Theroux would return to Africa in fiction in two other novels. My Secret HIstory (1989) and My Other Life (1996). These are fascinating accounts of how a writer uses his own life to create something else. I’ll write about these books in upcoming blogs, but first let me tell you one story that Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67), author of the best book on the Peace Corps, Living Poor, told me. I had asked Moritz why he titled his travel book to Brazil, The Saddest Pleasure, taking the line from Paul Theroux’s Picture Palace where the Frenchman says, “Travel is the saddest of the pleasures.” Thomsen replied, “It was the Frenchman who said travel was the saddest of the pleasures. I wish you had asked him. Though now it occurs to me that perhaps there was no Frenchman and Theroux just made him up; he has been known to do things like that. I once wrote Paul about his South American book, saying that he should, for aesthetic reasons, have cut his hand in Buenos Aires instead of Lima. Paul wrote back and said that actually he had cut his hand in Bogota.”
The moral of this story is: never trust novelists, especially when they say they are telling you the truth.