Friday, September 01, 2006

Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you

I just finished the Zanzibar Chest which I can partially recommend. The book has two alternating stories, one of which quite interested me, the other of which dragged. The first one concerns the author Aidan Hartley's life as war reporter in 1980s and 90s Africa. I liked it for two reasons. Hartley has wonderful descriptions of life as a stringer and then a full reporter for the news services. The life doesn't seem compelling, a bit like a bad metaphor for rock touring, you go out, get shot at, try to get something done, then go back tp a run down hotel for drugs, drinks and whores. Even more interesting is his depiction of the detail of Africa's crises that don't make the news. You hear about things so bad they don't go in the paper, and Hartley tells you about a lot of them. Anyway, it's all quite interesting.

The other story concerns the Zanzibar chest which contains the diaries of his father's friend Davey, who lived in Aden (which is Aidan's namesake). This part just didn't interest me that much, which is too bad. It is clearly of great import to the author. There were elements I liked, such as how his family's history of living and working abroad carried over to his own desire to live and work in Africa. He grew up there and felt more at home among Africans then he did among his fellow British nationals. Anyway, you can always just read the sections you like, the author splits them for you.

No comments: