LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Last Train to Zona Verde


by Paul Theroux.

Paul Theroux returns to Africa after ten years away, and travels overland from Cape Town to Angola for what he expects to be his final visit.

The book begins on a bush-hike with the traditionally dressed Ju/’hoansi people of Namibia, purported to be the most ancient tribe on earth. But the hunter-gathering idyll is shattered, when the group get home and change back into their western clothes.

Theroux explores the changes brought on Africa by colonialism – both historical (e.g. German and Dutch), and modern (Chinese). He sees people living in squalor-bound poverty, while their governments cream off billions of oil dollars (t’was ever thus). He discusses – amongst many other issues – the reality (and injustice) of life for so many, and why aid-money isn’t necessarily the answer.

Having read Colin Thubron’s In the Shadow of the Silk Road last year, it’s been refreshing to encounter Theroux’s writing. Sure, he was on a farewell journey, but I felt he was making the most of it, absorbing his surroundings and encounters, rather than just passing through.

This is the first Theroux book I’ve read, and it has inspired me to read more.


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