“Africa is a lovely place - much lovelier, more peaceful and more resilient and, if not prosperous, innately more self-sufficient than it is usually portrayed. But because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth.”

I tend to agree with Theroux’s idea if not his tone. The Vanity Fair issue was, I’m sure, born out of good intention. But, in the end, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that what it actually achieves in the end is to convince us of those good intentions. Nothing more. And that, for Africans, both those who desire help and those trying to help themselves, is not even close to enough.


If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.