Places in Between Paperback – Aug 29 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
We never really find out why Stewart decided to walk across Afghanistan only a few months after the Taliban were deposed, but what emerges from the last leg of his two-year journey across Asia is a lesson in good travel writing. By turns harrowing and meditative, Stewart's trek through Afghanistan in the footsteps of the 15th-century emperor Babur is edifying at every step, grounded by his knowledge of local history, politics and dialects. His prose is lean and unsentimental: whether pushing through chest-high snow in the mountains of Hazarajat or through villages still under de facto Taliban control, his descriptions offer a cool assessment of a landscape and a people eviscerated by war, forgotten by time and isolated by geography. The well-oiled apparatus of his writing mimics a dispassionate camera shutter in its precision. But if we are to accompany someone on such a highly personal quest, we want to know who that person is. Unfortunately, Stewart shares little emotional background; the writer's identity is discerned best by inference. Sometimes we get the sense he cares more for preserving history than for the people who live in it (and for whom historical knowledge would be luxury). But remembering Geraldo Rivera's gunslinging escapades, perhaps we could use less sap and more clarity about this troubled and fascinating country.(May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Stewart, a resident of Scotland, has written for the New York Times Magazine and the London Review of Books, and he is a former fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In January 2002, having just spent 16 months walking across Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, Stewart began a walk across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul. Although the Taliban had been ousted several weeks earlier, Stewart was launching a journey through a devastated, unsettled, and unsafe landscape. The recounting of that journey makes for an engrossing, surprising, and often deeply moving portrait of the land and the peoples who inhabit it. Stewart relates his encounters with ordinary villagers, security officials, students, displaced Taliban officials, foreign-aid workers, and rural strongmen, and his descriptions of the views and attitudes of those he lived with are presented in frank, unvarnished terms. Nation building in Afghanistan remains a work in progress, and this work should help those who wish to understand the complexities of that task. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I do not think Rory Stewart's book is a masterpiece but it certainly is a very good story. Stewart is a brilliant young writer who by the age of thirty had already been deputy governor of a province in Iraq for the Foreign Office, a fellow at Harvard, a summer tutor to Princes William and Harry, and served as an officer in the British Infantry. He speaks several languages.
One day he decided to walk across Iran, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, a 6000 mile journey. When he reached the Afghan border he was unable to continue because of the Taliban occupation, so he leap frogged and continued his walk in India. After the American invasion and fall of the Taliban, he went back to Herat to finish the middle part of his walk, hence the title of the book.
Stewart decides to follow the same journey of the first Moghal emperor, Babur and he visits many of the same places. He has a keen interest in Afghan history and we sense his enthusiasm as searches for the Turquoise Mountain. Early on his journey, he is given a dog, a huge mastiff he names Babur, after the emperor and for most of his trek, Babur will be his only companion. It is winter, it is cold, people are not friendly, he is sick most of the time, and he must rely completely on the generosity of poor villagers for shelter and food. One wonders why he is doing this.Read more ›
This book is pretty standard travel fare. Stewart tells his story, without too much in the way of commentary, politics or history. He does tell us a little about the Emperor Barbur who made the same trip, also in winter, about 500 years earlier. And, of course, it is impossible not to get a bit of an anthropology lesson on such a trip, but Stewart does not preach or put his views up front. Rather, he tells story of his interesting walk -- the places he sees and the people he meets -- in plain language. Overall, it is a good read.
Thanks for the book. For it was indeed a journey of great spirit and determination. Mr. Stewart was well prepared for this trip with vitamins and various medications he knew would be necessary to successfully complete this challenge; ibuprofen, antibiotics, just name it and he had it; sharing with the villagers he met on his way when they saw what he had and begged him.
Well written, well told. I was truly impressed with how hospitable the people of Afghanistan were; those whom he encountered and offered him rest and meals and at times water to wash with, at their various humble abodes where he was invited to stay for the night. Even through they understood little English, Mr. Stewart was able to communicate to them by speaking Persian. I love reading about anything in the Eastern and Asian side of the world, so I was with him all the way. I felt like I was alongside him as he climbed those steep slopes and when he walked on the flat valleys. I drank tea with Mr. Stewart from glass cups, ate stale bread with him and soup, and enjoyed the rest at the end of the day, sleeping on a carpet or just on the floor.
The attention given to him was enormous as he persevered onwards. My main concern was just before he got to Kabul when he had to travel through the deep powdery snow which was known to cause frostbite, making it necessary to amputate limbs for some in the past. I held my breath as he and his dog companion Babur made it out of the snow covered mountains, and alas into another bright day. God bless you Rory Stewart. I will soon be starting Prince of the Marshes, which sounds like another winner; but to those of you out there looking for a Christmas gift or other, buy The Places In Between first, for you won't be disappointed. An excellent gift, especially for travellers!!!
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar September 23rd 2011
Most recent customer reviews
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