If a reader were to base his/her whole opinion of this latest book on the “bliss” Paul Theroux experiences when he sees the Ku/’hoansi bush people, one might conclude that this book is a genuflection to simpler cultures living the hunter-gatherer lives of their forbears, a rare reaction by Theroux who is notoriously hard to please. That felicitous conclusion would be completely wrong, however, even in relation to his experience among the lovely Ju/’hoansi bush people who so impress him in Namibia. When he makes this statement, Theroux has already traveled through South Africa, spending significant time in Capetown and discovering that while the special townships created for the poor have improved in the last ten years, that new, even more desperate, poor are arriving from rural areas and making new, and even more primitive settlements in slums on the outskirts. His travel plans up the west coast, from Capetown to Timbuktu in Mali, along the south and west coasts of Africa, allow him to seize opportunities as he travels, make notes as he goes, and post his observations in ways similar to his observations of the Horn of Africa and the East Coast ten years ago. His visit with the Ju/’hoansi on Namibia has been the first sign of hope that he has had in his trip. Angola, his next stop, proves to be the turning point. One of the richest countries in the world in terms of its oil production and revenues, all of which end up in the pockets of politicians and businessmen, Angola becomes the centerpiece of the book in terms of the corruption at the heart of African life. Ultimately, Theroux must decide whether it makes sense to continue into increasingly devastated West African cities.
Category Archive for 'Namibia'
South Africa from 1968 – 2000 is revealed with all its cultural variety and internal stresses through the life story of Paul Sweetbread, an overweight Jewish boy who is an outsider to everyone. Neither a Boer nor an Englishman, he is also not really a Jew, either, since his family has never been observant, leaving him without any common roots that connect him to his Caucasian countrymen. A person with a photographic memory, he is, from the outset, a victim of his memory. The action intensifies when Paul, having finished school in 1987, joins the South African Defense Force, instead of going to college. In bordering Namibia, formerly a German colony, revolutionaries are taking advantage of the confusion over who is in control–South Africa, the United Nations, or whoever can grab power for himself–and Paul is sent there to fight.