The Last Caravan


by Thurston Clarke.

by Putnam’s, $10.95. The drought that devastated the southern fringes of the Sahara between 1969 and 1974 virtually destroyed the nomadic Touareg, not by exterminating the people (although the mortality was fearsomely high) but by scattering them into towns and refugee camps where their traditional tribal culture disintegrated. Mr. Clarke describes the process through the memories of individual survivors whom he interviewed, and extends these personal recollections with his own examination of the local and international muddle of delay, dishonesty, old grudges, and misdirected effort which compounded the natural disaster. Seventy years of French colonial policy had created conditions which exacerbated the effects of the drought, for example, while the Touareg had been, in their heyday, the unhandiest neighbors since, the Vikings. It is a grim story, but never a dull one. It also offers some fine examples of what not to do next time. Photographs.