle

"Everything is under scrutiny in Paul Theroux’s latest travel book—not just the people, landscapes and sociopolitical realities of the countries he visits, but his own motivations for going where he goes…His readers can only be grateful." —Seattle Times

"A rich story often laced with irony, the work of a keen observer, full of colorful encounters…Ever the astute questioner, ever the curious reporter, ever a forthright witness to history and the dilemma of the oppressed, alert to political thuggery, he chronicles the crises facing the sub-Sahara." —New York Journal of Books

"Theroux takes you on a rocky safari across infringed wilds, disenfranchised poverty and coven luxury. He introduces you to a boil of angry indigenous peoples and unsettled migrants you won’t meet on an itinerary tour....Go on, turn the first few pages. Then I dare you to put it down." —Charleston Post-Courier

"As in the best of his many books, Theroux convincingly takes you along for every manic bus ride. His wonderment is yours, whether he’s contemplating eating a flyblown leg of chicken, dealing with a ferocious Angolan border guard, or deciding that this time, he’s had quite enough. It’s a remarkable, teeth-gritting tale" —Everett Potter

"His ability to map new terrain, both interior and exterior, and to report from places that seldom make the news, remains undiminished." —Booklist ( starred review)

"Theroux’s prose is as vividly descriptive and atmospheric as ever and, though a bit curmudgeonly, he’s still wide open to raw, painful interactions between his psyche and his surroundings." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In this intensely personal book, Theroux honestly confronts racism, stigma, privilege and expectations...Reading this enlightening book won’t only open a window into Theroux’s mind, it will also impart a deeper understanding of Africa and travel in general." —Kirkus  (starred review)

More About the Author

Paul Theroux's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

Customer Reviews

Paul Theroux is my favorite travel writer so this was a tough one to read.
Juliette Hendrikx
If you like reading about the way other people live this book will be of interest, and especially if you have been, or intend to go, to Africa.
Oliver Twist
There is so much to this book that like travel itself, it must be experienced to gain the full realization!
Rich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Paul Theroux entitled his book's last chapter with the subject line. No doubt, many of us have wondered the same thing, wherever we are; Theroux attributes the remark to Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet, when he was in one of the less salubrious cities in the world, Aden, in the Yemen. Rimbaud, like Theroux, was drawn to Africa, spending numerous years living in remote Harar, in Ethiopia Rimbaud en Abyssinie (French Edition). The Peace Corps gave Theroux his start in Africa; he taught for a number of years in Malawi, only a few years after it became an independent state (it had formerly been the Nyasaland part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland). Since his early teaching days, he went on to become a novelist and a renowned travel writer, most famous for (The Great Railway Bazaar), which I read some 40 years ago. The title, "The Last Train..." suggests a swan song for Theroux's African experiences, and so it is. As he was approaching the age of 70, in 2010, when he took his journey, he realized the body (and mind) reaches a limit; an independent traveler in Africa is subjected to many an inconvenience and even routine abuses, and to what purpose? Is there new knowledge to obtain, or rather, how strong does the subject question linger?

Theroux traveled in four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola. As I had traveled independently in the first two, and had a strong desire to see Angola, if only the "little matter" of 30 years of civil war, with heavy foreign intervention, would go away, I was strongly drawn to this book. Theroux starts in Cape Town, and from his base in a luxury hotel, tours the "townships," the squatter camps that have grown up around the city.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Zuri on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a fan of Theroux's travel books, and I have read them all. But, although this one is as erudite and perceptive as expected, it left me with the distinct impression that in certain ways it is skewed, a lopsided tale. I often wanted to ask the author, "But what are you really looking for? What will make you truly happy?" He does confess to small moments of happiness during this journey from Cape Town to Luanda, but his world-weariness often convey dissatisfaction, alienation, puzzlement and anger.

The last part of the book, his uncomfortable trip up the west coast of Angola, deeply distressed me, as the scenes he sketches are of a nightmare country -- as the world might look like during the last days before this planet implodes. I am a white Afrikaans-speaking South African and have not been to Angola. I did not know it is now a ruined place. Not that it needs to be: it earns billions from its oil resources. But as in so many African countries the government (who does not govern) and their cohorts are deeply corrupt. And millions of ordinary Angolans live, hungry and jobless, in messy, stinking shantytowns. But I do believe what he tells us, because of Angola's recent history of 30 years of wars.

But it is Theroux's actions and utterances while in Cape Town at the start of his journey which pulls this tale completely out of proportion. Here he makes exhaustive visits only to Cape Town's outlying squatter camps and shantytowns, populated mainly by black people. He seems to want to see improvement in conditions after the change-over to a black government in 1994. He does not find much difference -- only some new houses built in some areas. Strangely enough he does not comment upon the unbridled population increase, even when he comes across a single mother with 14 children.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By K. Polzin on April 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an engaging book, part travelogue and part history, but with some ruminations about travel as well.

Theroux travels overland from South Africa to Angola, through "awful [cities] where there is nothing to learn except what you already knew from the worst neighborhoods of your own country," and his interactions with the people, both in the city and in the bush (the so-called zona verde), are scrupulously detailed and always engagingly written. He educates the reader as he goes, weaving the history of the region into the story.

Much of his trip is a slog, but the slog is necessary for those moments of "traveler bliss," as Theroux calls them. The book is never a slog, however. It reads like a good trip to a difficult locale.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nagronsky VINE VOICE on April 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Paul Theroux's The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain was the modern first travel book I ever read, while preparing for my first trip to England. I've read and enjoyed almost all of his previous and later travel books, and this is no exception. He is coming to grips with becoming older now, even going so far as to call himself 'elderly', but he still prefers his travel close to the ground, riding trains and buses, and due to spotty service with those options, even bumming rides from people operating unlicensed bus services. In my eyes, in his more recent books, he'd become rather negative as he's aged, but until he becomes the victim of identity theft, he takes things as they come as he tours South Africa and Namibia.....until he descends into one of the lower rings of hell, Angola. His negativism returns, but Angola gives him good reason to be negative. I shan't give details away, but I'll simply say that I'm glad he's the one that visited there and not me. His thoughts of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World came almost simultaneously with my thinking of that title. That's why those of us that are armchair travelers turn to writers like Theroux....we vicariously visit places, warts and all. Southwest Africa has many, many warts.
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