C.R. Miller's Reviews > Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
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May 27, 12


His writing about Egypt and Sudan, including the cultural and historical reflections, I found fascinating. I found the section on Ethiopia useful, if a bit superficial. Theroux really hits his stride, though, when he gets into Kenya and Malawi, where he is able to draw comparisons between the places and peoples he knew from living and teaching there back in the 1960s and those of current-day Africa. His mounting critique of foreign aid and associated NGOs as he travels south is indispensable. At first I only had minor quibbles (nothing that would have caused me to consider anything other than a five rating): referring to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians as "Copts;" referring too often to an "erotic story" he was writing while traveling, without sharing more than a tiny snippet of it in this text, and his tedious over-use of the seemingly meaningless words "African" and Africans" in a way that suggested that he simply meant "black" or "blacks" but avoided those terms by using even less specific ones.

In the end there were two big distractors, FIrst was his not unfamiliar penchant for flaunting his superiority (mocking NGO workers, regular tourists, and safari-goers for their habits and behaviors). Although he has a point, the fact that he isn't above helicopter rides, visits to exclusive game resorts, a gourmet meal at a luxury estate washed down by several glasses of sauvignon blanc, or drinking champagne in his private, high-end train compartment completely undermines it. He ought to admit in a more forthright way that he's a rich writer, but plays a budget traveler in this book. The other (and I'm going out on a limb here, but this is my essential reading of the book) is that the whole effort would have been more interesting and successful had he just admitted that the trip and the book revolved around his turning sixty, and all the psychological and physical issues that come with that.

Those issues aside, the writing is rich, detailed, and full of substantial reflections on history and politics. Highly Recommended.
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message 1: by Darrel (new)

Darrel I've always loved Theroux - especially his non-fiction. I haven't read a book of his in what must be...10 or more years. I'll put this on the reading list for sure.


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