‘I am not an Afro-pessimist,’ writes Paul Theroux, looking back on a journey that has taken him from the slums of Cape Town to the musseques of Luanda. You could have fooled me. The Last Train to Zona Verde is imbued with a pessimism that verges on Afrophobia, peppered with sweeping, doom-laden conclusions about the state of Africa, triggered by a trip that takes in but a fraction of a vast continent.
Given the nature of most of the stops on Theroux’s journey, the gloomy tone is not surprising. It begins with Khayelitsha and Guguletu, the Cape’s two sinkholes of humanity; takes in northern Namibia, ‘a land of drunken men, idle boys and overworked women’; includes a visit to the Kalahari home