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The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa Paperback – 8 Nov 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (8 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091881803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091881801
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 764,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

At present, Sudan suffers from a horrendous civil war: 1.4 million people have died here, while many more have been displaced. The Weekenders is a collection of fiction and non-fiction that takes an impressive array of British writers into the heart of Sudan's conflict, shedding light on this frequently ignored tragedy (profits from the book are going to help the relief effort).

Here is a mysterious tale from Alex Garland, WF Deedes' debut piece of fiction, and--the centrepiece of the collection--a disturbing novella by Irvine Welsh in which Welsh's trademark skewering of the vileness of human urges is counterbalanced by his fluid prose and the story's troubling setting. Paradoxically, however, the shortest piece of fiction--Andrew O'Hagan's Fish River--is also the most impressive, as O'Hagan succeeds with brilliance and grace in conveying the thought patterns of a Sudanese child whose mother has been raped and enslaved.

But although the setting is grim, the horror underscoring the collection is leavened by perhaps the funniest thing that Tony Hawks has written, as he recounts his doomed attempts to compose music in a war-ravaged town, and--more seriously--the moral dilemmas which arise when rich Europeans descend upon war-torn Africa. These problems are fleshed out more fully by Victoria Glendinning in the final piece, as she considers the ethics of NGOs and big business working in Sudan.

This is an illuminating and thought-provoking book which raises disturbing questions for us all. In an alarmingly prescient fiction on the American bombing of Khartoum in 1998 in their first search for Osama bin Laden, Giles Foden describes the response of the CIA operative in the region:

"Everything was screwed up. Sometimes it blew [his] head what a tangled world it was that he existed in."
--Toby Green

Book Description

A wonderful collection of short stories and travel writing from some of Britain's best writers

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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
Winner of the WH Smith "Travel Book of the Year" Award, this collection of four short stories, two essays, and a novella, explores the plight of contemporary Sudan. Under the auspices of The Daily Telegraph, seven well known writers were sent to southern Sudan to witness the ravages of the long-running civil war, which has claimed around a million and a half lives over the last fifteen years. The two main points readers will take away is a sense of the inexorable schism between the Muslim north and the non-Muslim south, and the exacerbating effect of international oil company operations in the south.
Each of the four short stories reflects the individual author's style: Alex (The Beach, The Tesseract) Garland's "R.S.S." is a creepy story of two boys, the well-known newspaperman W. F. Deedes' debut piece of fiction is old-fashioned, Giles (The Last King of Scotland, Ladysmith) Foden's "Weekenders" is a politically aware drama of aid workers, and Andrew O'Hagan's "Fish River" is an unsettling first-person depiction of the real-life slavers that operate in Sudan. That said, they are a bit thematically repetitive. On their own, each might have shone a bit brighter, but since the writers all went to the same area for a very brief visit, they're all drawing on the same brief impressions for inspiration.
The two nonfiction pieces are biographer/novelist's Victoria Glendinning's surprisingly thoughtful critique of humanitarian NGO operations in southern Sudan, and humorist Tony (Round Ireland With A Fridge, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis) Hawk's bumbling attempt to write a song with some locals. Glendinning's is a worthy antidote to knee-jerk charity responses to conflict, and Hawk's is a hilarious welcome respite from the grimness of the rest of the book.
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Format: Paperback
The Daily Telegraph organised a short trip for several British writers to war-ravaged areas of south Sudan. The results are mixed, ranging from a naive and irritatingly jocular piece by Tony Hawks, to some dark and moving short stories.
By far the best contribution is a short novel by Irving Welsh. In a preface, Welsh warns that he was only in south Sudan for a short time - but it is easy to be convinced that his characters, their conflicts and the attrocities he portrays are drawn from the real experiences of those he met.
The authors are quick to condemn the oil companies who have made a bad situation in south Sudan worse, but there is little in this book to challenge western preconceptions about the country and its people. Questions over the role of humanitarian organisations - and whether they are prolonging the conflict - are confined to a short (but thoughtful) article by Victoria Glendinning. There is no discussion of possible solutions to the war, and no sense of hope for the future.
The Daily Telegraph should be commended for undertaking this project and drawing attention to the plight of south Sudan, but I would have prefered to hear from some Sudanese writers themselves.
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By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
This incisive, insightful collection is what happens when several writers skilled at their craft and keen to travel are brought to the Sudan and asked to write stories based on the experience.

Tony Hawks, best known to me for his 'Round Ireland With A Fridge' wrote, typically, of his excursion and companions.

Other authors gave us a chilling, gentle ghost story of two boys playing and watching two men assessing a ruined, war-destroyed school. Or a long journey through the bush with a reluctant taxi man who begins to weep as he realises that he has made the wrong decision, and his passengers have the weapons. Or we learn how the oil extraction has caused the poisonous snakes to move from the affected part of the country into areas where people and animals live.

This is not a cheerful collection, but it is worth reading to develop an understanding of some of the appalling problems facing this region. Authors include Victoria Glendenning and Giles Foden (author of The Last King Of Scotland) who gave their time to create this book sold in aid of charity. If I recall rightly a charity to benefit was War Child which creates playgrounds in strife-torn towns and cities, so children can play safely.
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