Friday, 1 February 2013

The race for Timbuktu

by Frank T Kyrza. A couple of weeks ago I finished reading the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. A story of an American family in Africa (Congo/Zaire) around 1946. If I have to come up with some keywords of this book, africa would certainly be one of them, and so would the word 'poverty'. This book, The race for Timbuktu, africa is certainly a keyword, but so is wealth. The book is set in the early 19th century (a century before the Kingsolver-book) and tells the story of two British explorers trying to find the city of Timbuktu. No westerners have set foot in this city yet, and the city holds a promise of wealth, gold, luxery and wisdom. All the kings, tribe-leaders or sultans mentioned in the book own big palaces, lot's of wives, slaves or camels. Or all of these things. Earned by slave- or salttrade and goldmining. The explorers used two routes to find the city: the first one is leaving from the north, from Tripoli, crossing the Sahara. (the illustration is inspired by this route) the other route is via the coast of Ghana, Benin, cross the jungle and travel up north. The explorers cross several kingdoms, meet many different tribes and all of them are violent towards eachother and to strangers. It was weird to read those stories because currently in the same area the violence between muslims, tuaregs and the authorities caused chaos and war, and led to thousands of people fleeing their homes. (Maybe today's problem has it's roots hundreds of years ago?) There is one scene in the book that stuck in my mind, and is pictured in the illustration, a war-weapon in those times was to catch a vulture, attach cotton to its feet, set the cotton on fire, let the bird go and wait till his feathers catch fire. Eventually he'll fall down and by doing so set the villages of the enemy on fire. So I learned loads, history wise but also new words. It was not an easy read, I had to keep the Oxford Dictionary close at hand. But I learned loads of new words: Impunity, pungent, petulant, evasive. To mull over. It was an interesting book, wrapped up in an exciting story, and there even is a little love story...... but now I can't wait for an 'easy' fiction story again. Some one promised me the new Kingsolver, in dutch, that will be a nice and easy read.... maybe more snow? so I can sit next to my heater some more evenings and read read read. Have a good weekend. (and a link to the website of the publisher.)

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