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Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town [Paperback]

Paul Theroux
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 2003

Dark Star Safari is Paul Theroux's now classic account of a journey from Cairo to Cape Town.

Travelling across bush and desert, down rivers and across lakes, and through country after country, Theroux visits some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, and some of the most dangerous. It is a journey of discovery and of rediscovery -- of the unknown and the unexpected, but also of people and places he knew as a young and optimistic teacher forty years before.

Safari in Swahili simply means "journey", and this is the ultimate safari. It is Theroux in his element -- a trip where chance encounter is everything, where departure and arrival times are an irrelevance, and where contentment can be found balancing on the top of a truck in the middle of nowhere.

Praise for Paul Theroux:

'Theroux's work remains the standard by which other travel writing must be judged' Observer

'One needs energy to keep up with the extraordinary, productive restlessness of Paul Theroux ... [He is] the most gifted, most prodigal writer of his generation' Jonathan Raban

'Always a terrific teller of tales and conjurer of exotic locales, he writes lean prose that lopes along at a compelling pace' Sunday Times

Paul Theroux's books include Dark Star Safari, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Elephanta Suite, A Dead Hand, The Tao of Travel and The Lower River. The Mosquito Coast and Dr Slaughter have both been made into successful films. Paul Theroux divides his time between Cape Cod and the Hawaiian islands.

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Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town + Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the tracks of 'The Great Railway Bazaar' + The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price For All Three: £22.37

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (7 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140281118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140281118
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Theroux was born and educated in the United States. After graduating from university in 1963, he travelled first to Italy and then to Africa, where he worked as a Peace Corps teacher at a bush school in Malawi, and as a lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda. In 1968 he joined the University of Singapore and taught in the Department of English for three years. Throughout this time he was publishing short stories and journalism, and wrote a number of novels. Among these were Fong and the Indians, Girls at Play and Jungle Lovers, all of which appear in one volume, On the Edge of the Great Rift (Penguin, 1996).

In the early 1970s Paul Theroux moved with his wife and two children to Dorset, where he wrote Saint Jack, and then on to London. He was a resident in Britain for a total of seventeen years. In this time he wrote a dozen volumes of highly praised fiction and a number of successful travel books, from which a selection of writings were taken to compile his book Travelling the World (Penguin, 1992). Paul Theroux has now returned to the United States, but he continues to travel widely.

Paul Theroux's many books include Picture Palace, which won the 1978 Whitbread Literary Award; The Mosquito Coast, which was the 1981 Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year and joint winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was also made into a feature film; Riding the Iron Rooster, which won the 1988 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; The Pillars of Hercules, shortlisted for the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; My Other Life: A Novel, Kowloon Tong, Sir Vidia's Shadow, Fresh-air Fiend and Hotel Honolulu. Blindness is his latest novel. Most of his books are published by Penguin.

Product Description


"If you appreciate a fine writer in bis finest form, if you are curious about Africa, if you delight in eccentricity, make the trek with Theroux."

About the Author

Paul Theroux is the author of many bestselling books, both fiction and non-fiction. His travel books include THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR, THE PILLARS OF HERCULES and FRESH-AIR FIEND. His latest book, THE STRANGER AT THE PALAZZO D'ORO, is published byHamish Hamilton in June 2003. He divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Searching for misery .... 10 Nov 2005
I began this book on a trip to Uganda ... and finished it a month later when I returned to Africa on a trip to Ethiopia and South Africa. Paul captures Africa in ways that makes the book so enjoyable. I have already been to most of the countries he covered, and was amused at how well he captured the sights, smells and dynamics of the people and places. I look at Africa as Henderson The Rain King, in search for my inner self, and perhaps this is what I missed in Paul's book; he was only in search of a book to write.
I reached the end of the book also annoyed at his constant attacking of the "agents of virtue" only to find that in his last stretch he too became very much bothered with the constant nagging for change (and favours)....
To me it is obvious that he selected his experiences in a way to bring out the hardship he went through (which he chose to go through) and in places where he obviously stayed at a good hotel (as in Harare) he is silent on the matter, as if it wouldn't have been correct or might have set the wrong tone. I think in a way having been shot at in Northeastern Kenya provided him with a pedestal to elevate his quest as supernatural.
For Africa lovers definitely worth reading, for those that need to understand Africa there are books less biased.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting journey ruined by its narrator 6 April 2011
Dark Star Safari is an account of Paul Theroux's travels through Africa, shunning easy and convenient travel methods in favour of treacherous trains, dodgy taxis and tiny vans stuffed full of people and their belongings. Along the way he meets a whole variety of people from different walks of life, some old friends from his previous stay in Africa working for the Peace Corps and some new acquaintances. There are waiters, prostitutes, diplomats, Indian shopkeepers, white farmers, Rastafarians, ex-convicts and many more, all with a story to tell which become part of Theroux's own overarching story of his travels.

