Impressions Of Africa

Impressions Of Africa

Raymond Roussel's travelogue, Impressions Of Africa, 1910 about passengers of a shipwrecked vessel in the imaginary Ponukele is novelist Sarnath Banerjee's favourite

Staff Writer
July 25 , 2014
01 Min Read

My favourite travel book will have to be this quirky little classic by this multifaceted Frenchman. A poet, novelist, playwright and a Surrealist, Raymond Roussel lived an extravagant life, and told extravagant stories. Opening with an unbelievably bizarre coronation scene in an African ‘empire’ called Ejur, he spins an irresistible tale of a group of wandering bohemians trying to find their way to Buenos Aires, who set up a theatre company just to pass the time. 


Modelled on classic nineteenth-century travelogues, this tour de force of ‘travel’ literature was written by Roussel without leaving his Parisian hotel, let alone France. I was struck by a similar situation when I went to Congo a few years ago to work on a project involving the child soldiers affected by the ethnic conflict. A mix of harsh circumstances and the depressing scene of these orphaned children made me retreat to my hotel room. 


I spent most of my time there reading about spiders and equatorial rain and King Leopold’s Ghost. Today, I can pass myself off as a specialist on Congo.

Graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee’s latest book is The Harappa Files

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