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My Mercedes is Not for Sale: From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou...An Auto-Misadventure Across the Sahara

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  270 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”
—Janis Joplin

A journalist’s intrepid endeavor to sell his used car abroad results in a high-spirited and revealing look at West Africa.

“Look, there’s my car,” I say, pointing at my Mercedes in the parking lot.
“Where?” a fellow desert traveler asks.
“There, that Mercedes,” I say.
He looks at me, questioning. “You want to drive that
Paperback, 210 pages
Published July 15th 2008 by Broadway Books (first published April 13th 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 28, 2009 Andrea rated it it was ok
Shelves: africa, travel, dnf
I have read other Sahara/travel books and enjoyed them, so I picked this up. I gave up because the style didn't engage me, and the writer seemed to be stalling for time, dragging out the opening. First, a long summary of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," apparently connected to how he views his car, then a long description of his trip to the Mercedes factory in Bremen. At that point I gave up.
Dec 04, 2016 Kristin rated it really liked it
Not a typical book I would choose but my husband gave it to me for a birthday gift as we used to own a mercedes and we have both lived/worked in Africa previously. I really enjoyed the author's storytelling, you could really feel his inner monologue and emotions at every turn of the adventure. One star off because sometimes I wished there were a little more detail in the timeline of the story. Overall excellent story and a really unique perspective.
Afrikaanse Toestanden
Vooral de ondertitel van de Engelstalige editie van Jeroen van Bergeijk’s Mijn Mercedes is niet te koop (From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou.. An Auto-Misadventure Across the Sahara) doet een doldwaas avontuur vermoeden. Dat blijkt bij lezing wel mee te vallen. Dat komt vooral omdat Van Bergeijk niet eens zo heel diep van binnen niet de avonturier is die hij stiekem wel graag zou willen zijn.

Waarom met een oude Mercedes dwars door de Sahara rijden als je niet geplaagd wordt door avonturendrang? In het
Feb 23, 2010 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
There's a certain breed of travelogue I enjoy, in which some intrepid person sets out on an outlandish adventure that I would never take myself, but am eager to experience from the armchair. This book, about a Dutchman who drives a Mercedes from Amsterdam to Benin to sell it, fits my parameters perfectly. It's a short and sweet detailing of the trials and tribulations involved (none of which should be surprising, from the con-artist guides, to the bribe-demanding border guards, to the inevitable ...more
calico Rosenberg
Aug 12, 2016 calico Rosenberg rated it liked it
the author/narrator kind of made himself unlikeable, i thought personally, in a series of similar occurances of his interactions with strangers--like when he turned down the experience the surfer offered, or expressed his tiredness/annoyance as a reason he responded to someone somewhat rudely/abruptly (despite his reaction most often being precedented.
i also was confused about the whol etrying to sell the car (or not?) theme? i dont know if this because i read the first 30 or so pages at one po
Aug 04, 2009 Iowill rated it liked it
I'll file this one under the genre of "Questionable Travel Narratives". It's a breezy and quick read...provocative on a number of worthy points ("Africa" as something writ large for non-Africans), the unintended consequences of global trade, Western (and now increasingly Eastern) consumerism, NGOs and the rise of the "African Internship as Resume Line For Sale" industry, meditations on 'time' and 'waiting' as they relate to travel and especially non-Africans traveling/navigating/negotiating ...more
Dec 17, 2012 J.I. added it
Shelves: read-2008
This book meanders for a while, taking up nearly its entire length before the stories become interesting. It reads like a not-all-that-exciting magazine article that has been stretched by 190 pages, full of summaries of better books, until the very end when the stories finally become interesting and the portraits of the places begin to feel fleshed out.

The problem is that Jeroen Van Bergeijk is a jerk. He is easily duped by a few con artists and so becomes bitter about the experience, making mil
Feb 20, 2010 Michael rated it liked it
I liked this quite well - the Dutch author's laconic narrative was fine for me, although it might drag for some folks. He intersperses a bit of history of the Mercedes and the previous owners of the aging D-190 that he is driving to sell in Burkina Faso, but not such that it detracts from the main narrative. And really, there is something funny about how some countries are associated with particular used car makes - a New York Times article in the last few days talks about the popularity of ...more
Oct 05, 2008 Katrina rated it liked it
Since I'm home all day with three preschoolers, I'm looking for books that allow me to travel - not just fantasy literature, but authors who have really traveled somewhere interesting in our world today. This book is more than a travel adventure, as the author has some good insight into how to really "help" the developed world. He points out that he has no scruples about the trade in used cars. He drives his 1988 Mercedes Benz from Holland, through the Sahara and down through several more ...more
There's a lot of fun stuff in this book -- for example, a description of trying to get through customs in an African country. The book is partially about traveling through a different culture and partially about the used automobile market worldwide.

I'm guessing this book will land around three stars for many because in addition to delivering what you might expect (travel, car talk, adventure) it also delivers content you might not expect (descriptions of past adventure literature, etc.).

As a rea
This was a brief but entertaining read. The author buys a used Mercedes to drive from Europe to West Africa...don't forget that the Sahara desert is smack in the middle of that journey!

Van Bergeijk is not the first to take this type of trip nor will he be the last; his account is engaging though not ground-breaking as he weaves in history of others' journeys, the provinence of his particular used car and tales of his missteps along the way.

We'd rather be an armchair traveler on this kind of adve
Mar 01, 2010 Robin rated it it was ok
Book club book for March.

As the two-star rating should tell you: it was OK. Something about the tone/voice left me cold. I felt like I still didn't know the author very well even after being "with" him on the road for three months. And it seemed like he didn't meet very many nice people or have many positive experiences.

