- Fizzy Thoughts: One helluva long walk

One helluva long walk

Monday, August 06, 2007

I finally finished this one this morning. I had been working on it for a few weeks and was starting to doubt I would finish. Luckily, it picked up...

The Places In Between, by Rory Stewart

This is the same review I posted over at Readers Without Borders:

At one point in this book the author is talking to a member of the British Special Forces. The man tells him he is a “fucking nutter.” Coming from the Special Forces, that’s saying something. However, it’s a pretty accurate description of Rory Stewart and the story he tells. And Stewart is a very smart man, despite his dubious decision to walk across Afghanistan. Since I’m lazy, I’ll defer to Wikipedia:

"After a brief period as an officer in the British Infantry (the Black Watch) , Stewart joined the Foreign Office. He served in the British Embassy in Indonesia from 1997 to 1999, as the British Representative to Montenegro in the wake of the Kosovo campaign and as Coalition Deputy Governor of Maysan and Senior Advisor in Dhi Qar, two provinces in southern Iraq during 2003–2004. From 2004, he was a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University, USA. He has travelled extensively, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. From 2000-2002 he walked across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey of 6000 miles."

Oh, and he was born in 1973. You do the math.

The Places In Between chronicles Stewart’s walk from Herat to Kabul. The only reason I’m not writing a snarky review like I did for Bettina Selby’s Beyond Ararat is that Stewart obviously knows and respects the cultures and people of Afghanistan. He speaks the language (although not fluently) and he can talk his way out of some scary situations.

This is an interesting book due to his journey, but it’s not an easy read. Stewart is a little too fond of quoting passages from Babur’s diary (Babur being a Mughal ruler from the late 1400’s), and I had a hard time keeping all of the historical figures and modern feudal chieftains straight. The first 2/3 can be difficult at times, but the last 1/3 picked up, especially as he was travelling through areas where the Taliban still had support.

This is not my usual choice in books, but it makes a good companion to A Thousand Splendid Suns. It also provides a totally unique perspective on a troubled country. Rory Stewart knows his stuff and manages a respectful, fairly unbiased account of the people (well, the men anyway) of Afghanistan.

This final comment was not part of the original review, so don't read it if you don't want to know what happens at the end...but I can't not say anything
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I can't believe Babur the dog dies just before he's all set to board the plane for England and live out his doggie retirement in Scotland. Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggghhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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