Also on Caboose: Journeys Antarctica, Kerguelen Islands, South America, Turkey, Cameroon
[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary



Filed under: books,bradt,travel,VSO — kevin @ 16:36

The second edition of the Bradt guide to Nigeria is finally out, complete with my updates to the northern section and seventeen of my pictures (unfortunately the cover photo isn’t one of mine).

My copy should be on its way to me now, I’m really looking forward to seeing my photos in print. I suspect the money I’m being paid for the photos is going to be spent furnishing my new apartment, when I finally find one, maybe I should have asked Bradt to just pay me in IKEA vouchers…



Filed under: books,travel — kevin @ 17:24

I’ve just finished reading Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, an interesting book about a girl growing up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. I found it a bit confusing at times as she sometimes refers to her family and other settlers as Africans, but then also uses the same word to refer to the indigenes of the countries she was living in.

The book also follows the common European/American habit of treating Africa as if it’s a single homogenous place. The settlers seem to be fond of declaring their love for Africa, based on living in one small part of it. It would be like saying you love Europe when you’ve only been to the south of France. My cynical side would say that they didn’t fall in love with Africa so much as with the lifestyle of being the ruling class.

I also recently read Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Shadow of the Sun (Penguin Celebrations), in the foreword he says:

[Africa] is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.”

These books reminded me how quiet it is at night here in Stirling. Lying in bed all I can hear are traffic on the A9 and the muffled roaring of the glass wool factory. In my house in Kaduna the air was full of the sound of crickets, frogs and all the other night creatures.


Mungo Park and the Niger

Filed under: books,VSO — kevin @ 13:42

The New Gong magazine has a website with various interesting articles and pictures. Because of my interest in the history of Nigeria my attention was drawn to one about Mungo Park, often claimed to be the “discoverer” of the river Niger.

The article points out that he himself never claimed the discovery and that he was very glad of the hospitality of the African people. For once an old British explorer comes out as not being a monster, interested in people and their lives rather than glory and empire.


Voyage to Desolation Island

Filed under: books — kevin @ 21:15

I get the occasional email from people who have found my website looking for information about Kerguelen. For some reason the idea of the place seems to captivate some people.

coverA while ago I’d heard about a book about the islands, by a Frenchman called Jean-Paul Kauffman. At New Year I finally got round to buying a copy of Voyage to Desolation Island (originally L’Arche des Kerguelen: voyage aux îles de la Désolation).

It was an interesting read for me, partly because I recognised some of the places. Kauffman’s writing strongly evoked the memories of the pervasiveness of the wind on the islands and the starkly beautiful landscape. He describes how the wind sounds different there, it isn’t broken up by trees and buildings and it roars across the landscape.

The translator, Patricia Clancy, has done an excellent job and added a few very useful notes on points of French culture. Only two things irritated me about the translation. The units of measurement had all been translated into American, forcing me to sit doing mental arithmetic every time I encountered a temperature. The other irritant was that some of the technical terms didn’t seem to be quite right.

Kauffman himself seems to have had a somewhat doom-laden approach to his trip to the islands, there’s almost no mention of the social life of Port aux Français. Of course, that probably varies from year to year, maybe the place was just especially lively when I was there.

Speaking of Port aux Français, I’d like a word with whoever it was at the publishers that decided to translate the place names on the map. It’s confusing to refer to Port aux Français in the text but then have to work out it’s marked as Frenchmen’s Harbour on the map!

The book also describes journeys to the islands made by various groups and individuals, before they became permanently inhabited. Disastrous commercial enterprises, malnourished scientists and military visitors have all left their traces among the grasses and bogs.

So, if you’ve been fascinated by the Kerguelen Islands ever since you first saw them alone on a mostly-blue atlas page or if you just have a strange obsession with remote and isolated places, this book is well worth reading.


Translating Asterix

Filed under: books,web — kevin @ 15:40

[via] An article about translating Asterix into English written by one of the translators.

I always thought a lot of the humour in Asterix was there because of the marvellous translation.



Filed under: books — kevin @ 21:29

Just found BookCrossing , a scheme a bit like Geocaching but with books.

You finish reading a book and then release it into the wild, it’s tracked by a unique ID so you can see where it goes.

I like this idea.


Dead Air

Filed under: books — kevin @ 20:57

I finished reading Dead Air, the new Iain Banks book, last night. I’ve read all his books so far but I was strangely disappointed by this one.

It has all the usual features: dark humour, a Scottish main character and politics. Somehow it seems to be just more thinly-veiled than usual political rant. OK, I agree with many of the ideas but a bit more of a plot would be nice.

Maybe I just missed something, I’ll re-read it before I return it to the library.

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