An African Affair

I just finished reading An African Affair, a novel by Nina Darnton, wo is a former staff writer for Newsweek and a former frequent contributor for the New York Times. The book draws on her experience of five years living in Africa in the 1970s, including imprisonment in Nigeria with her two small children. The New York Times called the book, “A vivid portrait of a troubled country.”

In the novel, New York journalist Lindsay Cameron finds corruption, drug smuggling, and rampant human rights abuses as she covers the regime of Nigeria’s President Michael Olumide. In the aftermath of two

probable assassinations, her activities gain unwanted government attention. Lindsay races to penetrate the intricate network of corrupt government officials, oil interests, and CIA agents while her love affair with a rare art dealer leads her still deeper into puzzling terrain and danger.

Most of us only know Nigeria, a large country on Africa’s west coast, as the place where so many of those obnoxious scam e-mails come from. The ones where some deposed general says he has millions to put into your bank account if he only had your account number. But Nigeria is often called the “Giant of Africa” because It is the most populous country in Africa and its oil reserves are making it a wealthy and influential power worldwide.

I have been to three African countries—Morocco, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Each one was vastly different from the others. In Morocco and Egypt, the majority of the people were Muslim. In Ethiopia, Christianity prevailed. In Nigeria, I read, the population is roughly divided between Christian and Muslim.

Morocco was very friendly toward tourism and the standard of living for most people generally seemed to be higher than in Ethiopia. At the time of our visit to Egypt several years ago, there was an edginess and constant protection with armed guards on our tour bus and riverboat. Again, except in the countryside, most people seemed to live better than in Ethiopia. Both Morocco and Egypt had quality hotels and restaurants where credit cards were accepted.

In Ethiopia, shabbiness prevailed everywhere, most of the native people lived in shacks and huts. Hotels and restaurants were rarely up to European standards and no credit cards were accepted anywhere.

When I was a child, I was fascinated by Africa and kept a chart on my wall of articles and pictures about Africa. I also wrote to the tourism bureaus in African countries and pored over the colorful brochures they sent. My visits as an adult have rekindled that interest and so perhaps I’ll have to start another chart. I’ve never been on safari. Maybe that will be next.