Condensed by E.J.W from The Nile Tributaries Of Abyssinia and The Albert N'yanza Great Basin Of The Nile.
Abyssinian slave-girls--Khartoum--The Soudan under Egyptian rule-- Slave-trade in the Soudan--The obstacles ahead
"In the Heart of Africa" is a quite readable -- sometimes even exciting -- example of what I think of as the "White Men Exploring" (WME) genre. The tale concerns Baker's wanderings through Africa tracing the Nile. Simple as that.
And to most people living in the age of Google Earth, exploration as a purely geographical quest may well have minimal intrinsic interest. I know that I didn't and still don't care about tracing the exact path of the Nile.
But "In the Heart of Africa" also relates Baker's adventures while traveling, the people he met and animals he hunted. There are some great passages describing this or that group's particular manner of living. He has some particularly detailed descriptions of hairstyle, which I found interesting. And the stories about men who took elephant with swords, or tracked lions through dense brush, etc., are very well done.
Like all examples of the WME genre, Baker's book frequently creates very mixed emotions. One cannot but envy him for meeting the variety of people he did, for coming into contact with such a great diversity of culture and custom, as well as an astounding quantity and variety of wildlife.
But -- of course -- Baker's encounter with local people is colored by an ingrained sense of racial superiority, making it sometimes a bit depressing. The hunting stories, too, seem also sad. In a day when we take it for granted that too few elephants are left, it sticks in the craw to read about Baker killing as many as possible of them -- and indeed many other animals -- with a wide array of guns brought for that purpose.
But these are all par for the WME course. And if you enjoy tales of hard travel through distant lands, you may well enjoy "In the Heart of Africa."
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