Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

buy us books !
Amazon wishlist

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - travel

Adventures in Africa

Gianni Celati

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Adventures in Africa

Title: Adventures in Africa
Author: Gianni Celati
Genre: Travel
Written: 1997 (Eng. 2000)
Length: 177 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Adventures in Africa - US
Adventures in Africa - UK
Adventures in Africa - Canada
Aventures en Afrique - France
Avventure in Africa - Italia
  • Italian title: Avventure in Africa
  • Translated by Adria Bernardi
  • Foreword by Rebecca West

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable if limited

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Spectator . 18/11/2000 Graham Stewart
TLS . 26/1/2001 David Vincent
The Washington Post . 28/11/2000 Jabari Asim

  From the Reviews:
  • "Celati seeks to tell it like it is, without baroque flourish or rococo artifice. What he has not seen or met is beyond the horizon and absent from his canvas. The result is a tabula rasa travelogue, not so much a journey as a sparrow's flight, the deeper meaning of which remains unclear." - Graham Stewart, The Spectator

  • "An advocate of "anti-monumental" fiction, Celati roots his travelogue in small scale, everyday details, as he and his companion pick a trail through the vendors, guides, prostitutes and dilapidated transport systems. As the locals break their journeys to pray, Celati, racked by tinnitus and preoccupied with thrift, writes. Literature, and the act of writing, prove central to the adventure." - David Vincent, Times Literary Supplement

  • "If we can trust Adria Bernardi's translation, Celati's talent for description is top notch. His sentences are full of neat metaphors that derive poetry from the commonplace. (...) Celati deserves credit for actively resisting the call of the curmudgeon whenever and wherever it emerges. He's aging (in his sixties), his hearing's fading and insomnia plagues him nightly. Still he manages to keep his patience and his sense of humor through a series of increasingly surreal misadventures." - Jabari Asim, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Adventures in Africa is an account of Gianni Celati's 1997 trip to Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania with filmmaker Jean Talon, notebooks recording his travels and adventures.
       Celati's approach to Africa is appealing enough: he finds himself in Bamako and finds almost immediately:

I understand almost nothing here, and I don't even know what I came to do in Africa.
       Indeed, sense of purpose isn't very evident. Celati tags along with his filmmaker-friend -- who seems even less capable of getting anywhere or getting much done (the film project, needless to say, does not progress well). Bu the come-what-may approach isn't the worst.
       Celati observes and records (and reads -- René Caillé's Journey to Timbuktu, for example, from a time when travel in these parts was still a very different sort of adventure). There's relatively little sight-seeing: the sights are largely the generic local ones (and the hotels inevitably dominate, as the retreats they are). There is quite a bit of interaction with locals, especially guides and those offering there services, and Celati seems particularly taken by the different approach to negotiation, notions of offer and acceptance (where Africa and (mainly European) tourists clash).
       Celati experiences the country (mainly Mali), but understanding is hard to come by. Authenticity seems hidden under the local attempts to cater to the tourists, to offer them what they expect. And, almost despite himself, Celati too appreciates it when the competent guide helps get things done -- even as that at the same time cuts them off, in a way, from local life.
       Celati claims:
The longer I stay here, the more I seem to see everywhere roles that I know, behaviors that remind me of something. It is as if all of man's secrets were exposed in the open, in the general functioning of daylight, in the performances everyone must make in order to be who he is.
       Indeed, Celati's observations often treat action as performance, as if that were the only way to approach it (since, presumably, many of the fundamentals behind it remain unfathomable and out of (his) view).
       It is, at least, a fairly African adventure they have. They travel to relatively out of the way places -- they're far from the only tourists, but these are not places where the economy relies entirely on the tourist-trade. But by the end Celati sees everything through documentary eyes: even immersed, he is unable to really live it and, as he notes, it's like they're in a film (a feeling that doesn't go away upon returning to Paris, where it then just seems they've stepped into a different film).
       Noting how few primitive tribes there are left for anthropologists to study (and how taking them as subjects of study contaminates them) Celati comes up with a different idea:
So therefore, why not put an end to it and select a subject that is less perishable, which is exactly what tourists are ? Tourists are healthy, almost all of them speak English, they're a group of people sharply on the rise. On top of that, they've already worked out their own belief system, a very complex mythology, their own customs of dressing and eating and traveling.
       Gelati can't escape being part of that tribe, either, and while he won't fully give in to it, he knows his account is very much from that perspective too. Africa remains beyond; Gelati has some insight into it, but it only gets him (and goes) so far.
       An appealing read, but with the feel of whiling away time -- much as much of Gelati's trip feels.

- Return to top of the page -


Adventures in Africa: Reviews: Gianni Celati: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Travel-related books
  • See Index of books from and about Africa
  • See Index of Italian literature

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Italian author Gianni Celati lived 1937 to 2022.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2007-2022 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links