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Summary and book reviews of Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

Dark Star Safari

Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

by Paul Theroux

Dark Star Safari
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2003, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2004, 496 pages

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Book Summary

A rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa.

In the travel-writing tradition that made Paul Theroux’s reputation, Dark Star Safari is a rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa. Going by train, dugout canoe, "chicken bus," and cattle truck, Theroux passes through some of the most beautiful — and often life-threatening — landscapes on earth. This is travel as discovery and also, in part, a sentimental journey. Almost forty years ago, Theroux first went to Africa as a teacher in the Malawi bush. Now he stops at his old school, sees former students, revisits his African friends. He finds astonishing, devastating changes wherever he goes. "Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it," he writes, "hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you can’t tell the politicians from the witch doctors. Not that Africa is one place. It is an assortment of motley republics and seedy chiefdoms. I got sick, I got stranded, but I was never bored. In fact, my trip was a delight and a revelation." Seeing firsthand what is happening across Africa, Theroux is as obsessively curious and wittily observant as always, and his readers will find themselves on an epic and enlightening journey. Dark Star Safari is one of his bravest and best books.

Table of Contents

1 Lighting Out
2 The Mother of the World
3 Up and Down the Nile
4 The Dervishes of Omdurman
5 The Osama Road to Nubia
6 The Djibouti Line to Harar
7 The Longest Road in Africa
8 Figawi Safari on the Bandit Road
9 Rift Valley Days
10 Old Friends in Bat Valley
11 The MV Umoja Across Lake Victoria
12 The Bush Train to Dar es Salaam
13 The Kilimanjaro Express to Mbeya
14 Through the Outposts of the Plateau
15 The Back Road to Soche Hill School
16 River Safari to the Coast
17 Invading Drummond’s Farm
18 The Bush Border Bus to South Africa
19 The Hominids of Johannesburg
20 The Wild Things at Mala Mala
21 Faith, Hope, and Charity on the Limpopo Line
22 The Trans-Karoo Express to Cape Town
23 Blue Train Blues

Chapter 1
Lighting Out

All news out of Africa is bad. It made me want to go there, though not for the horror, the hot spots, the massacre-and-earthquake stories you read in the newspaper; I wanted the pleasure...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Washington Post - Robert D. Kaplan

Theroux is best at shorthand dissections of trends that have already become obvious. In no other book will one find such entertaining and penetrating comments about the ironies, as well as the historic failure, of foreign aid.

The New York Times - Rand Richards Cooper

As Emerson went on to say, a writer engages despair by writing about it; ''in calamity, he finds new materials.'' With Dark Star Safari, Theroux reports his first trip into the last leg of life's voyage, and sends back a brooding and apocalyptic report.

The San Francisco Chronicle

Theroux, one suspects, could be a headache to travel with; resourceful, courageous and indefatigable, as well as crusty, opinionated and contradictory. But listening to him recount his adventures... is another matter. He can make you forget to eat, this man.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Armchair travelers will wish the book went on twice as long -- and that is something, considering that the book runs more than 400 pages. This is a masterwork by a master writer.

The Houston Chronicle

I know and have traveled in Africa, so I can proclaim with admiration that Theroux, the disheveled, often grumpy, sometimes euphoric sojourner who shares his latest adventures in Dark Star Safari, is an intrepid traveler worthy of the reputation that precedes him.

Booklist - Keir Graff

...his book contains page after page of eye-opening and insightful observations. And for those of us who might squander our two weeks off on a predictable cruise, Theroux's vantage point from the dusty road is very useful indeed.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Engagingly written, sharply observed another winner from Theroux.

Library Journal (starred review)

No mere tale of travel mishaps....Safari is Swahili for journey, and Theroux's is truly fantastic.

Reader Reviews

kyoozoo

Another Theroux-ly good book
Politically incorrect but very fair, as usual for Theroux. People are what this book is all about, and Theroux is thrilled to bits to be around them, any of them, so he can poke, prod, discuss, listen, love them all, begrudgingly sometimes. Another ...   Read More

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