Reporting from around the world

2008-01-09 00:00

BBC reporter John Simpson is a prolific writer — by my count this is his sixth thick book drawing on his experiences reporting from various hotspots around the world. To that you can add the account of his childhood, Days From a Different World. That book, along with Strange Places, Questionable People, was more directly autobiographical.

In Not Quite the World’s End, subtitled A Traveller’s Tales, the approach is more of a miscellany, and a rather hastily assembled one at that, featuring stories left out of previous books. Of particular interest to South African readers are the sections dealing with this country (his wife is an Afrikaner) which serve as an outsider’s confirmation of life as we know it.

Otherwise we find Simpson watching Saddam Hussein’s trial, on a hair-raising trip into the Congo, meeting (almost) the Japanese royal family, encountering Richard Burton and Tim Robbins; plus conscientising pieces on global warming and the fate of the Bushmen in Botswana.

A more reflective section of the book deals with the birth of his son, Rafe. This is approached from the view of a father now in his 60s and is unashamedly trite, as are many of Simpson’s conclusions about life and the meaning thereof.

It is something he readily admits just as he repeatedly confesses to being rather full of himself, probably a necessary quality to produce a garrulous collection like this and one which makes Not Quite World’s End an entertaining enough read but not an engaging one.

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