Stephen Taylor grew up a white South African until, "sickened by the dour resentful racists" in charge of his country's destiny, he emigrated to Britain. "Livingstone's Tribe" traces a fascinating journey he took from Zanzibar in Eastern Africa through Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and back down to his former home, South Africa. The title refers to the white Africans who have stayed on in post-independence Africa-- but Taylor meets and talks with a wide range of both white and black Africans.
The book is part travelogue (Taylor describes the wonders he encounters), part historical accounts of whites in Africa (the "great explorers" of the 19th century are very well covered) and part personal memoir of black and white Africa--a place that's far from black and white in the moral sense, Taylor powerfully argues. Throughout his journey Taylor is sensitive to ambiguity, a quality that's rare in travel writing. His Kenya, for instance, captures both the lyrical beauty of Karen Blixen's Out of Africa and "the other Kenya, of state-sanctioned murder and glue-sniffing street children." Taylor grew up as a white South African, but his English provenance set him apart from both the natives and the Afrikaners. He is conscious of being marginal to Africa in a way that neither of these cultures is, and that self-consciousness gives his writing a subtlety and penetration lacking in other work on the same topic. The passages in which Taylor reflects on his childhood in South Africa, giving lucid insights into the divisions of that country, are the real triumph of the book. --Adam Roberts