On the River of Gods

Through darkest Africa: A spectacular journey down river Niger

487 pages, hardcover
Droemer Verlag, Munich 2004

568 pages, paperback
National Geographic Editions, Munich 2005

German title:
Regenzauber. Auf dem Fluss der Götter
(not yet published in English language)

Rivers have always been Michael Oberts great passion. So when he was able to spend seven months travelling Africas third longest river, the Niger, it was a dream come true.

Obert’s adventure begins at the river’s source in the rainforest of Guinea—a place few European explorers have ventured to. Then on 2,600 miles through the Sahel and Southern Sahara, into the mouth of the Niger at the Bay of Benin.

On the River of Gods depicts the hot, dusty, vivid Africa you are not exposed to in glossy safari catalogues and travel agency advertisements. Obert guides you not only through the Africa of fishermen, traders and nomads, but also through the Africa of cruel human organ traffickers, river pirates, and marauding rebel militia. Obert is alone on his voyage, which is chronicled in this exciting and poetic book. On his adventures through Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, Obert gradually realizes that Africa can not be comprehended by using the knowledge of the West.

He encounters shamans and witch-hunters; river people initiate him into their beliefs, which are dominated by threatening sprits and powerful rain gods. A modern, engrossing, adventure-filled travel epic in which the excellent narrative skills of the author depict a strange and faraway world.

Press Commentary

“Whether you are talking about Chatwin, Theroux or Krakauer—Michael Obert has earned a place among the greatest names in his field with his new book. He is a gentle adventurer, a brave traveler, and most importantly, a skilled, passionate, and great storyteller. On the River of Gods is a great pleasure to read.”
(Frankfurter Rundschau)

“An exceptionally suspenseful and sensuous book. Obert’s narratives, like his entire adventure, are wildly insane!”
(Süddeutsche Zeitung)

“An author who creates a snap-shot, a scene, or an image in every situation he encounters on the road. It is a book that has a surprise to be discovered around every corner.”
(Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

“Because of the personal transformation that Michael Obert undergoes it is easy for the reader to understand why he looks to the African fetishes for protection in the ominous situations he is faced with. Obert’s question to himself ‘What drives me to this adventure?’ and his reflection on his childhood are so aptly woven into his story that the reader must never ask himself what is most important to the author—to describe this unfamiliar world and its people. In doing so the reader is able to delight in literary agility that ranks among the most ambitious in the tradition of travel narrative.”
(Die Zeit)

“Obert is not a heroic first-person narrator, but rather a curious individual who gently approaches the people he comes into contact with. The further the current takes him the  more he breaks away from his own world and lets himself be carried away by the rhythm of Africa. An remarkably thrilling book!”

“Obert’s experiences and depictions in On the River of Gods are often so adventurous, unfathomable, bizarre, and unexplainable that it reminds us of dreams that riddle us long after we have awoken.”
(Badische Zeitung)

“A book where powerful and poetic language immerses you in the magic of the Continent. On the River of Gods transforms the reader into the adventurer making his way down the immense black  river.”
(Deutsche Presseagentur)

“At every stage of his journey Michael Obert goes deeper into the psyche and spiritual world of the Niger people and manages to bring the reader with  him. The narrative of his adventures and encounters  is so intense that not only the heat and stench, but also the therapeutic breezes and the friendly smiles of the people are brought to life through his words.”
(natur & kosmos)

“The intoxicating story of a driven individual on his journey who lets himself drift into a strange world full of shamans and spirits, forest elephants and giant ants, disease and marauding youth gangs, pirates and rebels. A constant flow through a very real parallel world.”
(tip Berlin)

“Michael Obert’s book exerts an exceptionally genuine and vivid mood. It is extremely exciting to read, almost like a novel, and sometimes like a detective story. The way Obert unexpectedly displays his enduring patience and ability to distance himself from his western European roots is sometimes truly foreboding and frightful. His book is a 500-page kaleidoscope of depictions, encounters, stories, dangerous and beautiful experiences, moments of luck and moments of desperation. Michael Obert is a man that travels to transform himself. Thus his book is also a book about transformation.”
(Schweizer Radio DRS1, Siesta)

“A first-class piece of work! Thematically speaking exquisitely composed, stylistically speaking brilliantly formulated. Unlike anything of its kind,  this travelogue brings the spirits, gods, and people of Africa to life. An exquisite book definitely worth reading.”
(Deutscher Reiserat)

“Obert does not depict the Africa we are accustomed to reading about in countless other novels. He takes us with him. We are present as he becomes increasingly immersed in a world of spirits and ancestors. In this way doors are opened to a world that is normally closed off for us. A book for everyone that is searching for the true Africa and not the White Massai.”
(Burgdorfer Tagblatt)

“Just reading this book is a trip in and of itself—and not for the faint-of-heart.”