INTERIOR by Justin Cartwright


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London-based Cartwright weaves an intelligent and consistently compelling tale of one man's return to Africa: an update of Conrad and Greene that manages beautifully and artlessly. Narrator James Curtiz was born in South Africa but near age ten moved with his parents and brother to the New World energy and pragmatism of 1950's Long Island. Both of James' parents were eccentrics in their way, although father Lance the more so: colorfully scatterbrained journalist and naturalist, he began to submit articles to The National Geographic and, before you know it, was off on an expedition (in 1959) to late-colonial Banguniland in the company of an even more flamboyantly optimistic explorer by the name of Mrs. Mary de Luth ("a dead ringer for Eleanor Roosevelt"). Result: the charmingly unpretentious Lance Curtiz is lost overboard in a fluky accident while crossing a river in Africa (and Mrs. de Luth, who loved him, begins the process of a long intellectual reassessment and breakdown). Let 30 years pass: son James, suspecting there's more to the legend of his father's death (and relation with Mary de Luth) than meets the eye, travels to Banguniland, organizes his own expedition into the seldom entered interior (Banguniland has become a political and economic backwater), and seeks to find out what really happened. James (writer and filmmaker) is an informed, perceptive, and candid narrator of the tale, into which he splices the tangy story of his own floundering marriage to the undirected sensualist Magda (in ironic parallel to his father's "marriage" to the rationalist Mrs. de Luth). Becoming indirectly involved in the bracing new revolutionary politics of Banguniland, James, first flying and then trekking into the deepest of the war- and legend-touched back country, at last discovers. . . Exotic, adventurous, and penetrating new look at the old conflict between post-Enlightment white man and the truths of the Dark Continent. Thoughtful and a pleasure. (The publisher notes that this is Cartwright's first published in the US, but Kirkus saw and reviewed The Revenge, 1977; and The Horse of Darius, 1980.)

Pub Date: May 18th, 1989
ISBN: 394-57512-1
Publisher: Random House
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