"Theroux is at his best when he tells [people’s] stories, happy and sad . . . Theroux’s great mission had always been to transport us beyond that reading chair, to challenge himself—and thus, to challenge us." — Boston Globe
Paul Theroux’s best-selling Dark Star Safari chronicled his epic overland voyage from Cairo to Cape Town, providing an insider’s look at modern Africa. Now, with The Last Train to Zona Verde, he returns to discover how both he and Africa have changed in the ensuing years.
Traveling alone, Theroux sets out from Cape Town, going north through South Africa, Namibia, then into Angola, encountering a world increasingly removed from tourists’ itineraries and the hopes of postcolonial independence movements. After covering nearly 2,500 arduous miles, he cuts short his journey, a decision he chronicles with unsparing honesty in a chapter titled “What Am I Doing Here?” Vivid, witty, and beautifully evocative, The Last Train to Zona Verde is a fitting final African adventure from the writer whose gimlet eye and effortless prose have brought the world to generations of readers.
"Everything is under scrutiny in Paul Theroux’s latest travel book—not just the people, landscapes and sociopolitical realities of the countries he visits, but his own motivations for going where he goes . . . His readers can only be grateful." — Seattle Times
“If this book is proof, age has not slowed Theroux or encouraged him to rest on his achievements . . . Gutsy, alert to Africa's struggles, its injustices and history.” — San Francisco Chronicle
The dean of travel writers recoils from southern Africa's heart of darkness in this disillusioned, heartsick travelogue. Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar; etc.) recounts his back-roads trip from Cape Town to Angola, a valedictory for happier African sojourns. There are fascinating vignettes of a fallen Eden: hunter-gatherer folkways of San Bushmen enchant him with their primeval authenticity until he realizes they are just pantomimes for tourists; at a luxury safari camp an elephant takes its revenge for exploitation. But the main action is Theroux's gradual descent into the urban inferno. By bus and crowded cab he gravitates from the relative cleanliness and order of Namibia into Angola, a hell-hole devoid of wildlife, littered with burnt-out tanks, where sleek kleptocrats lord the oil wealth over desperate, grasping beggars. The lowest circle of the "unfixable blight" of African cities is Luanda, "joyless...hot and chaotic, inhospitable and expensive, grotesque and poor," a "vibration of doomsday" where children's laughter sounds "insane and chattering and agonic an amplified death rattle." Theroux's prose is as vividly descriptive and atmospheric as ever and, though a bit curmudgeonly, he's still wide open to raw, painful interactions between his psyche and his surroundings.
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Another amazing travel epilogue ...
... from the writer I've become a fan of after first reading Mosquito Coast back in the early 1980s. This is a well researched and told story of modern day Africa with its social and developmental problems. Paul Theroux doesn't hold back when describing corrupt governments, and hostile environments caused by greed, poverty, and "foreign aid" plied onto the Continent for legitimate and political reasons. Well aware of his own advancing age and less tolerant for the conditions encountered, he eventually decides to cut his trip short after soul searching "Why am I here? And the reader cannot blame him after the losses he's experienced. This book almost sounds like his swan song, as far as writing is concerned, something I truly hope isn't true.