AFRICA OF THE HEART: A Personal Journey by Joseph Hone

AFRICA OF THE HEART: A Personal Journey

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Bittersweet travelogue as lovers meet and lose each other on the continent of light. Hone, a travel writer for the BBC, his head still full of African romances from his youth, arrives at Kinshasa in Zaire. He's all set to sari West-East cross-continent, pretty much on a lark (for ""colour material"" he pretends) but mostly to escape emotional snarls back home with his wife and parents. Unfortunately, short of dying, he finds it nearly impossible even to get out of Kinshasa. All the schedules for boat travel on the Congo are total fictions, as are most of the towns and stops printed on them. Indeed, all life and the amenities in Kinshasa are much like the schedule: a political fiction. In his hotel, he falls in love with Eleanor, a beautiful, alcoholic hippie half his age, who has already been thrown out of two other Kinshasa hotels. He finds her standing outside his room in a towel, naked and shivering: ""Will you make love with me? I can't pay my bill."" For the rest of the book, Hone takes Eleanor under his wing, ""cures"" her of her alcoholism, and accepts her as travel mate and lover. A friend offers him a minibus and he and Eleanor see some of the horror of a land opened up, raped and abandoned all within living memory, then wind up back in Kinshasa, living the quotidian lives of Europeans. Later they finally cross Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Along the way they share an Africa he would never have known alone, but when he and Eleanor separate at last and he is back on his own, he finds travel writing listless and empty, apart from her. Unfocused egos bounce off each other while the real Africa passes by as a queer mix of hell and lost paradise. Readable but not memorable. For more scope and power, this should have been a novel.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1986
Publisher: Beech Tree/Morrow