What’s the Strangest Travel Book Ever Written?

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  05.13.04 | 12:51 AM ET

According to writer John Derbyshire’s recent article in The New Criterion, it’s “An African in Greenland,” Tete-Michel Kpomassie’s story of his experience in Greenland in the late 1950s and 1960s. First published in French, the book was translated into English in 1983. Why did Kpomassie leave his home in a tribal society bordering the Gulf of Guinea to visit Greenland? “After Kpomassie had an unpleasant encounter with a snake, his family elders decided that he was destined to become a priest in a local snake cult,” Derbyshire writes. “This involved living in the deep jungle among pythons. Kpomassie was not keen on the idea. At just this time, at a bookstore in the nearest city, he happened to see Dr. Robert Gessain’s book ‘The Eskimos from Greenland to Alaska.’ Kpomassie was seized with the idea that he should go and live among these folk. By a sustained effort of will, and through many difficulties—it took him six years just to work his way to Europe, two more to get to Greenland—he eventually did so. It is, as it sounds, the strangest travel book ever written.”

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