Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Map

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p. x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xvi

This is a book about the West African country of Niger and a road known as Route nationale 1—or just Route 1—that crosses Niger’s southern tier along the border with Nigeria. The French cut the path in 1899 in a scorched earth military campaign to ward off British...

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Preface to the 1999 Edition

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pp. xvii-xx

This is a personal story about road culture, not a work of anthropology. Although I have tried to be fair and accurate on anthropological and historical matters, I may have made generalizations offensive to scholars.
In September 1992 I went to West Africa to gather material for a...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxi-xxiv

Many people, for all kinds of reasons, own pieces of this book and took risks to help me write it. Riding the Demon would not have happened without the guidance and friendship of Issoufou Garba, who always stayed cool, and the help of the late Abdoulaye Mamani...

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The Fickle God

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pp. 1-20

In northern Nigeria, I saw a Peugeot station wagon and a petrol tanker immersed in fire and smoke. The tanker lay on its side, hidden behind gushing clouds of bright orange and black—a gasoline fire. Clouds as big as Volkswagens shot up in dense stacks while the...

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The Dogs of the Road

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pp. 21-38

Niger, by the end of 1992, was a country eager to shed seventeen years of army rule. After a brain tumor felled the dictator. After the army shot and killed nine students in the streets of the capital. After a captain admitted ordering the murder of one hundred Tuareg...

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A Driver, a Checkpoint, an African Road

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pp. 39-59

Issoufou Garba was negotiating with a man who had him pinned back against the driver’s door of his car. Issoufou said, “Hassan, are you going to kiss me?” He added: “I paid you.” Issoufou began to laugh, his shoulders in the grasp of a man who had just withdrawn his hands...

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Waiting for the Marabout

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pp. 60-78

Issoufou Garba and I talked in his home while the wind blew hard, cooling the air and blurring it with dust that hung gently in the room. The temperature was around sixty degrees, normal for December in Niger. Issoufou wore a turtleneck shirt beneath his regular dark...

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Zinder Notes

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pp. 79-98

I needed, after a few weeks sharing a car with Issoufou Garba, to drink in order to sleep. Evenings, wherever we ended up, I downed three 1.5-liter bottles of Biére Niger, a product of the national brewery. I drank mostly in village bars, where they cooled the beer in a...

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Driving to Madness

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pp. 99-119

There he is,” Issoufou Garba said, gazing out the car windshield into gritty haze. “There ’s my little imbecile. Do you see him?”
Non,” I said. I didn’t see him, the man Issoufou called “mon petit imbécile.” For some reason the words seem clearer now in the original...

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Listening to Mariko

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pp. 120-139

Lieutenant Colonel Jean François Klobb’s last journal entries betray exhaustion and disgust, as if he could not come to terms with what he was seeing. He had been pushing fifty men east across the West African Sahel for six weeks, day and night. On July 11, 1899...

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A Woman at the Wheel

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pp. 140-160

I should have been talking with Hajia Mariatou Moustapha. We had an appointment. Instead, I was watching her shoulder through a throng of angry men standing around a body on the ground outside the central market in Niamey. She was shouting, “Laissez lui, laissez...

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An Ugly American

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pp. 161-180

The first gri-gri disappeared in May, before my brief last visit to Zinder. It fell through a hole in a side pocket of my shoulder bag. Soon afterward, I lost the second one off a cord around my neck. I am not sure how or where or when. Muggers took my third and...

Notes

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pp. 181-186

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Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 187-192

This book is the product of years of intensive road time, but it also reflects a great deal of reading and months spent in libraries and bookstores in Africa; Paris; Washington, D.C.; and at Pennsylvania State University’s Pattee Library. I read hundreds of books and documents and have tried to...

Index

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pp. 193-195