Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Five best accounts of great African journeys

Tim Jeal is the author of the acclaimed biographies Livingstone, Baden-Powell, and Stanley, each selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He was selected as the winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.

His latest book is Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure.

One of Jeal's five best accounts of great African journeys, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman
by Marjorie Shostak (1981)

In the 1970s the anthropologist Marjorie Shostak set out to present a rounded and readable portrait of a hunter-gatherer woman from the Kalahari in her own words. In so doing, she journeyed into the mind and culture of someone whose daily life was superficially as different from her own as could be imagined but that mirrored the way our ancestors lived for 90% of human history. The reader feels with Nisa as she gives birth alone in the bush for the first time, gathers mongongo nuts and caterpillars, is beaten by her husband for infidelity, and sees three of her four children sicken and die. That's not all—a surviving adult daughter is murdered by her husband for refusing to have sex. But Nisa endures, remaining brave and humorous, with an amazing capacity for enjoying life whatever its trials and sorrows. "Nisa" is a humbling and inspiring book.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue