Paul Theroux lived, not only on the edge of the Rift Valley but also on the edge of the Peace Corps. He was the Volunteer who lived in the African village without servants. He drank in the shanty bars instead of with the Brits at their gymkhanas. He went out with African women and did not date the pale daughters of British settlers when they came home on holidays from their all-white Rhodesian boarding schools. He hated the PCVs who ran with the ex-pats, the “wog bashers,” as they called themselves.
PCV Paul Nelson (Malawi 1963-65) remembers him from Training. “Paul was always his own person,” Nelson wrote me. “In those days of background checks and psychological interviews, Theroux did not fit the predetermined patterns. During one interview, when asked his opinion of marriage, he described it as a three-headed horse, leaving the interviewer puzzling as to what box that fit in.”
While he wasn’t ‘like’ other PCVs, and held himself apart from them, he was, the late Mike McCone told me years ago, “an outstanding teacher who lived up to the Peace Corps standard of involvement in his school.”
And it was this very involvement with his fellow teachers and African friends that got Theroux into trouble in Africa.[To be continued]