Blue Dahlia, Black Gold: A Journey Into Angola

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9780091925611: Blue Dahlia, Black Gold: A Journey Into Angola

Since the end of its crippling 27-year civil war over a decade ago, Angola has changed almost beyond recognition. An oil-fuelled bonanza has brought about massive foreign investment and a fabulously wealthy new elite, making its capital, Luanda, the second most expensive city in the world. Today, fortunes are being made and lost overnight, and rich Angolans are eagerly buying up the assets of its former coloniser, Portugal.

Fascinated by this complex nation perched at the forefront of a resurgent Africa, writer Daniel Metcalfe travelled to Angola to explore the country for himself. Ebullient and proud, and often unwilling to dwell on its past, Angola has a large army, a hunger for wealth and a need to prove itself on the continent. But as Metcalfe also discovers, it has some of the most grinding poverty in Africa as few Angolans have reaped the rewards of the peace.

Nonetheless, amid Angola's brash reality, Metcalfe finds there is a place for a traveller who isn't there to make a quick buck. Crossing the country as ordinary Angolans do, talking to tribal elders, oil workers, mine clearers and street children, he encounters a place of extremes, where cynicism and excess go hand-in-hand with great hospitality and ingenuity. Metcalfe also reveals a colourful history of pirates and slave traders, capuchin monks, syncretic Christian cults and elaborate spirit masks.

This is an Angola that symbolises nothing less than a broader turning point between the continents, the repositioning of the rich developed world versus Africa. It is a land that, until now, few outsiders have managed to unlock.

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Review:

"Metcalfe explore[s] Angola by road to get under the skin of a nation in which corruption and nepotism are rife... Along the way, [he] cleverly weaves in Angola's colonial history, including Portugal's shocking slave-trading past, civil war and rapid rise of the nouveau riche... Angola's extraordinary cocktail of corruption, oil wealth, destitution and post-colonial blues adds an altogether grittier dimension." ( The Times)

"A curious tenderloin-abroad-tale that is both diligent and gripping in its portrait of a country torn apart." ( Scotsman)

"Step forward Daniel Metcalfe, whose account of his three-month exploration of [Angola] doesn't shirk from describing the appalling poverty but manages to reach [an] optimistic conclusion." (Best Books for Summer 2013 Financial Times)

"An invigorating, eye-opening and fascinating study" ( Financial Times)

"This gritty book gives an in-depth account of Angola... and captures the corruption of a country with a multimillionaire elite and many dirt poor." ( The Times)

Book Description:

An absorbing, surprising and insightful on-the-ground exploration of one of Africa's most vibrant, excessive, important and quickly-changing countries: Angola.

'Metcalfe has reminded us of why travel writing matters' Nicholas Crane

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