Cover image for Hemingway in Africa : the last safari
Hemingway in Africa : the last safari
Ondaatje, Christopher.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Overlook Press, 2004.

Physical Description:
237 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.E37 Z7485 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Africa was an obsession for Hemingway throughout his life. Long before he wrote "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Green Hills of Africa, or his posthumously published novel, True at First Light (based on his final safari in 1953), he had been enthralled as a ten-year-old by news reports of the African expedition undertaken in 1909 by his boyhood idol, Theodore Roosevelt. In writing Hemingway in Africa, Christopher Ondaatje, an explorer and adventurer himself, followed the trail of Hemingway's two major African safaris through Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and analyzed Hemingway's writings to uncover a startling amount of new material-documentary, literary, and photographic-on this rarely discussed, vitally important aspect of Hemingway's life and work. Hemingway in Africa is lavishly illustrated with rarely seen period photos, including: a photo of the actual leopard that inspired "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"; photos of mid-century Mombasa and Nairobi; and the wreckage of the 1954 plane crash near Murchison Falls that nearly claimed Hemingway's life. These are complemented by Ondaatje's own stunning photos of Masai tribe members, African wildlife, and the awe-inspiring landscape. Hemingway in Africa provides a compelling look into the life of the author for whom dangerous exploits were "an effort to relieve the intensity of existing at the edge."

Author Notes

Sir Christopher Ondaatje was born in Ceylon, educated in England, and emigrated to Canada in 1956. He has worked at several magazines and newspapers, and in 1967 founded Pagurian Press. In 1988 he sold all his business interests and returned to the literary world. He is the author of seven books, He was a member of Canada's 1964 Olympic bobsled team, is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. He lives in London, and was knighted by the Queen in 2003

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ondaatje, author of seven books (including Sindh Revisited,0 1996, and Journey to the Sources of the Nile0 , 1998), follows in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway's two African safaris, undertaken in the mid-1930s and mid-1950s in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, to uncover new insights into Hemingway's life and writings. Thanks to a wealth of photographs of Hemingway on safari as well as of modern photos of East Africa, the reader is offered glimpses of the ambience and environment with which the great author surrounded himself in his egotistical quest for manhood and for artistic immortality. He was always dependent on and jealous of more accomplished hunters on his safaris--such as Bror Blixen (Isak Dinesen's husband) or Philip Percival, who was coaxed out of retirement to guide Hemingway's second safari in 1954. Ondaatje is as much of a romantic as his subject, and in uncovering various letters and early influences, he fleshes out a picture of the great author as an adventurer in spirit, though flawed by his own ego and alcoholism. --Allen Weakland Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The gap of Hemingway's African excursions in books about "Papa" is partly filled by this copiously illustrated if casually written work from British explorer-biographer Ondaatje (Journey to the Source of the Nile). Hemingway went on only two safaris in a lifetime of traveling (1933-1934 and 1953-1954), but both were vivid, pivotal experiences. The first inspired his famous stories "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and his bestseller Green Hills of Africa; the latter trip inspired two posthumous works, the less well-received The Garden of Eden and True at First Light. Ondaatje follows the faded trail of Hemingway's safaris in Kenya and Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and puts them in the context of his works and those of other African writers, such as Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham (whose work Hemingway championed). Although Papa's tracks are fainter in contemporary Africa than in Cuba and Paris, Ondaatje, an old hand on sub-Saharan Africa, has as observant an eye as Hemingway's for the land's beauty and a better one for its residents which he complements with his photography. By the time of Hemingway's second visit, the era of the traditional colonial safari was closing, just as his own career was. While the opening description in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" of a leopard carcass on the mountain's highest slopes concluded, "No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude," Ondaatje possesses a sympathetic insight into what Hemingway was without falling prey to the myth. 98 color photos, 3 maps not seen by PW. (June 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Just as he did in Journey to the Source of the Nile, Ondaatje here retraces the steps of a famous explorer in Africa. This time his subject is Ernest Hemingway, who blasted the crap out of African indigenous life during his 1933 and 1953 safaris. "More than any other writer, including Blixen, Hemingway established Africa in the American consciousness," declares Ondaatje, and indeed Hemingway spilled as much ink on Africa as he did blood, setting a full-length nonfiction volume, a novel, the subplot of a second novel, and two of his longest and finest short stories in "the dark continent." The safaris remain the least dissected of Ernesto's adventures, leaving lots of fresh meat on those old bones. By retracing the hunter's route, Ondaatje endeavors to repeat Hemingway's experiences sans killing to discern why Africa so powerfully seduced him. Through interviews and plentiful photos, Ondaatje juxtaposes Hemingway's Africa with that of today. His sociological observations on the fading lifestyles of the Masai and other tribes and the decimation of the wildlife through pouching are quite spry, but the literary analysis of Hemingway's work often lacks depth. While this book offers pleasurable reading, it does not fill the need for a hardcore scholarly analysis of these safaris. Michael Rogers, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Author's Acknowledgementsp. 11
Forewordp. 13
Introductionp. 17
Chapter 1 Preparationsp. 31
Chapter 2 Hunting and Writingp. 55
Chapter 3 The Fascination of Fearp. 71
Chapter 4 Life on Safarip. 97
Chapter 5 Art versus Sportp. 117
Chapter 6 Experience Distilledp. 135
Chapter 7 Out of Africap. 147
Chapter 8 The Second Safarip. 165
Chapter 9 Fact, Fantasy and Truthp. 191
Chapter 10 Facing Mount Kilimanjarop. 213
Chapter Notesp. 219
Bibliographyp. 225
Indexp. 231