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Travels in the White Man's Grave: Memoirs from West and Central Africa [Kindle Edition]

Donald MacIntosh , Richard Ingrams
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the 1950s, the interior of West and Central Africa was still known as 'The White Man's Grave'. Its forests were primeval and inhabited the minds of Westerners as places of foreboding. But to Donald MacIntosh, a 23-year-old Gaelic-speaking Scottish forester, it was a dream come true when he found himself posted to the hot, cloying humidity of those fabled lands. During the next 30 years he was to work and live as a tree surveyor, prospector and forest botanist. He listened to the tales of ancient Africa from the lips of hunters, fishermen, chiefs and witch doctors from a vast diversity of tribes in myriad encampments and also had many encounters with the creatures of the forest, from the magnificent leopard to the homicidal buffalo, and from the indolent but horrendously venomous gaboon viper to the agile, irascible and instantly fatal spitting cobra. His odyssey contains a host of characters with exotic names like 'Old Man Africa', 'Magic Sperm', 'Famous Sixpence' and 'Pisspot', whose stories are all told here. But the Africa that MacIntosh describes is no more. The forests have been decimated, and with them have gone the people and the creatures that lived in them long before the coming of the white man's chain saw. This is a rare, poignant and sometimes hilarious glimpse into a vanished past by one who was part of it.

Product Description

Amazon Review

As the son of a woodcutter from the Isle of Mull, Donald Macintosh grew up amid wild and sparsely inhabited areas. This was to stand him in good stead for his working life, most of which was spent amid the thick tropical forests of Liberia, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon and Cameroon. His experiences in these wild and remote lands, at a time when gorillas, leopards and elephants were still commonplace, form the core of this elegant and evocative memoir, which was deservedly short-listed for the 1999 Thomas Cook Award.

Like Gerald Durrell, Macintosh is an erudite guide to the flora and fauna of the now vanished rain-forest. But he surpasses Durrell in his ability to evoke the magical atmosphere of the forest. There is something almost sensual about his description of the towering trees and the brilliance of the forest canopy, and Macintosh writes with equal empathy about the lives of the forest peoples, who were his friends and companions throughout his working life. The rare insight which he gained into their lives forms the backdrop to his stories of the forest and of strange characters such as "Magic Sperm", "Pisspot" and "Old Man Africa".

Although Macintosh's African life was full of adventures and dangers, he never exaggerates them, and writes with a fluidity and understated grace which makes his book a pleasure to read. By turns beautiful, poignant and very funny, Macintosh rarely misses the mark, and this memoir should become a classic of the genre. --Toby Green


One's enjoyment of this excellent book lasts from the first to the final page. The Overseas Pensioner His stories ... may be tall, but he can tell them. London Magazine ... a poignant and humorous storyteller of the West African bush to rival Gerald Durrell. TLS ... one of the surprises of the year ... a richly entertaining memoir ... a lament for a lost age, and a youth lost with it. Sara Wheeler, The Daily Telegraph Spellbinding. The Aberdeen Press & Journal A fragrant compost of anecdote, lore, survival tips and anthropological titbits. He has the same profound and almost loving relationship with the African forest that Thesiger has with the sands of Arabia. The Oldie

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 629 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0349114358
  • Publisher: Neil Wilson Publishing (12 Oct. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #228,536 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best 7 May 2000
By Dave
Excellent book, one of the best i have read on travel and living in Africa, Donald has a real affinity for the people and cultures he came across while living here. I cant imagine a better antidote to all the usual negative tales to come out of this part of the world. Well worth buying and tell friends about it
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the bush! 26 Oct. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An old timer remembers his life in West Africa, along with many characters larger than life. It's a way of life that has largely disappeared but old 'Mother Africa' is still there; a complex land of mammies, mimbo (palm wine) and majesty, juju (deep in the bush) and
discoveries still to be made.
Altogether an excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A rare delight. A collection of short stories, recollections (surely some apocryphal) by this forestry expert from Scotland who spent many years in the rainforests of West Africa. Sometimes racey, always beautifully written and all highly unusual, these stories are a treat to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absolute delight of a book. 11 April 2000
This book is a real gem.
A charming, gentle story of the author's life in West Africa where he worked for the Forestry Commissions. This book is a series of short stories each giving a wonderful insight into a little known part of our World. More importantly it documents a time and place that has now vanished under the chainsaws of the timber merchants, forever lost.
I highly recommend this warm and entertaining book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best I've read 31 May 2013
By Nico
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the finest books I've ever read without doubt. The authors anecdotes about his time and travels in West Africa are absolutely fascinating. His descriptions of the equatorial rain forests in particular are just spell-binding and also poignant. MacIntsh realised that the advent of the chain saw and the arrival of more multi-national timber companies would cause great environmental damage to the forests of West Africa and he has proven to be correct His descriptions of the larger than life characters he encountered during his time in Africa are also priceless. A must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and interesting 28 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating and absorbing tale of a man's life living and working in parts of Africa where white men were rarely seen. It is written with affection for the place and the people, often amusing, giving an insight into a world which is rapidly disappearing. I also think that Donald Macintosh did well not to succumb to some deadly disease - the likelihood of which is what gave the area it's name of the White Man's Grave. Overall an enjoyable and easy read that is more about real life in a foreign land rather than the usual 'passing through' travelogues which can only give a fleeting impression of a place.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable 4 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written - amusing - and highly entertaining to anybody who has spent any time in west Africa - and valuable to those who have not and would like a little insight.
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