353 pp., paperback, London, 2013
Paul Theroux travels from Cape Town up the left-hand side of Africa, through South Africa and Namibia, to Botswana and into Angola, heading for the Congo.
"Theroux's 'valedictory trip', his farewell to a genre of rough travel that once promised 'bliss', treats the urban Africa he loathes as the outward sign of an inner disillusion. Feeling ancient (a septuagenarian backpacker), vulnerable, world-weary, he makes of Africa's shift from the 'mutual respect and fairness' of rural tradition to 'stupefying disorder' in the cities a corollary of his own sense of doom. He knows the idea of Africa as a 'violated Eden' is an outsider's myth. Indeed, a fine chapter sets the 'charade' and 'travesty' of life among the heritage-industry San people today against the fantasies of pristine innocence spun by 'posturing fantasists' such as Laurens van der Post. Travellers in Africa always see the continent through the 'distorting mirror' of their dreams and fears. Too true." Boyd Tonkin, The Independent