REVIEWED BY PATRICK ALLINGTON
Bas, a sculptor, is a novice traveller who does not revel in the utter foreignness of Africa. At one point, he seeks solace in his guide book because it is far less confronting than what lies outside the bus window. Cleary writes with some freshness about Westerners travelling with eyes half-open through unfamiliar and tension-filled lands. But although Bas’s surroundings discomfort him, Cleary’s descriptions of cities, settlements and the desert are evocative and sensitive: “Tifariti was a collection of meagre buildings collapsing into the earth.”
But this is no pseudo travelogue. In one early scene, soldiers pull Bas and his fellow travellers from a bus. When one soldier drags a woman away, the others must negotiate her release. It’s a hint of the hardship and the violence that Bas will later confront.
Ultimately, what’s most memorable about Closer to