Reunion in Barsaloi

January 30, 2007 at 11:53 pm | Posted in Non-Fiction | 1 Comment

Reunion in Barsaloi by Corinne Hofmann is the sequel to her bestselling memoir/travelogue The White Masai (which has also been made into a film). Hofmann is a Swiss woman who lived in a remote part of Kenya in the late 1980s/early 1990s, having married a native Samburu man.

In Reunion in Barsaloi, Hofmann goes back to Kenya to see her ex-husband and family. Her uncoloured opinions of what she finds (both good and bad) provide a unique insight into the world of the native Kenyans. The sheer joy of the children Hofmann meets at receiving the smallest of presents from her native Switzerland is touching. Hofmann’s report of the effects of a 1996 internal conflict in Kenya on the native people is a sombre account of a small but devastating war, which was scarcely noticed by Western media.

Hofmann also sheds light on the steady economic progress in the remote part of Kenya she visits, with the retail trade and tourism ventures beginning to thrive, certainly in comparison with the early 1990s.

This is a light read (you’ll finish it in an evening), but would probably not be that interesting if you have not read The White Masai (so read that first!). My only quibble with the book would be that Peter Millar’s English translation of Hofmann’s story is at times clunky and too obviously British for a Swiss tale. There are several glaring mistakes and it becomes obvious that the translation was rushed into print too quickly to cash in the success of the earlier book and accompanying film.

N.B. Reunion in Barsaloi is not the sequel to The White Masai, but actually the third book in the series. The second book, Back from Africa, details Hofmann’s adjustment to life in Switzerland after her original adventure and will be released in English translation later in 2007.

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  1. Glad to hear that the second book is coming out in english soon. It wasn’t available when I read this one and I probably would have liked to have read them in order.

    I enjoyed Reunion in Barsaloi but would strongly agree with Geoffrey’s suggestion to read The White Masai first.

    While I usually prefer to enjoy a book in one media only, either in the original or as a film, in this case I deliberately saw the movie first and then read the book, as I felt that the lifestyle and landscape would be so far removed from my own experience. I was right! While its probably stating the obvious to say that the book is almsot always better, (and indeed this holds true for The White Masai), there is something to be said for the visual impact of the film. I was particularly struck by the vibrant colours of the clothes, the complicated hairstyles and elaborate jewellery, all in contrast to the barrenness of the landscape and simplicity of their lifestyle. If you have to choose one media I’d strongly recommend the book but readers may also like to check out the film.


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