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Crossing the Sands

By Ariane Audouin-Debreuil
Translated by Ingrid MacGill
The Sahara Desert Track to Timbuktu by CitroŽn Half Track

ISBN-13 : 978-1-85443-222-3
Publication Date : January 2007
Page Size : 33Omm x 250mm 194 pages, case bound with dust jacket
Illustrations : 200 black and white period photographs, 20 colour images, 12 maps
Published by : Dalton Watson Fine Books
Price : USD65/GBP35

On December 17, 1922, Andrť CitroŽn sent an expedition of CitroŽn halftracks or autochenilles to follow the camel tracks across the Sahara desert from Algeria to Timbuktu on the banks of the River Niger. This was the first motorized crossing of the Sahara and took twenty one days. It permitted the establishment of a land connection between North Africa and the Sudan, at that time extremely isolated, and opened the way for the exploration of the heart of Africa. As well as the desire to write, Ariane Audouin Dubreuil also inherited her father's passion for travel. Her father was one of the pioneers of the exploration of the Sahara during those years. For the last fifteen years, she has given lectures on the three CitroŽn expeditions of her father, and has written two other books: La CroisiŤre jaune, about the expedition to Asia, which received the 2003 Grand Prix Jules Veme, and La CroisiŤre noire, on the expedition to Africa and Madagascar. She is also a psychologist and the Assistant Mayor of Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris.

An odd book, this.  Fully a third of it is devoted to the air exploration of the Sahara and has nothing to do with CitroŽns.  The rest of it is about the first crossing of the desert by CitroŽn Kegresse halftracks and is effectively a series of excerpts from diaries kept by the author’s father, Louis Audouin-Dubreuil.  However, I find myself wishing it were laid out like the diaries from which it is derived - it seems to me that it comprises a whole series of non sequiturs.
I find the translation 'odd' - it attempts to capture the early twentieth century whimsical and florid style of the author and ends up being almost a parody (I wish I could compare it with the original French) and I am annoyed by the over-liberal use of untranslated Berber and Tuareg words (albeit that there is a glossary at the back).
It also makes the assumption that the reader will be familiar with France's North African colonial history.
The book is absolutely gorgeous even if some of the period photos don't really warrant being enlarged.
This is the first of a series of three books covering the pioneering journeys undertaken by her father in the CitroŽn Kegresse “Autochenilles”.

© 2007 Julian Marsh/© 2007 CitroŽnŽt