Jennifer Egan’s “Safari”

 

In Jennifer Egan’s “Safari,” the tension is hard to pin point exactly. Each of the characters seems to be struggling with one thing or the other and the struggles take place against the backdrop of a safari. This wild setting moves the characters forward by both developing themselves as characters and by moving the plot along. Mindy the anthropologist is an interesting character who brings her anthropological viewpoint into a landscape that appears to be primed for that sort of thing. However, the style of writing by defining words such as structural resentment, structural affection, structural incompatibility, etc. give an impression of a know it all, even though those are not necessarily the words she uses. I’m not sure what it was that annoyed me so much about this story, but perhaps it was the present tense and the author’s propensity to tell rather than show, particularly in situations that would benefit greatly from showing. While it’s unfair, I have to admit that at one point while reading the line, “In the ticking motor silence they can hear the lions breathe,” I wished that all of the characters would be eaten by lions and the story would end. Nevertheless, if Egan’s point of the story is that journeys are valuable regardless of whether they have a happy end then perhaps the story succeeds at what it’s trying to achieve.

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