But he does give a pretty good picture of West Africa from a foreigner's point of view. It was fun to read his perspectives on Bamako, Ouagadougou, and Dakar, all places I've b
Apr 19, 2011 LadyHeather rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2011, ebooks
I like travelogues, so I liked this one to but just a little. I can't really put my finger on why I didn't really liked it. Maybe it had something to do with the recurring references to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, although I'm currently reading that book as well and I like it... I just don't need to read that book through someone else his eyes... Maybe it had something to do with the tone of voice... Maybe... well I don't know. It could only engage me for a ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Unwisely rated it really liked it
A Dutch guy drives from The Netherlands through West Africa, in order to sell his car. I like travelogues, this one's modern and goes through a part of Africa I have only read about (he goes through the Western Sahara, where they shipwrecked in one of the books I read earlier this year). It's a little different from most of the ones I read, because instead of just wandered around, he had a specific purpose.

There's a little history, a little musing on development (only sanctimonious in a couple
Nov 17, 2008 Amanda rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Boring people
Recommended to Amanda by: A misguided travel bookstore
I expected so much more from this story.

Think of the potential: A man, dragging a REALLY old piece o'junk Mercedes across the African desert in order to sell it for a profit. Very cool.

Instead, we get Van Bergeijk's bland account of what could be much more interesting. He gets stopped by border police all of the time, his car breaks down, he meets some very interesting characters doing the same thing that he is. However, he tells all of this in a flat, telling NOT showing sort of way.

I didn't ex
Aug 06, 2014 itpdx rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Armchair traveling, for sure! A Dutchman describes his trip driving a 16 year old Mercedes from Amsterdam to Burkina Faso. Armchair traveling in that this is not something that I would ever attempt and the whole book is from a traveler's point of view--road conditions, border crossings, auto repairs, accommodations from a tent to an upscale hotel. Van Bergeijk throws in some tales of early trans Saharan travel, the background that he can find out about his car, and some of his own musings on ...more
Aug 11, 2008 Kris rated it really liked it
Fun, interesting, kept me flipping between the page I was currently reading and the map of West Africa at the beginning to track his journey. A nice complement to "Long Way Down" which I just finished. Two treks into Africa, accomplished in two totally different ways.
Loved the fairly truthful (I'm assuming...) assessment of the people he encountered along the way: the hardworking, the honest, the struggling, the lazy, the cheats, all of them.
Jun 07, 2012 Nmdb22 rated it liked it
Interesting read about some places I know well, though pretty superficial and full of stereotypes, especially of himself and the guys who take a gap year to drive from Europe to Africa, selling their car for more than it is worth to pay for their trip - no particular insights gained, though it is a bit curious that he went back again taking his family - not sure whether that meant his siblings and parents or his girlfriend and child.
Saskia Watson
Feb 11, 2015 Saskia Watson rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I've been doubting between 2 and 3 stars, because of the bad after taste this book left. Even though I still would never want to venture into West Africa, I enjoyed his stories. I felt decived however when I learned at the end of the book that this wasn't one amazing journey, it was two; pieced together.
Jul 21, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok
I don't know why I can't get into this book. It has a moderately interesting topic and I am not a super fiesty book critic. I usually devour all literature. I have 25 pages left in this book and I WILL finish it tonight.
I do have to say that the way the author jumps around from past to present is a bit confusing. There is not a good transition between. Meh...
Todd Tyrtle
Oct 14, 2010 Todd Tyrtle rated it really liked it
Sometimes I want to read an introspective travel book where the author explores their own psyche as much as they explore the outside world. Other times, it's fun to just read about someone having interesting adventures in far away places. This book's a fine example of the latter category. A very light, quick read but also quite enjoyable.
Dec 25, 2008 Nadir rated it really liked it
Fun book - I like the spirit of adventure this author brings to his tale - he shares both his frustrations with his journey, but also with his "wish" for his journey, or his "dream" of what it should be like. Not sure I would try the same thing (the border crossings sound fairly sketchy for an inexperienced person).
Jul 27, 2008 Turi rated it liked it
Short but interesting book about a man who decides to drive an older model Mercedes across north Africa to sell - not an uncommon trip, apparently. Learned quite a bit about the car trade in Europe and Africa, and about Africa itself. I love non-fiction like this - something I'll never experience myself, presented interestingly and thoughtfully.
May 16, 2009 Tina rated it liked it
A man's diary of buying a very old Mercees and driving from Europe to West Central Africa. Apparently this happens more often than we would ever believe it would. It's a challenge to rive a car across the Sahara Desert and that's some of the allure.
Sep 12, 2013 Graciela rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable book about a Dutch man who buys a used Mercedes Benz and travels to Africa to sell it. He describes his 3 month adventure in West Africa and at the same time researches who the previous owners of his car were. Fun to read!!!
Aug 11, 2008 Judith rated it liked it
Interesting travel book. Things I liked: the travelogue across the Sahara, the historical accounts of Saharan explorers through the years, interwoven throughout. Things I didn't like: the profanity.
Aug 19, 2009 Tamera rated it really liked it
Probably most interesting from the perspective of what happens to a great number of cars from Western Europe when they're 'used up'. Fun travel adventure to read about.
Grace Smiley
Feb 16, 2009 Grace Smiley rated it liked it
A fun read. My first travel book, really, and I liked it, although it didn't really make me want to go to Africa!
Apr 22, 2010 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Although I wasn't all that interested in the author's secondary quest to track down the vehicle's previous owners, the main story of driving through Africa made for a good travel narrative.
Jielus Kuijntjes
Een leuk verhaal over een auto en een reis. Tevens de bevestiging dat ik in Afrika niets heb te zoeken.
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Journalist / writer / publisher / documentary maker. Co-founder of Fosfor ( )
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