Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

11 June 2014

South Africa: In the Name of the People - a Book Review

analysis

Lara Pawson has written an African non-fiction classic on a brutal day in Angola's history. Her book isn't an answer, it is the Answer.

See, this is how it's done. What a book, what a book! Let me calm down and explain.

As far as African countries go, Angola is hardly unwritten. Its first president, Agostinho Neto, was a famous poet; his political negative, Nito Alves, was a poet too. Over the years, the country has flouted a brigade of immigrant writers like José Luandino Vieira, a handful of unbelievably courageous opposition figures like Rafael Marques, and a good half dozen superb expat reporters like Louise Redvers.

And Angola has spawned its hacks, it shills, its mouthpieces. Nonetheless, the country demands great sentences; its Latin fetidness begs for big imagery. But if Angola has made it into the book section of your local rag of late, it's due to Paul Theroux's The Last Train to Zona Verde, the Africa travel narrative that may have ended African travel narratives, and not just because it concerns a botched African travel narrative.

Theroux's book is about the Great Travel Writer's final trip through his adored Africa, a continent he fell...

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