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Crazy River: A Plunge into Africa Paperback – 17 Jan 2013
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Grant is a fearless, literary-minded travel writer. In his latest escapade he makes a maiden descent down the unexplored East African river, the Malagarasi (Richard Fitzpatrick Irish Examiner)
A high-energy book (Iain Finlayson The Times)
Grant has the makings of a first-class travel writer. He's wide-eyed without being too trusting, good at ferreting out unlikely people and possessed of ample reserves of both masochism and self-pity (John Preston Spectator)
* A thrilling story of three months in the most remote spot Tanzania, the Malagarasi river, the 'river of bad spiritsSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The author is hugely cynical about any funding/aid being granted to African countries, and often passes his opinion as fact.
A lot of the book is almost a biography of Sir Richard Burton, which although interesting you get the sense that it is used to fill out the book. Again the author is highly cynical of others who happened to criticise Burton.
All in all the book is ok, however, if you are looking for something about the wilds of Africa you should probably look elsewhere.
Great descriptive writing brings us a wry take on African adventure, compared with Burton and Speke’s own historic explorations. The author provides us with a view into a society which is almost its own worst enemy, as environmental damage, poverty and corruption vie for the role of the evil villain in his tale.
Highly engaging and entertaining, this may not be the way to organise your travel, but it is a good way to structure a book. His haphazard journey of discovery is far more comfortably experienced from an armchair.
I think the title is slightly misleading as, for me, this is not so much a book about a river journey as an informative, thought-provoking, entertaining account of the author’s encounters in Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Bujumbura (Burundi) and Kigali (Rwanda) which give a very different perspective to the usual western dogmas on Africa. His commentary on Burundi and President Nkurunziza (his visit was in 2010) describe what is with hindsight a breathing space between horrific conflicts. I am also reminded that Grant has serious journalist credentials by his account of his interview with President Paul Kagame in Kigali.
Although the river is the nominal focus of the book, the actual time on raft in the river is limited due to the time of year (dry season!), the presence of poachers and bandits, and impenetrable papyrus swamp, but it still sounds plenty dangerous even allowing for the sensible precaution of having hired an experienced local hunter and his team.
Unlike his previous books this one does not include an extended series of notes, references and recommended reading (to my surprise, these had actually led to me reading several of those referenced). However, intersected with his own journey is a gripping account of the remarkable hardship experienced by the Victorian explorers Burton and Speke in their search for the source of the White Nile alongside their terminally deteriorating relationship. This works very well in giving a context to his present adventure.
I always enjoy Richard Grant’s writing. I see his next book is about life in the Mississippi Delta: I look forward to reading it. Hopefully his death wish may have abated (though I doubt it).
But then if you go to dives and hang out with thieves, drunks and hunters and take lots of risks then you would see a more dangerous place than most others.
He also manages to turn his opinions-especially on the mentality of Africans and the aid business- into facts. Take with a pinch of salt.
The other thing I found annoying was the constant comparison of himself to historic African travellers. He's trying to raft a river in the late 2000s for goodness sake! And he didn't talk much about that.
On the other hand, I did feel I learnt a bit more about parts of Tanzania I don't know about. I found his coverage of Burundi and Rwanda much better...though can't help feeling that might be because I don't know as much about them.
So read it if you like but don't let it put you off visiting Tanzania/Zanzibar.
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