Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert

Overview

In our imagination, the desert is a scorching flatland, a palm grove like a shimmering green line floating in the distance, an ocean of dunes. You can close your eyes to see it. When William Langewiesche set out to document the state of the Sahara desert he was determined to see just what came before his eyes: nothing more or less. The result is an unsentimentalized, often startling account of the desert. From the southernmost Mediterranean to the African Savannah and west to the Atlantic, Langewiesche's trek ...
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Overview

In our imagination, the desert is a scorching flatland, a palm grove like a shimmering green line floating in the distance, an ocean of dunes. You can close your eyes to see it. When William Langewiesche set out to document the state of the Sahara desert he was determined to see just what came before his eyes: nothing more or less. The result is an unsentimentalized, often startling account of the desert. From the southernmost Mediterranean to the African Savannah and west to the Atlantic, Langewiesche's trek took him through the hyper-arid core of the desert, a terrain that taunts the imagination with its unalterable desolation. Here cadavers decompose like sun-dried dates, horizons are so barren that stones are mistaken for trucks, distances so empty that migrating birds have been observed seeking the company of humans. Langewiesche's descriptions of the physical desert are brilliantly matched by his explorations of its psychological landscape: the bitter colonial history, the stoicism of the nomads, the austerity of Islam. Despite the passing of the camel and the caravan, the Sahara remains without compromise. William Langewiesche blends history and reportage, anthropology and anecdote, into an unforgettable portrait of the unsubdued heart of the Sahara unveiled.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
PW praised this "vivid account" of a journalist's trek from Algiers to Dakar. (July)
Library Journal
Langewiesche's journey begins at the Mediterranean in Algiers. Hitching rides on trucks, he heads south into increasingly desolate territory, passing through the Algerian towns of Biskra and Ta-ranasset, on into Mali, Niger, and finally to Mauritania, on the Atlantic. He is most interested in the present-day people of the Sahara and how they cope with their inhospitable desert environment and with the modern world. A foreign correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and a commercial pilot, Langewiesche writes in an economical, straightforward style that unflaggingly retains interest. He points out that the old ways of life for Saharans are no longer possible but that attempts at modernization are doomed because the Sahara cannot be subdued. He offers no solutions. In attempting to be "unsentimental," Langewiesche comes across as humorless and relentlessly negative. His assessments seem somewhat distorted by a deeply cynical general attitude and by plain physical discomfort. He is an adventurous traveler but a grumpy one. Recommended for public libraries and African studies collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/96.]Mary C. Kalfatovic, Telesec Lib. Svce., Washington, D.C.
Donna Seaman
Langewiesche is a foreign correspondent for the "Atlantic Monthly", author of "Cutting for Sign" 1993, and a man who knows how to travel lightly, observe intently, and transform his complex experiences into prose as polished as glass. Fascinated by the Sahara, he decided to become intimate with it by traversing its entire, sun-blasted length, from Algiers to Timbuktu, a journey fraught with danger both natural and manmade. Death is always just an empty water jug away, and war, fueled by old ethnic feuds, unfinished business from French colonial times, and radical Islamic groups, is brewing in this vast sandy sea. Langewiesche, commandingly laconic and shrewd, has some very frank things to say about Saharan culture as he chronicles the region's inevitable poverty, ritualized corruption, and abrupt cruelty. Moving effortlessly from his own riveting anecdotes to those of historical import, Langewiesche pauses to explain the physics of sand and the physiology of the camel, analyze the status of Saharan women, describe Neolithic rock art, and characterize the gritty reality of life in isolated oases. An unforgettable and profoundly involving travelogue.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679429821
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/15/1996
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 1.05 (d)

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