Thursday, March 27, 2008

Travel's in the White Man's Grave by Donald MacIntosh

Working as a forester in western and southern Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s, Scotsman Donald MacIntosh saw more than trees. He witnessed two changes in the African landscape: African nations gained independence and lumber companies destroyed many of the ancient rain forests. He tells about his happy and sad experiences during this time in his book Travels in the White Man's Grave.

MacIntosh refers to the White Man's Grave as that portion of the African continent in which many Europeans met their end due to malaria and other diseases for which they were not prepared. It is often hot, humid, and rainy. Until recently this area had many forests filled with valuable hardwood prized in Europe and America for making furniture and floors. When he arrived in Africa, harvesting of these woods was a slow and selective process. The introduction of chainsaws, monster trucks, and corporate dictates to deliver supplies quickly denuded forests and destroyed the economies of local tribes.

Travels in the White Man's Grave is not just a book about what has gone wrong. MacIntosh tells many humorous and many harrowing stories of the old way of life. He survives floodwaters, snakes, driver ants, and face-to-face meetings with leopards and forest buffalo. His story about a buffalo stamping out his campfire is very funny and reminiscent of the 1980s film The God's Must Be Crazy.

Travels in the White Man's Grave is not an easy to find book, as all the print editions are English or Scottish. Recorded Books has issued an audiobook on compact discs. If you like good African stories, it is worth the effort to interlibrary loan.

MacIntosh, Donald. Travel's in the White Man's Grave. London: Abacus, 2001. ISBN 0349114358.

7 compact discs, Recorded Books, 2002. 1402529228.

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