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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SOMETIMES SELF-IMPORTANT & OFFENSIVE, BUT AN AMAZING JOURNEY, June 13, 2003
This review is from: Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town (Hardcover)
Having traveled over seven years now to various regions of Africa mainly to work in rural villages with various volunteer organizations and occasionally to sightsee, I have always been a voracious reader of autobiographical works about overland African journeys. "Dark Star Safari" does not disappoint although one must first become accustomed to Theroux's pompous style of relating his experiences.
It initially might be difficult for some readers to accept Theroux's often arrogant opinions of fellow travelers whom he describes in one passage as "those plump, rich, amphibious-looking people for whom travel is an expensive kind of laziness, spent in the company of other idle people to whom they relate details of their previous trips." In some passages he attacks other less analytical travelers for being rather shallow and asking questions of the local guide such as "how on earth did the ancient Eqyptians move those big things?" (I think we have all known a relative who perhaps does not have the opportunity to travel as much as Paul Theroux...who is just happy to be in new surroundings...who is not researching material for a book...and perhaps is only superfically involved in the educational aspect of an historical tour. People make journeys for different reasons...there's no reason why they should be held up to so much scrutiny and criticism.) Theroux's opinions on tipping likewise confound me. "It is bad enough," he writes, "that people expect something extra for just doing their jobs." It doesn't seem to occur to Theroux that tipping often times is the majority if not the totality of some worker's wages in this world.
Even as he dismisses other traveler's experiences, Theroux himself writes the first few chapters of his tale with such dead seriousness and earnestness, it is as if he is already anticipating an epic and life-altering journey before it has even unfolded. As if to negate other's superficiality, he wanders across the great continent reading "The Heart of Darkness" a few dozen times and sometimes responding to those he encounters along the way with quotes from English poets. There is much drama in this journey.
If one can get beyond the occasional pompousness however, there is ultimately an amazing journey here for the most part. It is impossible to do the trek which Theroux made and not have a great deal of material to compile for a fascinating story. The overland travels through the relatively unknown and seldom written about Sudan and Ethiopia are especially memorable. What makes all of these experiences life-altering are always the colorful, sometimes generous, occasionally unscrupulous characters one meets along the pathway of life. It is the humanity of this tale, not the historical detail, which makes this Dark Star Safari a memorable ride.
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