A guy spent a few weeks in an African country 25 years ago and wrote about it seven years later, at a time when internet resources were unavailable. His writing resembles that of another author who spent decades in that country. AT:
The other book and African Nights share any number of distinctive words and phrases, many of which are commonly in use in East Africa: Baobab [a tree], bhang [cannabis], boma [an enclosure], samosa [a fried snack], shamba [a farm field], liana [a vine], tilapia [a fish], kanga [a sheet of fabric], shuka [decorative sashes]. It is possible that he remembered these phrases from his few weeks in country, but it is not at all likely. On the fashion front, both books have young women “wrapped” in their kangas and “dressed” in “rags.” The women in both books wear shukas, head shawls, head scarves, and goatskins, and they balance baskets on heads graced with “laughing smiles.” On the animal front, men in both books spearfish in “ink-black” waters and hunt by torchlight. Elephants are “fanning” themselves, birds “trill,” insects “buzz,” weaver birds “nest,” and monkeys “mesmerize.” The books share a veritable Noah’s ark of additional fauna: crickets, crocodiles, starlings, dragonflies, tilapia, cattle, lions, sand crabs, vultures, hyenas, “herds of gazelle,” and leopards that can hold small animals “in their jaws.” On the flora front, the shared references are just as compelling: roadside palms, yellow grass, red bougainvillaea, pink bougainvillaea, fig trees, shady mango trees, thornbrush, banana leaves, Baobab trees, liana vines, tomatoes. The landscape, occasionally “barren,” is rich in “undulating hills” whose “grazing lands” are dotted with the occasional “watering hole.” The “mud and dung” houses feature “thatched roofs” “verandas,” and “vegetable gardens.” People seem to be carrying “straw mats” everywhere. The stars “glint” and people “waltz” underneath them. Eyes “glimmer” in the light of “campfires.” Children sing in “high-pitched” rhythms, and girls endure “barbaric” circumcisions. The narrators of both books travel to the Great Rift Valley and stand at its edge. Both visit the small trading town of Narok.
We omitted some names from the comparison above take away the political element. (After all, Ted Sorensen wrote Profiles in Courage, and we couldn’t care less.) How likely is it that the parallels between the two books above are lucky coincidences? How likely is it that two books tell almost exactly the same anecdote about the same spot in the East River and the Hudson? Just askin’.