Review: Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa

I’m planning to move to Lagos in Nigeria sometime in the next year, and while I’ve read several works of fiction which have Lagos as a setting or partial-setting, I thought I would try to find some travelogues (the sort of travel lit written by the likes of Paul Theroux and Colin Thubron) about Nigeria/Lagos.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much out there in terms of modern (preferably 21st century) non-academic non-fiction. This list from The Guardian features five works of fiction (one of them set largely in New York city); a disdainful essay by Chinua Achebe; an account of the Biafran war, written by a British journalist; a personal memoir-cum-history of the country by another British journalist; Nigerian author and playwright, and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka’s memoir; and only one travel book, by  the daughter of the late Nigerian author and eco-activist (executed for his activism) Ken Saro-Wiwa.Read More »

Book Review: A Call to Travel by Rumaizah Abu Bakar

call-to-travelFirst published on 10th March, 2015 in The Star

A CALL TO TRAVEL: MUSLIM ODYSSEYS

Author: Rumaizah Abu Bakar

Publisher : Silverfish Books

THERE was a period in my life when I read little more than travel books. It started with a re-reading of Bruce Chatwin’s What Am I Doing Here and In Patagonia, and continued, for more than a year, with books by Paul Theroux, Eric Newby, VS Naipaul, Redmond O’Hanlon, Pico Iyer, Colin Thubron and Vikram Seth. There was even one in which Edith Wharton travels through France in a motorcar, not to mention several by writers I’ve not heard of since.

Looking back, I realise that this was a time when I was a new, financially-strapped wife and mother. Armchair travel was, I guess, the most convenient and affordable means of escape from the mundanity of motherhood, a dead-end job and housework.

And it wasn’t as simple as the books transporting me via words and descriptions to strange new worlds. The destinations were only part of the attraction. What I really appreciated was the perspective of the authors – the way places and people were filtered through the lenses of their unique personalities and experiences, and how their reactions and views made you re-think your own opinions, question what you always believed, be fiercely scornful, or even feel inspired.

So, for me, what the travel writer brings to the tale is more than half the journey. I like travel writers to have angles and agendas. I like writers who travel to remember and to forget. I like travel writers who travel to make a point (political, spiritual etc.) or to learn (about the world, a culture, a lesson). I like travel writers who travel to find or to lose themselves, and, most importantly, I like travel writers to write what they think and what they feel.

I looked forward to reading A Call To Travel: Muslim Odysseys because the perspective of a Muslim woman was one I had never come across before in a travel book. The fact that Rumaizah Abu Bakar’s travels took her to a number of Muslim cities and towns was a plus.Read More »