Magic of Rain: On the Niger to the inner AfricaMichael Obert
München: Frederking & Thaler, 2005
Michael Obert spent seven months travelling along Africa's third longest river, the Niger, entirely on his own – 4200 km, from its source along the crescent of the Niger in the Sahel to the delta in the Gulf of Benin. Obert struggled through the rainforest in Guinea, always on the lookout for rebels from Sierra Leone, with fishermen, traders and river nomads in their pirogues, he travelled along the river landscape, listening to stories about water gods and leopard men, got to know poverty and filth, became deadly ill, got up again and followed his way again along the water, even though he was advised to rather follow the river by car from a safe distance.
Obert rightly calls his book a "literary" travel report. Mungo Park, who travelled along the Niger in the eighteen hundreds and T.C. Boyle, who created a literary memorial for him in "Wassermusik" are just as omnipresent as Bruce Chatwin or Paul Theroux and, of course, Joseph Conrad. But it is the poetry of a foreign, unintelligible world that enchants the reader. Obert describes this world with the same ease with which he recounts the absurdities of which we hear in our news reports. He pushes himself to the limits and discovers that there is a reality beyond the television programmes from which one can zap away as soon as one loses interest. And the reader, who follows his report breathlessly, discovers along with him that there is a world out there, in which the rules of our Western civilisation seem to lose their power.