Riding the Demon
On the Road in West Africa

Written by Peter Chilson
With a new preface
Selected by James Galvin

Extreme travel on the African continent

Reviews

“Bush taxi drivers have a sympathetic, if somewhat frazzled, advocate in Chilson. He documents the dreams and frustrations of these men (and a couple of women) and the battles waged by them and their Peugeot 504s against potholes, roadblocks, corruption, bad petrol, devils, and the lack of genuine spare parts.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Chilson’s book, as vivid in places as a nightmare, has all the revelatory power of the early explorers’ narratives, with their shreds of myth and rumor snatched from the borders of terra incognita.”
New York Times Book Review


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Description

In Niger, where access to rail and air travel requires overcoming many obstacles, roads are the nation’s lifeline. For a year in the early 1990s, Peter Chilson traveled this desert country by automobile to experience West African road culture. He crisscrossed the same roads again and again with bush taxi driver Issoufou Garba in order to learn one driver's story inside and out. He hitchhiked, riding in cotton trucks, and traveled with other bush taxi drivers, truckers, road engineers, an anthropologist, Niger's only licensed woman commercial driver, and a customs officer.

The road in Africa, says Chilson, is more than a direction or a path to take. Once you've booked passage and taken your seat, the road becomes the center of your life. Hurtling along at eighty miles an hour in a bush taxi equipped with bald tires, no windows, and sometimes no doors, travelers realize that they've surrendered everything.

Chilson uses the road not to reinforce Africa's worn image of decay and corruption but to reveal how people endure political and economic chaos, poverty, and disease. The road has reflected the struggle for survival in Niger since the first automobile arrived there, and it remains a useful metaphor for the fight for stability and prosperity across Africa.

Series/imprint:
Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction

Page count: 216
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5

 



Paper
List price: $19.95
978-0-8203-4748-6
3/15/2015

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Ebook
List price: $19.95
978-0-8203-4834-6
3/15/2015
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Peter Chilson teaches writing and literature at Washington State University. He is also the author of We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from the Lost Country of Mali and Disturbance-Loving Species: A Novella and Stories, winner of the Bakeless Fiction Prize and the Maria Thomas Fiction Prize. His writings, which have appeared in such publications as Foreign Policy, American Scholar, Gulf Coast, High Country News, Audubon, and Ascent, have also been included in two Best American Travel Writing anthologies.