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The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  2,519 ratings  ·  354 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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Alick Chingapi This might be in the "DarkStar Safari" when comes to Africa and goes from Cairo To Cape Town. He journeyed on Lake Victoria as we as on Lake Malawi on…moreThis might be in the "DarkStar Safari" when comes to Africa and goes from Cairo To Cape Town. He journeyed on Lake Victoria as we as on Lake Malawi on a dug out canoe to Mocambqiue. I have recently read the "Last Train to Zon Verde" and I do not recall a trip where this was said. (less)

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3.84  · 
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 ·  2,519 ratings  ·  354 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
”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
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
In 2011 Paul Theroux traveled from Cape Town, South Africa, through Namibia to Angola, also taking a side trip to visit a luxury game park in Botswana. He writes of this journey in The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari. Having traveled a decade earlier, southward along the eastern side of Africa in Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town, now he travels northward along the western side of the continent. He would revisit places in South Africa and Namibia and observe ...more
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, africa
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
May 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Simon Fay
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Paul Theroux was a bit lost on this one. I know because he complained about it every other page. 'Why am I here?' is a constant question that pads the text, just as often substituted with, 'What's the point?'

It's fair to say that doubt, both in himself and civilisation as a whole, is a theme that occupies the majority of the book, and though he paws around the dirt to find some answers, in most cases he can only come up with half-hearted justifications for why he would suffer a journey in which
aPriL does feral sometimes
An interesting travelogue comparing journeys fifty years apart.

‘The Last Train to Zona Verde’ is one of those books one wishes had been better written. Unfortunately, there was annoying emotional moaning about the state of African cities in almost every chapter. It degraded my reading experience. I agree with author Paul Theroux’s opinions, however. But Theroux spent a little too much time telling, not showing, because of his disappointment and shock.

I have never traveled in Africa so I cannot
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found Paul Theroux's "The Last Train to Zona Verde" a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Some brilliant insights into the lives and appalling living conditions of the populations inhabiting South Africa, Namibia and Angola. There are some side-effect history lessons along the way, including a fascinating bit about Bono from U2 supporting a horrible political figure and his campaign song to "Kill the Boer". Who knew?

I'm not a big reader of travel literature (I did read "The Songlines" by Bruce Chatwin
Lawrence Lihosit
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
John Behle
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
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
Max Carmichael
Oct 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Not so long ago, I did a review of a book by Julian Barnes at this site where one of the key passages within the novel struck me as fundamentally important, i.e. that to understand any historian's commentary, one had first to understand the history or life of the historian whose account we are attempting to evaluate. This seems simple enough but such a preliminary step can be elusive and in reading a few reviews of Paul Theroux's recent & perhaps final travel adventure, The Last Train to Zon ...more
William Koon
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Steve lovell
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you want to be taken into the heart of darkness, to perhaps the vilest country on the face of the planet, then Paul Theroux is your man. Why, in doing so we'll even find the modern day Mr Kurtz waiting.

The question has to be asked as to why, at age 70, would anyone want to travel alone to somewhere he knew full well was a foul and foetid country? It would be beyond my comprehension. Surely, after eight travel books (as well as a goodly number number of novels), all, to varying degrees, succes
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've followed Theroux around the world and enjoyed with him his many trips. One of the best things about his writing is that it's highly emotional, meaning that his current emotions come through in his descriptions and writing. One I got from this travelogue is that he's tired. Which, jesus dog, he's 70 years old, of course he's tired. But he's also tired of seeing the same slums and the same poverty and the same corruption.

And I do want to address something that I found particularly fascinatin
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I haven't read any Theroux for a long time, probably since his paddle around the Pacific. I hadn't missed his grumpy, misanthropic tone, but this book reminded me what a great writer and observer he is. It's hardly a bundle of laughs -- returning to his beloved Africa he finds that almost everything has got worse, and he gets increasingly weary and cynical during a very difficult journey. But each chapter is a beautifully constructed piece in its own right: the chapter about the Ju'/Hoansi bushm ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
An up-close, unvarnished look the effects of modernization on southwestern Africa, as the author travels overland from Capetown through Angola. This is not a cheery travelogue, but a somewhat jaundiced look at a part of the world where conditions are deteriorating under the pressure of greed, corruption, growing inequality and urbanization. That Theroux loves Africa makes him all the more critical and almost bitter. Near the end he reports, "Angola was doomed, [Kalunga Lima] said, because of the ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book will undoubtedly be the last of Theroux's travel books. I have read them all, some more than once, and I am close to his age, 70, so it's all a little sad. In this book, he is vulnerable as never before. You miss some of the barbed wit, but you get the wisdom of all he has experienced. Man en masse, Paul is not crazy about, but he can usually find something to appreciate in anyone who is genuine.
Angola seems like a terrible place to go on one's last journey; indeed he spends less time
Angus McKeogh
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was my first foray into Theroux's travel narratives. I had enjoyed some of his fiction (and have had a little trouble getting through some of his other fiction), but I found his travel writing great. Or perhaps it was his route and destination. Angola. A place I'll never go. A reputed hellhole. A war torn area run by bandits, dictators, and communists. A really fascinating read. Illuminates the problems with Africa and how America is connected to that very thing. Makes one extremely thankfu ...more
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Michael Andersen-Andrade
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"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
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
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
According to Theroux, much of Africa is devolving into a series of wilderness theme parks set in countries festering with corruption, with cities surrounded by horrific slums. Africa's best hope lies in the "zona verde" (the green zone--the bush), where traditions and values central to African identity are still remembered. Fascinating but depressing.
Anne Maesaka
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
The title of this book is a bit misleading. This is not a book about an african safari, so if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. This is a book about Paul Theroux traveling from South Africa, through Namibia and to Angola. The majority of this book takes place in the country of Angola. He does present some fascinating history of the country and talks about the political situation there. Angola is one of the richest African countries but it's people are some of the poorest . Therou ...more
T. Fowler
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many years had passed since I last read a travel book by Paul Theroux but I picked this one up as a publisher's overstock, and am pleased that I did. I was quite surprised at the same time that Theroux has aged (who would have guessed!) and that he is setting out on this trip up the southwest coast of Africa as a "farewell trip." He is well aware that Africa has changed since his last trip ten years earlier; parts of the continent are no longer safe to travel and he has concerns, now that he is ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of Theroux's travel books and this is a goodie - travelling up the west coast to Angola his story really is an "off the beaten track" account and i now know i'm unlikely to ever go to Angola!
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read, learned all the things.
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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
“There's always a way if you're not in a hurry.” 10 likes
“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.” 7 likes
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