Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) Learning About Africa

Former Associate Director of the Peace Corps, as well as a college president and Senator from Pennsylvania, Harris Wofford, tells how Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) once told him how he  (Paul) read The Heart of Darkness and declared, “I want to go there!” Well, in Sunday, November 15, 2015 New York Times Book Review, Theroux in an interview responding to the question: If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be? has this reply:theroux

Bring ’em Back Alive, by Frank Buck which I read when I was perhaps 10, made me want to leave home, go to Africa, and take risks in the bush. It’s a children’s book, not well written and probably full of whoppers, but it got my pulse racing. My life as a writer, as a man, began when I left home and spent the next six years in Africa.”

Paul would teach at Soche Hill College in Malawi, then after a failed coup d’etat he was tangentially involved with, he was kicked out of the Peace Corps, and went to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda to teach.  Here he would met his first wife, Anne Castle, a schoolteacher from London, and it would be here his first son, Marcel, was born in 1968.

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  • My path almost crossed that of Paul Theroux. I was a volunteer in Ethiopia 66-68 and was in Kampala briefly the summer of 1967 on vacation en route to Murchison Falls. After our visit to the park we picked up a boat in Kampala that took us overnight across Lake Victoria to Tanzania.

    My own personal “heart of darkness’ moment was when the ship stopped in the middle of the night to board passengers from the Congo. Watching them in single file make their way up the gangplank with most of their belongings on their head was a scene out of Joseph Conrad.

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