I’m currently reading Paul Theroux’s The Last Train to Zona Verde, without having read Dark Star Safari, although it’s been sitting on my shelf for several years.
As the standfirst of this piece in the Guardian declares, the book is depressing but compelling too. I am reading it because of my imminent move to Nigeria. I started reading Dark Star Safari a few months ago, but stopped when I realised that Theroux does not pass through the country I am most interested in, the country which I hope will be my home for many years to come. Sadly, Nigeria is not a stop in in The Last Train either, although it gets several mentions (nothing good).
Looking for non-fiction books set in Nigeria, I came across Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria by Noo Saro-Wiwa (a native of the country, and the daughter of the late author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa). It promises to reveal the ‘real’ Nigeria, warts and all; and I am inclined to take Saro-Wiwa more seriously than a white writer just passing through, no matter how illustrious he might be (Theroux is actually my favourite travel writer, but travel writing especially by those ‘just passing through’ should be, in my opinion, regarded as fiction in as much as it offers views synthesised by personal expectations and experience, impressions and prejudices, and reshaped and re-ordered for coherency).
Anyway, just reading the review of Last Train has depressed and horrified me. Perhaps the only thing to do is to see and experience a place firsthand.