RE­VIEWED BY PA­TRICK ALLINGTON

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - BOOKS -

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

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