Paul Theroux is a novelist and travel writer who divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii. Among his books are the novels The Mosquito Coast, Millroy the Magician, and My Secret History and the travel memoirs Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, and The Great Railway Bazaar. He has edited The Best American Travel Writing and in 2007 published three novellas collected as The Elephanta Suite.
Until I went to live in Africa, I had not known that most people in the world believe that they are the People, and their language is the Word, and strangers are not fully human—at least not human in the way the People are—nor is a stranger’s language anything but the gabbling of incoherent and inspissated felicities. In most languages, the name of a people means “the Original People,” or simply “the People.” “Inuit” means “the People,” and most Native American names of so-called tribes mean “the People:’ For example, the Ojibwe, or Chippewa, call themselves Anishinaabe, “the Original People,” and the Cherokee (the name is not theirs but a Creek word) call themselves Ani Yun Wiya, meaning “Real People,” and Hawaiians refer to themselves as Kanaka Maoli, “Original People.”