MALARIA DREAMS: An African Adventure by Stuart Stevens
Kirkus Star

MALARIA DREAMS: An African Adventure

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Stevens, whose first comic travelogue (Night Train to Turkistan, 1988) received a hearty round of applause, wins accolades again for this hilarious account of a benighted car-journey across the skull of Africa. It begins innocuously enough, when a friend asks Stevens to retrieve a Land Rover currently sitting in the Central African Republic (recently ruled by the infamous Emperor Bokassa, who was known to snack on schoolchildren). But oops--it seems, as Stevens discovers upon arrival in the C.A.R. capital, that the car has been confiscated by the Minister of Mines and that Stevens' friend is suspected of being either a spy or a diamond-smuggler. No matter; after innumerable bureaucratic runarounds, our hero finally buys a rundown Toyota Land Cruiser and tootles across the Sahel and the Sahara to the Mediterranean, gasping at the glorious landscape and at the grotesque follies of Africa and its inhabitants. Gasp he might, in a land where hamburgers cost $45 and pizza $75 (only the ubiquitous manioc root is cheap), where everything requires a bribe and ten forms, where bands of wheelchaired-muggers roam the streets, where drunken soldiers and gentle natives abound. Stevens drives across Lake Chad--turned by drought into a gargantuan mudhole--floats past hippos frolicking in the Niger, gets stranded in the Sahara. Only a scattering of missionaries and diplomat's operate by customary rules of logic; otherwise, all Africa seems an invention of Lewis Carroll, as in: ""'He is my chauffeur,' Henri explained when he introduced us to Joseph, a quiet African in his early twenties. Later, when Ann asked why Joseph wasn't driving, Henri seemed surprised. 'But it is always I who drives.'"" Great fun, and displaying a fine friendliness towards a penniless, tramped-on part of the world. As such, a welcome response to the Africa-as-Hell depicted in Thurston Clarke's Equator (1988) and in other recent works.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1989
ISBN: 087113361X
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown