Hemingway In Africa: The Last Safari by Christopher Ondaatje - review by Sara Wheeler

Sara Wheeler

Travelling Companions

Hemingway In Africa: The Last Safari

By

HarperCollins 240pp £24.95 order from our bookshop
 

HEMINGWAY WAS ALWAYS a little in love with Africa - or rather, with the idea of Africa. He set two of his most important short stories, 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' and 'The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber', in the East African bush, territory that also inspired the full-length non-fiction Green. Hills of Africa. In this handsomely illustrated new book Christopher Ondaatje suggests that Africa was a key influence both on Hemingway's life and on his writings, and to illuminate his argument he follows the master's tracks through Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Hemingway in Africa hinges upon two safaris. During the first, in 1933-4, the writer made his way round the Masai steppe with his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, his friend Charles Thompson and the usual caravan of bearers. The party moved steadily east and on to Handeni before crossing to Tanga and the Kenyan coast, ably guided by Philip Percival, a feisty farmer and white hunter who had already taken Teddy Roosevelt out shooting. Hem..ingway was much taken with Percival.

The second trip took place twenty years later, a bleaker time in Kenya, as Ondaatje acknowledges. Accompanied this time by his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a rich Cuban friend and a

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