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The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari
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The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,043 ratings  ·  209 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
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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
Donna
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
Elida
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
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
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Erin
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
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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
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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
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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
Chris
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
RJ
Feb 08, 2015 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
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Socraticgadfly
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
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William Koon
Last Train...is 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.
Andrea
Renowned travel writer Paul Theroux returns for one last trip through Africa, where he worked as a young man as a Peace Corp teacher and where he traveled in middle age as described in Dark Star Safari. Theroux is a highly critical and cynical observer, but it is clear he has a special attachment to Africa and his observations, while unromantic, seem quite fair in most cases. He finds a great deal of frustration, unfulfilled promise and personal danger in this trip, but concedes that optimism is ...more
Kay
This is the first book I've read by Mr. Theroux and now I want to read some others. Although he'd been to Africa multiple times before, this trip is a solo traveler's adventure up the western part of Africa. He examines tourism, lost of a way of life (Bushmen), wildly out of control wealth inequality, results of African colonialism, celebrity meddling to stroke their egos, and quite simply what he experiences on his trip. There are some ironies involved as when he discusses tourism in Capetown's ...more
Beth
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
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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
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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
Bob
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
Sandie
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
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Shelley
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
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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
Richard
Paul Theroux is my favorite travel writer, and with his previous book, "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star," where he retraced the steps of his early "The Great Railway Bazaar," I thought he was at the top of his game. Five years later, I'm afraid this trip, from Cape Town to Angola, did not inspire him nearly as much. It's not surprising that a 71-year old man undergoing such a demanding trip would often ask, "What am I doing here?" but too much of that makes the reader think the same thing. A ble ...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
Doug
The writing and storytelling are terrific, but the topic...ghastly poverty, an abandoned populace, a wasted environment, disease, hunger, and avarice...just not fun to read about, although maybe really important to read about. As the trip evolved, the tone of the book changed from eager anticipation to tepid wariness to blunt drudgery, and by the end of the book, the writer feels like the reader: bereft of hope, burdened by sorrow, and just plain tired. Dark, so dark...
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
Wendy Francis
I have enjoyed Paul Theroux's writing in the past (Mosquito Coast, My Secret History) and this book reminded me why. He is a keen and eloquent observer of the human condition. Entering his 70s, Theroux once more sets out to explore an unknown part of the continent in which he has spent six years of his life. His purpose is simply to observe, experience, and record. His journey takes him up the coast of southwest Africa, from Capetown to northern Angola. In Capetown he is encouraged by improvemen ...more
M.
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
Norma
"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
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Paul Theroux interview transcript 1 12 Jan 22, 2014 12:48PM  
  • Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness
  • Malaria Dreams: An African Adventure
  • Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa's Fighting Spirit
  • 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
  • No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo
  • Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
  • The Unconquered
  • Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents
  • Among the Russians
  • Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff
  • The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River
  • In Search of King Solomon's Mines
  • Slowly Down the Ganges
  • Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East AFrica
  • News From Tartary
  • The White Nile
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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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