A travelogue bulging at the seams with humour, background information and a clear love of Africa...
Traversa - to cross over something - is quite an apt title for this travelogue. Fran is a normal guy, working in London at a bookshop, running the occasional marathon and still having plenty of time to get sloshed with his friends; he is hardly the epic figure we conjure up when you imagine someone daring enough (and not a little crazy) to cross Africa on foot... particularly, when it seems to be on some kind of a whim, without backing or support. But then, perhaps Fran isn't as normal as he would have us believe.
At the nucleus of this plan is a burning ambition and personal desire so ferocious that it is astonishing. But with equal measure is the self-doubt, the well-founded fear and layer upon layer of uncertainty. I wouldn't have made it 500 yards from the Skeleton Coast (where he set off).
The Africa that we have all grown accustomed to via the media, whether it be the news, tabloids or the American film industry is shattered in part. To be sure, there are dangers but it would seem that the arrival of a solitary, seemingly insane white man into rural Africa just made everyone want to be helpful. The generosity of the poor never ceases to amaze me - those who have not, giving all that they have kind of thing.
Traversa, then, is much more than a travelogue. It is part history lesson about the great explorers who first traversed Africa; part sociological lesson on in the culture, fortitude and stamina of the great African people and amongst everything, there is a personal journey that we are allowed to share with the author. Written in an infallible and unique style, it's more like talking to your friend about a very, very long holiday they once took - there is nothing starchy or staid about this book. Full of warmth, humour and a lot of balls, this was an immensely enjoyable read. My only disappointment was that there simply were not enough photographs!
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012