In his new 352-page book The Last Train to Zona Verde, best-selling travel writer Paul Theroux explores South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, and the Congo.
He travelled by trains down the Eastern coast of Africa in his last book on that continent, Dark Star Safari. Now in his new 352-page work, The Last Train to Zona Verde, he takes the other, left-hand side, as it were, through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, then into Angola, and heading towards the Congo. The book is published by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books.
The 72-year-old author believes that this will be his last African journey, and it is in many ways a dispiriting one, as he discovers "the improvised, slapped-together Africa of tumbled fences and cooking fires, of mud and thatch."
He endures intense heat and witnesses people living in dire poverty. He encounters roadblocks, mobs and anarchy, but he also finds a sense of hope and serenity amongst the San people of northeastern Namibia.
Theroux's wit and brilliant observational powers can turn any place into somewhere worth reading about, as evinced by his many travel books published over the last four decades.
In a recent Guardian piece he recalls his earliest memory, when aged four or five, he walked half a mile across busy roads to a church, in search of his father. "The horror of the people who found me imprinted this on my memory, " he declares.
It's quite a literary dynasty, as Paul's brother is also a writer. Paul is the father of film-maker Louis Theroux and the novelist Marcel Theroux and he is uncle to actor Justin Theroux.