Presse-Rezensionen zum Afrika-Reisebericht The Last Train to Zona Verde, von Paul Theroux (2013)

Paul Theroux wollte 2011 überland von Kapstadt nach Timbuktu reisen, auf einer westlichen Route, quasi die Rückreise zu seinem Transafrika-Buch Dark Star Safari (2002). Er quert durch Botswana, Namibia und Angola – doch vor der Einreise in den Kongo bricht er ab, das Buch endet. Sein nächstes Reisebuch recherchierte er dann per Auto, auf US-Straßen (Deep South, 2015).

Kritiker sagten über Zona Verde:

  • 3,84 von 5 Lesersternen, 1532 Stimmen
  • 4,1 von 5 Lesersternen, 239 Stimmen (jew. März 2016)

New York Times:

Theroux’s peevish mood lifts occasionally… Yet much of this trip is a dispiriting slog through squalid bus stations and urban slums, enlivened by Theroux’s vivid evocations of misery as well as by his moral outrage… Advancing age seems only to have intensified his cantankerousness

The Guardian:

Depressing but never less than compelling… With each mile he takes northwards, the poverty and corruption worsens and Theroux’s spirits sink even further… the Africa described in The Last Train to Zona Verde turns out to be an even harsher, more miserable, more depressing place than the one depicted in its predecessor Dark Star Safari… It is an extraordinary, terrifying vision which, in other hands, might speedily wear down the reader. But Theroux’s tight, angry prose propels you through the pages… the author’s antipathy to aid agencies – which he blames for nearly all of Africa’s woes – is crudely overstated, in my view… a riveting, chilling read

The Telegraph:

An almost unmitigated disaster for Theroux, who during his travels is insulted, hassled, scammed to the tune of almost £33,000, spurned by fellow writers in Angola, and finally, driven into utter despondency at the hopelessness – and possible mortal dangers – of continuing his trip… He satisfies this curiosity in Cape Town by going to squatter camps and townships, returning to his luxury hotel every evening… Theroux is clearly the central character in this book, rather than his surroundings or the people that populate them. And his character’s voice, at least at the beginning, is a voice belonging to a great novel – fluent and weighty and complex. But it drowns all else out. The voices of the people who live in the townships and camps remain largely unheard; Theroux’s observations – and, far more so, his opinions – are at the forefront… His loathing of rap surfaces many times, but never shows the instinct of the journalist to find out at least some of the answers to his questions. Instead of speaking directly to local people, he most often turns to whatever American expats he can find… He attacks Madonna, Bono, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey for their interventions in Africa… He calls Angolan writers “humorless, self-righteous and provincial” after they refuse to meet him. He loathes every city he visits. (“Another African city, another horror, more chaos – glary light, people crowding the roads, the sinking dust and the diesel fumes.”)… It is not an uplifting book and the challenges Theroux faced as he travelled were obviously tough and serious… there are also too many clichés and generalities about the continent of Africa, rather than detailed observation. It feels more a description of Theroux’s inner state than of what is around him. Most importantly, he fails to give the local people he meets the opportunity to describe their reality in their own terms.

Washington Post:

Thoroughly engrossing… His brilliant, razor-edged observations have always struck me as gritty and hard-won… Theroux is his inimitable, delightfully grouchy and incisive self. Alert, questioning, taking pains to ensure that his reader understands Africa’s complicated history… a journey from bliss to sorrow… At times tragic, often comical and always gorgeously written

The Spectator:

It is hard to put down The Last Train to Zona Verde, for no other reason than for its core of brutal honesty, about the author himself as much as about the places he visits… The bitchiness has been replaced by a strong sense of empathy for individuals trapped in failed systems, and an outspoken condemnation of their corruption, and the evil they do

Boston Globe:

A bit cranky and repetitive… Theroux’s age becomes a character, a thing rattling around amid the rail cars, even when he doesn’t actually intend it… There are lessons in local history, theology, and etymology, though they never feel stuffy… There are flashes of comedy… The personal sections feel monotonous and detail-free — perhaps because the author needed to pad his book after cutting the trip short.

The Wall Street Journal:

To view game from the back of an elephant can be a heady experience, apparently, but Mr. Theroux is far too sardonic to be impressed by any of this upper-class tourist frippery. The real Africa lies ahead, and he knows it will be ugly… I found myself thinking about V.S. Naipaul. I suspect he will admire the brain-rattling momentum of Mr. Theroux’s prose and the Wagnerian fury of his diatribes. But he’ll also chuckle thinking about certain passages in „Sir Vidia’s Shadow,“ especially those in which Mr. Theroux accuses him of being mistaken about so many things African. With this book, Mr. Theroux has forfeited the right to mock anyone else’s Afro-phobia.


The opening chapters, on a township tour in Cape Town or a luxury elephant-back safari in Namibia, offer excellent, barbed reportage à la Theroux: ironic, sceptical but still avid for news. Then the book falls off an emotional cliff. Granted, the peculiar depths of oil-rich Angola’s corruption and inequity do offer a fitting backdrop for a „doomsday vision“.

Financial Times:

So let the bad times roll. By the end of The Last Train to Zona Verde, Theroux has been defrauded of $48,000 and three of those he has met en route are dead. He finds numerous miserable and inhospitable places… But the book really comes alive when Theroux starts suffering… a fascinating book

The Scotsman:

Zona Verde rambles rather aimlessly initially… The prose sometimes droops (“Namibia is a land of extremes”) or over-generalises (“In Africa every city is the same”) but in the bush in Angola, his narrative finally finds its feet… Theroux is doubt-ridden throughout this self-consciously valedictory journey, questioning his own voyeurism, superficiality and whimsicality

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