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The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  948 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Following the success of the acclaimed Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and The Great Railway Bazaar, The Last Train to Zona Verde is an ode to the last African journey of the world's most celebrated travel writer.

“Happy again, back in the kingdom of light,” writes Paul Theroux as he sets out on a new journey through the continent he knows and loves best. Theroux first came
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
”Angolans lived among garbage heaps---plastic bottles, soda cans, torn bags, broken chairs, dead dogs, rotting food, indefinable slop, their own scattered twists of excrement--and in one town a stack of dead cows, bloated from putrefaction, looking like a forgotten freight load of discarded Victorian furniture, with the sort of straight stiffened legs you see fixed to old uncomfortable chairs. This blight was not ‘darkness,’ the demeaning African epithet, but a gleaming vacancy, the hollow of ab ...more
To me, the publication of a travel book by Paul Theroux is a literary event. He is not just my favorite travel writer...he is one of my favorite writers period. He is a keenly intelligent observer of people and places. I like that he when he travels, he avoids big cities and common tourist destinations. He gets around by foot (Kingdom by the Sea); by train or bus (Riding the Iron Rooster); or even by kayak (The Happy Isles of Oceania). I also like that he has no qualms about occasionally getting ...more
John Behle
Now in his early 70s, Paul Theroux sees and writes with the caustic, hard earned eye of this weary world wayfarer. Theroux loves Africa, delights in each rumination, each across-the-room view of well fed sassy tourists, each tirade of another corrupt African government.

I have read all of Theroux's travel books, starting with his 1975 smash "The Great Railway Bazaar". I devoured each page as if I were riding in the carriage of The Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur next to him. Now, whenever I am on a
This book was dismal. Paul Theroux struggles with what he says will be his last trip to Africa because of his advancing age. He also struggles with the life he finds in South Africa, Namibia and Angola, countries rife with poverty, graft, crime and miserable human conditions. It's as if the things he sees and the people he meets reflect his own dark mood. And few good things come out of either. I've read most of Theroux's travel books and always felt as though I learned something and was enthuse ...more
Lawrence Lihosit
Something has happened to Mr. Theroux's writing. Whereas early travel books seemed to exaggerate his personal dislikes (bordering on arrogance) while hiding some painful truth (like his impending divorce in The Old Patagonian Express), this book gives the impression of honesty, humility and even kindness. He paints a brutal picture but then again, based upon his almost constant travel to Africa over decades, maybe it is an accurate depiction.

I drove three hours to hear him speak at a book signin
It seems that Paul Theroux does have a breaking point. It is Angola. Angola was the place that finally made him throw down his pack and say, "F- this." Wow. If Paul Theroux can't hack it, I know I'm never, never, never going there.

I was in the audience when Paul Theroux gave a talk about this book recently, and he's exactly as I imagined he would be. The great, gruff travel writer is a man who speaks his mind, has strong and often unpopular opinions, and is afraid of very little in this world. Y
Max Carmichael
The best travel writers - most of them long gone, like Freya Stark - are people who live life fully, love their lives, and infect us with their passion. They travel for some reason other than just writing a book, immersing themselves physically in exotic cultures and describing exotic places with lyricism and exotic people with respect and compassion. Theroux, however, like other ironic post-modernists, doesn't really seem to have a life outside traveling and writing, and he clearly doesn't love ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
This book is a travel book but it explores the problems of South Africa, Namibia and Angola in great depth. The writer sees south Africa as still a highly divided society with a wealthy white minority and a poor angry black population that lives in the townships that make up the majority of the population. The poor not seeing much benefit of the post apartheid system are starting to turn to demagogues who talk about killing the rich whites (shades of Zimbabwe).
Namibia is a poorer but somewhat
Michael Andersen-Andrade
"What am I doing here?". That is the question that Paul Theroux asks himself during his overland journey up the western edge of Africa from Capetown to Luanda. Mr. Theroux is a lifelong world traveler with a special place in his heart for the African Continent. As he travels north through South Africa, Namibia and Angola he comes to the realization that he no longer has the interest, energy or hunger for the kind of travel that takes him to parts of the world that are scarred by crushing povert ...more
No iron roosters or express trains here. A very misleading title and not the book he intended to write when he started his trip. Probably one of his best books and it's not a happy book. You have to admire him, a 70 year old, taking on a trip alone like this. No trains in this one despite the title-it's the trip not taken-it's all by bus and car. Theroux is quite opinionated, some would say elitist at times-loathes foreign aid, noble Bushmen image, etc... He stays in opulent digs occasionally wh ...more
A solid book about some aspects of the present and future of southern Africa.

First, Theroux is a skeptic almost to the point of cynicism about First World charities' efforts in Africa. He says much of the money goes to lining the pockets of corrupt governments and cronies, which we all know. He goes on to note that some countries, like Angola (oil and heavy metals) and Congo (heavy metals, gems) have plenty of money from natural resources that less corrupt governments would be able to take care
William Koon
Last a very sad book. As a former Africanist, I weep for the continent and Theroux's brilliant exegesis . I am also saddened when I respond to Theroux's comments upon his aging and his future travels. Sadly, there is no hope, no future for this West Africa. His final chapter rivals any version of hell, be it Nathaniel West's or Dante, that I have ever read. Theroux is simply the greatest travel writer of our time.
When an author and reader both are in the same age group and have just had their last trip to Africa, the reader begins reading with empathy. I saw and felt the same way as Theroux about my trip to South Africa and was glad I had participated in the "new tourism" of visiting poor enclaves. There is a need to understand what happens just beyond the road.

I had always wished to visit Namibia but will forego the bush camp where he was a guest, not paying the $4000 per night to ride an elephant, nor
Jul 29, 2013 RJ rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: travel
Paul Theroux makes it through the west of South Africa, Namibia and Angola. Then he abandons ship, quite rightly. Theroux's experiences, especially in Angola with the squalor and hopelessness of its cities kills his desire to go any further. Shanty towns, squatter camps, predatory youth, filth, garbage, loud rap music and a constant din, Theroux had no desire to continue on to Brazzaville, Kinshasha etc.

For fans of Theroux's many travel books, each one is a must read. Yet one can see him just ki
Schuyler Wallace
No continent is as mystical and historically significant as Africa. It has been written about for centuries by a multitude of writers but no one does it better than the incomparable Paul Theroux, a former resident and teacher in the Dark Continent, and a prolific observer of the land and its people. He has subtitled his new book, THE LAST TRAIN TO ZONA VERDE, as My Ultimate African Safari but we can only hope he’s kidding.

This is a man of infinite tolerance and patience. Traveling around the des
John Reilly
I had somewhat soured on Paul Theroux's travel writing after attempting to read his The Kingdom By The Sea which impressed me as mean-spirited - it seemed everyone he met on that trip was targeted for criticism or ridicule. After reading his wonderful new novel, The Lower River, however, I picked up The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari, and was very happy I did. This is one of the most satisfying travel memoirs I have read in years. With his wonderful prose and keen eye for ...more
When you choose to take up the reading of one of Paul Theroux’s travel books you are taken on a personal story. This is nowhere more the case than with Theroux’s latest trip and book ZONA VERDE. I am a big fan of Theroux’s travel books and have now read them all. Some I liked better than others but I always came away from each with the feeling that I too had taken the trip. Funny thing is that I have never read one of his novels. I cannot really explain why because his eye as a novelist helps hi ...more
If you are a fan of Paul Theroux's nonfiction travel books as I am, then you are probably familiar with the many great journeys he has taken, mostly by train, car, bus or foot. He likes to travel not with fanfare, but as a resident of the country would travel, so that he can experience what life is like for those who live where he is visiting.

Theroux started out as a Peace Corp volunteer as a young man, teaching school for six years in Africa, so he has an affinity for it. He has visited Afric
I recently read Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari, which chronicles his overland journey from Cairo to Cape Town. I enjoyed the book so much that finishing it made me sad. How wonderful was the discovery that Theroux was coming out with a new Africa travel book, one that pretty much picks up where Dark Star Safari leaves off—only ten years later.

In The Last Train to Zona Verde, Theroux takes readers up the western coast of Africa, beginning in a more hopeful Cape Town, traversing through benign an
Laura Bourassa
Paul brings us along on his last African journey. This time overland, using public transit from Cape Town to Timbuktu. He provides an interesting perspective. He grew to love Africa during his peace corp days when he spent years, joyfully teaching in Malawi and has returned many time taking several different routes and visiting many countries. This time he is an older man (aged 70)and experiences travel differently, often and repeatedly asking himself why am I here. He shares his strong views an ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
When Paul Theroux says it’s his last train ride, I feel sad. I’ve traveled with Theroux across the east side of Africa, across Asia, and now down the west side of Africa. This was not a happy trip for him. He seemed to grow more and more morose as he stopped in various cities across Africa. The poverty, the filth, the despair of the people...all these worked together to bring Theroux’s mood down lower and lower with every stop. Finally, he cut the trip short and went home. It’s possible he may n ...more
Sue Hedin
Theroux has been one of the preeminent travel writers of my generation, and it is always a pleasure to read his travel narratives which always transports the reader to the unlikely outer reaches of civilization. This one is likely his last through Africa, from Cape Town north through Namibia to Angola. While there are a few beautiful and hopeful scenes, there was heat, desolation, poverty, and chaos. Countries wiped clean of all natural resources and filled with insouciance, lassitude and genera ...more
If you have not read Paul Theroux before, his most recent travelogue, "The Last Train to Zona Verde" is not the best book with which to begin, as it's a valedictory of sorts. Better to start with the travelogue "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star," an account of his journey down the entire continent of Africa, from Egypt to South Africa. Better to start with "The Lower River," his fictional account of a man who goes back in late middle age to the village in Malawi where he had once (like Theroux) b ...more
Craig Fiebig
The importance of this book is two-fold: Theroux's expertise, experience and emotional connection to Africa explode off the page with verbal clarity of a Tufte infographic. Second is Theroux's ability to eviscerate progressive development shibboleths by evaluating the impact of "policy" at a continental, country-wide, local, cultural and personal manner. His un-disguised contempt when the NY Times insists on referring to a failed state under a decade-long dictatorship with the "President's" pict ...more
"Last Train" is my favorite Theroux book. It manages to tell us something (quite a lot) about South Africa, Namibia, and Angola while also inviting us to think about far larger themes-- inequality, privilege, urbanity, and, most importantly, how our ideas and values change over time.

This book is, to me, Theroux's most poignant. I feel like he has shared this great arc with us throughout the course of his career-- having been witness to the period of independence transitions and great hope in Af
I like The Last Train..., and I recommend it, but you have to be in the mood. I think Theroux is a genius, really...Mosquito Coast and The Lower River alone merit reading him.
This is his "Ultimate African Safari" he says in the subtitle, and that's why it's a bit of a downer.
But, look, the last book I read by him, The Lower River, really hit me. And old guy goes back to where he was most alive, most enthusiastic, and optimistic, where he was more full of young life than any time ever again in hi
Deborah Purdon
I have read two books by Theroux: The Last Train to Zona Verde, and the The Lower River. Both are such dismal, disillusioned depictions of Africa. I know Theroux is a great traveler, but I do have to ask myself why he wrote these two books, and why he continues to return to Africa.

I was fascinated by this book and by his travels. He travels alone, by bush taxi, train and bus, into the bush, to cities not often frequented by tourists, and writes with such detail. I have been to Senegal twice, bu
Roger Mustoe
One of the most depressing books that I've managed to finish in a long time. It may well be a factual and precise account of the region through which he travelled but his investigation into the area was cushioned by uninteresting and boring visits to venues like ridiculously expensive elephant safari camps patronized by the very wealthy and dysfunctional people that he so often loves to berate. Yes he's past 70 now but he could have made a better attempt at something new and do we really want to ...more
David Bales
The great Paul Theroux does it again with his latest travel book, journeying from the paradox of modern Cape Town, (upscale neighborhoods and the vast slums of the townships) through western South Africa through the German-influenced Namibia, (very interesting sidelights about the native peoples there) to the chaos and heart of darkness of Angola, where no tourists go. Theroux constantly asks himself, "What am I doing there?" and at over 70, seems weary of travel, disgusted with the foreign aid ...more
As many people know, I've become quite a Theroux travelogue fan, burning my way through over a half dozen books and loving them all. This one is different. He bills it as his last trip to Africa and he seems to mean it, and the book is hundreds of pages shorter than his other offerings have been. The book itself is weaker in ways than others--I can't stand to read quotes of other people's thoughts as I have to do that enough in reading for work. However, this is a more personal trip. Compared wi ...more
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Paul Theroux interview transcript 1 9 Jan 22, 2014 12:48PM  
  • Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa's Fighting Spirit
  • Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness
  • Journey Without Maps
  • The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World
  • Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert
  • Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure
  • The Unconquered
  • No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo
  • Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
  • This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland
  • Among the Russians
  • Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff
  • News From Tartary
  • The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River
  • The White Nile
  • The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean
  • The Shadow of Kilimanjaro: On Foot Across East Africa
  • Eight Feet in the Andes
Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
More about Paul Theroux...
The Great Railway Bazaar Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town The Mosquito Coast Riding the Iron Rooster The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas

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“I have a hatred of the taming of animals, especially large ones that are so contented in the wild. I abominate circus acts that involve big befooled beasts--cowed tigers or helplessly roaring lions pawing the air and teetering on small stools. I deplore zoos and anything to do with animal confinement or restraint.” 3 likes
“There's always a way if you're not in a hurry.” 2 likes
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