Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paul Theroux, an inspiration

Paul Theroux is a novelist, travel writer and master of descriptive prose, whose writing is so concise and sublime that I could finish any one of his travel books then turn to the first page and read it all over again. No other travel writer, in my opinion, matches his skill of observation and description and his ability to draw one into a story. Paul Theroux has matured and mellowed since the days of The Great Railway Bazaar, blending more into the background, but with insightful commentary still cutting through all the b.s. Characters come alive on the page in his skillful hands. And there are some wonderful characters in Zona Verde.

His latest travel book, The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari, is a continuation of Dark Star Safari, published in 2003 about his travels from Cairo overland to Cape Town. Excellent book. But Zona Verde takes it even further with a daring journey from Cape Town to Namibia and finally - Angola. The author skillfully weaves the past with the present to give us a stark and terrifying vision of the future. Without the historical background and insights that are the backbone of this story, the landscape that he describes would be incomprehensible. The cruelty of colonialism will live on for generations to come on the African continent and the future looks more terrifying.

Paul Theroux's description of his Angolan border crossing makes my crossing at Huaquillas, Peru seem like a teddy bear's picnic. I've traveled around the world and experienced similar circumstances of being jostled by hecklers, grabbed by beggars and yelled at by officials, but nothing gives me goosebumps more than Paul's description of his trek into Angola. If you want a glimpse, albeit terrifying, into the future, please read The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari.