Travel literature is a tricky business, especially when you’ve traveled half the world already and seem to be a tad cynical. Unlike Theroux’ other work, Dark Star Safari is a lot more about people and problems than about travel.
Let’s start with the obvious: Africa is a complicated continent. It’s huge, it houses hundreds of different tribes and people, and it was left in ruins by some idiotic colonists who thought they could use it as their personal bank account. The outcome of this rather simple equation is that Africa is still trying to find itself, and the solutions to the problems they are currently having. While Dark Star Safari Droughtwas originally written in 2002, many of the problems described by Theroux still exist and many new ones have entered the stage. and failing harvests are only becoming worse, resulting in whole tribes and people being uprooted to find their luck and livelihood elsewhere. However, it is rather unlike Theroux to focus this much on problems instead of travel…
Everywhere I look, there is a great open space surrounding the small train. Everywhere I look, there are houses and streets surrounding the large yellow train. Everywhere I look, there are trains. The Great Railway Bazaar proves how many there are in the world.
I like trains, or at least: I like taking the train. If I have the possibility, I take the train to work, or to visit people. It gives you a great opportunity to get some work done, to read something, or to just stare through the window and watch the landscape pass by. It is this feeling of freedom, a moment to relax and let your thoughts drift by like clouds that Theroux describes so well in The Great Railway Bazaar as he travels through Asia, and because of that it is one of my favourite books of all time.
The story about Robinson Crusoe is world famous, but what if someone were to tell it a little bit differently? Foe gives a whole different spin to the classic tale, and shows different sides of humanity while doing it.
When reading about Foe, most I could find was about the use of language and the meaning of language in the story. However, quite quickly I noticed that the elaborate language did not seem to fit Susan Barton. Then again, you hardly get to know the woman, or any of the characters at all. They talk a lot, you will be able to draw a map based on all the descriptions given, but when asked a question about Susan, or Crusoe, or even Friday there will not be one straight answer to be given. Coetzee really tried to rewrite Defoe’s tale, and with that attacked the language instead of the story.
There is one other aspect Coetzee might have touched upon, that Defoe might have forgotten a little. While Defoe is made the antagonist of Coetzee’s Foe, there seems to be a twist in the story in which all sides and people are turned upside down. Halfway through Foe one is being led on, and strayed from the original story. Crusoe suddenly plays but a minor role, while Susan (and mostly Susan’s demons) are becoming the focus point. Because if one is always surrounded by a total silence, and one lacks normal daily interaction, how is one to stay sane?