This book is interesting because of what it is: Theroux's journey is undeniably ambitious in scope and Dark Star Safari stands as a testament to that. It was a huge undertaking, accessing such a wide cross section of people from so many places, and the fact that he was able to write the book at all is impressive. It's also an area that is entirely new to me and I learnt a great deal from the book. I had no idea, for example, that there were so many Indians who migrated to various African countries to set up businesses and new lives, and Dark Star Safari is a gold mine of information such as this for the ignorant reader such as myself. He also presents a perspective on foreign aid (that it is often doing more harm than good) which I hadn't really considered before, probably because Africa isn't something that I read about terrible often, and certainly gave me pause for thought.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a beauty until beitbridge 19 Nov 2003
finally a long-distance linear travelogue by the old master and at times it compares with his old classics - railway bazaar, patagonia expresss, iron rooster.
it delivers interesting insights on the political and economical situation in eastern and southern africa from someone who has been there and also knows the people who are in the know. (apart from that he obviously has the enviable knack of making contact with people easily).
certainly intriguing are his observations on the 'holier-than-thou' AID brigade - should help to give your money more efficiently if your are charitably inclined.
it also has its lyrical and harrowing moments - the ones that tell you that he really did it the hard way.
unfortunately the big 60 he reaches on route in johannesburg somehow seems to adversely affect mr theroux. his annoying ramblings on his sexagenarian existence (hey you have just crossed the dark star not shying away from any inconvenience so you are not that old, OK ?) leave a foul taste. as does the fact that once in south africa he seems to turn into a sexagenarian wealthy american tourist (sic). mala mala, trans-karoo first class, cape winelands, kyilitsha, blue train, the 'expensive watch stolen from the hotel strongroom' ?
had he only stopped in beitbridge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Controversial view of Africa 5 Jan 2009
By Tamara
I have read several Theroux travel books in the past and have always imagined him as a difficult man - easy to take offence, bad tempered and opinionated yet very intelligent and certainly an excellent writer. I read this book over 2 nights as found his journey across the African continent fascinating, and as he himself hopes a reader will feel, how much nicer it is to read about someone else's horrible times in travels from the comfort of one's armchair!
I found some of his views on aid and aid workers in Africa very controverisal. I don't know how many people would agree that the best way to help Africa would be to cut off all aid so they can help themselves. However it certainly gave me food for thought and I think there may be more than a grain of truth in what he says in that patronising endless aid is doing nothing to improve Africa's problems and may even be perpetuating them.
However I must say I also found his meaness apalling, refusing even a scrap of food to a semi starved child from his luxury train window, probably still using the same philosophy that 'aid is bad'. For all his criticisms of the system, he is still a rich Westerner who could afford to make a very expensive trip and travel where he wishes, yet still despises those who for whatever very complex reasons, are living in squalor.
Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 10 days ago by dan mullaney
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great...
To me, Paul Theroux came across as an arrogant, annoying person. Rude about fellow travellers (calling an asthmatic, gasping Jade), repetitive and mentions the erotic novel he's... Read more
Published 2 months ago by S. Neville
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by molly
5.0 out of 5 stars Just love travel books and this is one of the best
Just love travel books and this is one of the best... be prepared for some flack if you work for an NGO in Africa!
Published 2 months ago by RonJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Headlin
Great read, it started off as a travel book but it points out the futility of overseas aid being given to Africa by the UK taxpayer.
Published 4 months ago by Bobbyjones
2.0 out of 5 stars Arrogant and sanctimonious tone ruins interesting writing
It's a real shame that such a fine travel writer should douse the book with such a level of superiority about absolutely everyone else he ever meets in Africa, that it ruins his... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Matthew Salter
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel without the threat
The narrative is the geography of adventure.This book gave me the opportunity to try to understand the author (did I like him, not really, but I liked travelling with him) and the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by R. Mcauley
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic Insight into Africa
Not many have travelled in Africa as a "back packer" and shown such an excellent understanding of the people, their customs and ways. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Seaforth Highlander
4.0 out of 5 stars Overland but not to Wadi Halfa
Hearing Theroux on the radio discussing this book and his travels I could relate to his experiences in Africa. So had to obtain a copy to see how he viewed his travels. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tim Harrap
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Star Safari
Although somewhat dated, this gives a good insight into the state of some African counties. I am writing more words that are quite unnecessary simply because the system requires... Read more
Published 12 months ago by MOW
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