Jungle Lovers

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Jungle Lovers
First US edition
Author Paul Theroux
Cover artist Push Pin Studios[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Houghton Mifflin (US)
The Bodley Head (UK)
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 307
ISBN 0-395-12107-8

Set in post-colonial Malawi, Jungle Lovers is the fifth novel by American author Paul Theroux, first published in June 1971 by Houghton Mifflin (US) and The Bodley Head (UK).[2] The author himself worked in Malawi from 1963 to 1965 with the Peace Corps[3] and the book itself was banned for many years in that country as revealed by Theroux in his book Dark Star Safari.[4]


In 1968 Theroux got a job teaching Jacobean literature at the University of Singapore. One of the conditions placed on him was that he neither write nor publish anything about Singapore while he was there. He complied and instead wrote about Malawi, albeit keeping his writing secret from his employers. He contracted dengue fever and only able to work in the evenings and at weekends it took him over two years to write. The author reflects on the novel in an introduction to a German edition of the novel (published by an insurance company for its employees) - the two main characters, an insurance salesman and a revolutionary being the two opposing sides of his own personality. He regarded his work as a teacher in the country being protection for his pupils and yet he was deported from the country in 1965 charged with 'covert revolutionary activities'. The novel has an underlying feeling of affection and skepticism he writes, 'a novel of futility and failed hopes'.[5]

Plot introduction[edit]

The story concerns Calvin Mullet from Hudson, Massachusetts- a recently divorced insurance salesman working in Malawi; and Marais, a white leader of a guerilla army intent on overthrowing the government of the country.

Calvin is based in a brothel in the capital Blantyre but makes frequent journeys to Lilongwe further north where he is captured by Marais (to whom he tries to sell a policy) and then released. Calvin is becoming disillusioned with his work and is secretly writing a book, The Uninsured as an outlet to his frustrations. In one of his trips he meets and falls in love with Mira a young native girl; he later returns to find her brother has been killed and she has been raped by Marais' rebels. He brings her back south and marries her..


  • The back cover of the 1982 Penguin edition quotes The Scotsman : 'Linguistic exuberance, imaginitive daring, a splendid ear for the rhythms of speech, a keen eye for human oddity'[6]
  • The Kirkus Reviews is also positive, praising the creation of Calvin Mullet and concluding with 'readers who will again find the exceptional in this disarmingly gifted writer;[7]
  • Mordecai Richler writing in the New York Times has a more mixed view: '"Jungle Lovers" is filled with incidental delights, some very funny set-pieces. It is also enriched by a clean, ironic prose style and a powerful narrative drive. The novel's architecture is undeniably intelligent, but, alas, the beams show through clearly, the author's hand ever-present. I couldn't believe in the metamorphosis of Mullet from clumsy Babbittry to a character whose perceptions about Africa, though they do his maker credit, rest uneasily on his fragile shoulders. Marais's undoing, I fear, also owes more to ideological geometry than to life. There is too much that is superimposed, too little that flows with inner life.'[8]


  1. ^ "Jungle Lovers par Theroux, Paul: Houghton Mifflin, Boston 9780395121078 hardcover - zenosbooks". Abebooks.fr. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  2. ^ "Jungle Lovers by Paul Theroux". Fantasticfiction.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  3. ^ "Paul Theroux". Peace Corps Wiki. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  4. ^ Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux, page 329, Penguin edition publ. 2002, ISBN 978-0-14-028111-8
  5. ^ Sunrise with Seamonsters by Paul Theroux publ. 1985 by Hamish Hamilton pages 328-330 & 364 ISBN 0-241-11543-4
  6. ^ 1982 penguin edition, ISBN 0-14-00-5496-0
  7. ^ "JUNGLE LOVERS by Paul Theroux | Kirkus Book Reviews". Kirkusreviews.com. 1971-05-20. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  8. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/06/18/specials/theroux-jungle.html

External links[edit]