Aidan Hartley: The Zanzibar Chest

Aidan Hartley is the poster child for “global citizenship,” a trend that is being thrown around schools nowadays, but he was born in the 60s and was therefore ahead of his time. He seems to have had the sort of worldly upbringing that I imagine makes it exasperating for him to interact with people who haven’t seen parts of the world other than their own. Hartley has truly seen everything the world has to offer, the good and the bad, and as a war correspondent, a large amount of bad.

The Zanzibar Chest is autobiographical in the sense that the reader learns about Hartley’s life within the global context of his being a Reuters correspondent. His diverse resume includes writing stints in the Balkans, Middle East, and all over East Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Somalia. His quest to uncover more of his family’s role in British colonial rule even leads him to Yemen, and he often writes of vacations and time off on Zanzibar, just off the coast of Tanzania.

His resume sounds exotic, but it’s not idyllic by any means, as he covered all the African war atrocities of the ’90s. Hartley’s upbringing in a British family in Africa rendered him aware of many of life’s truths and loaned him an intercultural awareness, putting him far ahead of the curve of awareness of other lifestyles in other countries as compared to the average person. Themes covered in this book are concepts that didn’t occur to me until well into my college years. In comparison to Hartley’s life-long resume of extensive travel and consequent eye-opening and global-citizen-building experiences, I think back on my own stationary upbringing and relatively small exposure to other cultures for any significant length of time. Thank goodness for my love of reading– it is vivid accounts like Hartley’s that have made me more attuned to global themes as a reader and writer. Thank goodness also for my love of travel, which bloomed at age 22. Better late than never.

Hartley continues to be a prolific writer, having his own column in The Spectator. What an inspiringly long career as a writer and as one who has turned out such important truths from war situations in order for the general public to find out what was actually going on on the ground.

2 Comments on “Aidan Hartley: The Zanzibar Chest”

  1. treatments for cold sores April 7, 2013 at 00:30 #

    First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that
    I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts
    before writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Thank you!

    • Marisa LaValette April 7, 2013 at 09:41 #

      Hi Brandy,

      Thanks for reading!

      Regarding “getting centered” before writing, I actually do quite the opposite. Some of my longer blog posts and ESPECIALLY the articles I publish for other websites come about in a state of writing mania– because I work long hours and have very little time to actually write posts / articles, I get extremely excited when I know I may have a small chunk of time to actually type up writing-related ideas that have been brewing up in my head. I write most of my blog posts and even the longer articles in only five to ten minutes. I type frantically and all my ideas come out all at once. It is exhausting, and I get red in the face. Then, I can spend upwards of an hour editing, re-ordering things, uploading and deleting photos, dwelling on word choice, etc. When I was in high school I was fortunate to learn in an extremely vigorous writing program where as a young student I was required often to come up with more than thirty pages of writing per week in the form of journals, explications, and formal essays. So, I am accustomed to churning out large amounts of text and then improving it afterwards. I don’t think this answer to your question helps your writing situation– the only thing I would advise would be to maybe stop trying to center and clear your thoughts. Maybe you should try writing standing up and leaning over your desk / laptop and allowing it to be a more active / invigorating process. Let me know if that works for you at all. For me, writing is anything but calming. It is energizing and gets my heart rate up. I feel the same way after writing as I do after riding a roller coaster or whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. That’s why I like it so much!

      Happy fun writing! Thanks again for visiting my site!

      – Marisa

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