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Dark Star SafariAn African experience

This isn't a Christian book, but it's worth a mention here, I reckon. I read Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux (Penguin, 2003) while on holiday in Greece. It's a cracking good read—the account of his overland journey the length of Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town.

He's an accomplished travel writer, combining a colourful, readable style with boldness in seeking out choice characters and situations. Anyone familiar with Africa can see he has his finger on the pulse of that troubled yet fascinating continent.

I'm not including quotations here—you're sure to find a selection in line with your own interests—but I will comment on two aspects of the book.

First, his views on aid agencies are both strong and unusual. African leaders, he maintains, are all corrupt, channelling the foreign aid money into their own pockets. It is thus in their interests to keep their countries 'undeveloped' so that the flow of aid doesn't dry up. What’s more, that aid, he believes, is rarely if ever genuinely charitable but is largely geared to benefit the economy of the donor countries. And much of it is ill-adapted to the circumstances of the Africans it purports to help. But worst of all, it breeds a lazy, 'gimme a handout' mentality, inhibiting the kind of local African initiatives that are the only real hope for solving the continent's problems. Theroux quotes learned studies in support of his views.

Second, in the course of his journey he meets several Christians, including some missionaries. The record of most of these encounters I found maddening. Paul Theroux himself is no believer, but it's hard to say what frustrated me most: his pathetic attempts to show the Bible and Christian doctrine as fit only for narrow-minded fools, or the half-baked, jargonised and insensitive 'evangelism' foisted on him by most of the Christians he met.

Anyway, have a go at the book for yourself, regardless of your views on foreign aid and missionary style, and whether or not you have an African connection. It's a gripping read.

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