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Desert Divers [Paperback]

Sven Lindqvist , Joan Tate
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 April 2002
This book follows the author on a personal journey into the Sahara and examination into the racist assumptions of those writers who have gone before him. Taking as a metaphor the divers who cleaned out desert wells, Lindqvist drags to the surface the story of colonial slaughter and sexual exploitation which contaminate his boyhood idols.

Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (11 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862075077
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862075078
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 12.8 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 493,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Sven Lindqvist's Desert Divers is ostensibly about the powerful hold of the Sahara desert on the western psyche and the way the desert's stark, weird, sun-crushed loneliness has chimed with the metropolitan westerner's desire for spiritual solitude and questing adventure. It also manages to be a memoir of one man's troubled youth, a dissertation on the tragicomic aspects of colonialism and a piece of finely-honed continental lit crit--all in less than 150 pages. The author is a distinguished Swedish gentleman of letters (he's the author of the much-praised Exterminate all the Brutes and it's his background in Scandinavia that provides the autobiographical element, the wistful, nostalgic sub-plot. Woven around these poignant glimpses of a lonely northern childhood is the travelogue: a lovingly written impression of life in the Algerian and Moroccan sand-dunes, juxtaposing hi-tech Saudi falconers with traditional Bedouin tribesmen, the ancient trade in date-fruits with the newer commerce of oil. Finally, set above these interlinked strands, comes Lindqvist's learned literary disquisition on other great and/or famous Saharan writer-travellers, like Antoine de Saint Exupery and Andre Gide, as well as more recherché desert-specialists like the Sahara-obsessed Swede Thorsten Orre. Desert Divers is an odd book, but also quietly beautiful, gently moving, and not unlike W.G.Sebald's The Rings Of Saturn in its pensive, meandering, slightly Nordic moodiness. --Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A polemical adventure in travel, criticism and autobiography, Desert Divers opens up a vast discursive territory. It is gripping from start to finish' Geoff Dyer 'A poem to the Sahara, and those whom it has obsessed; language as bare and hard as sand and gravel...Sensational' Guardian 'Sven Lindqvist is one of the most original and imaginative authors working at the end of the twentieth century' Richard Gott 'This is writing with a conscience that once again shows the enormous and provocative possibilities of the travel book' Sunday Times

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A large muddy stone is lying in the washbasin of my hotel room. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troubling and beautiful 13 July 2009
I bought this having read 'Exterminate All the Brutes', Londqvist's exploration of the genocidal logic of colonialism through the concluding line to Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'. 'Desert Divers' hypnotically uncovers a European infatuation with the Sahara, using language as spare (and often as brutal) as the desert it chronicles. His work is usually described as part travelogue, part history, part literary criticism. Here, Londqvist's late-in-life voyage into the desert that obsessed him as a child in Stockholm merges with the poignant stories of early twentieth-century European writers, whose self-destructive love affairs with the Sahara cast ominous light on his own. Beneath the surface lurks the ghost of colonial atrocity, though the focus is more personal than 'Exterminate All the Brutes'. The fragility of memory, the pursuit of dreams, and the precariousness of morality are among the things Londqvist reflects upon with effortless poetry and startling honesty. The book has the quality of a dream (not always a pleasant one), and I could not put it down. If travel, history or literature (in their broadest senses) interest you in any way, something in this book is sure to grab you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dive Straight In 9 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just back from the desert when I read this. Like all Lindqvist's work, it's gold-dust – utterly focused, fiercely energised, original and shocking. Overall, he's revealing the truth about the West's appalling exploitation of the rest of the world, the rape, pillage, lies and genocide. We need him.
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4.0 out of 5 stars an odd book 27 Sep 2013
By Maggy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This title was in the bibliography of something else I was reading. I find people's descriptions of being in the desert (which is something I shall probably never experience) very interesting. This is a thin paperback, very short chapters, but made me want to read the works of St Exupery. An odd little book, but worth reading, if only once!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating. 18 Oct 2010
Fascinating. Lindqvist explores the personalities of those (mainly) Europeans who fell in love with the desert. A great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like The Desert Air 19 Oct 2004
By R. J MOSS - Published on
One hundred terse chapters in not many more pages. Lindqvist has packed a memoir together as challenging as the desert itself. It presents in much the same manner as its companion piece, 'Exterminate All The Brutes,'in a pace rather like air stirring from the baked sand soon after the sun has set. It's a deceptive pace,as it has been slowly generated from a sustained meditation on the literature of French colonialisation, mostly in nineteenth century North Africa, and the way it issued a romanticism with the place (from the 19thC, via Pierre Loti, Isabelle Eberhardt, Andre Gide, de Saint-Exupery, & the author's own confessed romanticism). Lindqvist's research is as poetically pithy as his intermittent memoirs,and the direct, present-day observations during the field work as he traces his literary heroes. His own probing dreams unite the book until the final sentence, when he finds himself firmly gripping empty air. This tension between the received evidence of the literati,his research, and the evidence of his senses, is suitably chastening(though not as diabolically disturbing as colonial violence during the study of Joseph Conrad in 'Exterminate the Brutes'). He recognises that the writer's were, each in their own way, able to live out everything not socially accepted in their own countries & that spiritually, 'the colonies functioned as a vent, as an escape, a place to misbehave.'
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come drown in the desert... 14 Dec 2006
By J. M. Hannam - Published on
Sven Lindqvist hails from Sweden, where is love for weight lifting, and literature are an odd combination. His fascination with the Sahara and the desolate landscape are captivating. Desert Divers is a brief look at Colonialism in present day Morocco through the eyes of various literary figures.

Lindqvist unobtrusively weaves into his travel narrative a subtle polemic tone regarding liberty, economy, and personal freedom. He links the various dreams he records in the text to the outlying situation in Morocco.

Antoine de Saint-Exubery and Isabelle Eberhardt are two of the writers he reflects on when faced with the far reaches of the Sahara. Lindqvist juggles a multitude of variables in the text; history, colonialism, personal memoir, economic polemic, yet still manages to entwine the themes together to create a beaituful portrait of a barren land.
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