63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Exceptional in a thousand ways,
This review is from: The Places in Between (Hardcover)
This is a very intelligent book - funny, moving and surprising -It is very understated so it takes time to realise how many different kinds of book it actually is. It is, for example:
An adventure story - describing the incredible dangers of walking across Afghanistan in a war at winter, finding lost cities and dodging Taliban with his companion and friend, Babur the dog.
Exploration: there is no record of any foreigner walking the length of Afghanistan since Babur in 1506 - and no-one before Stewart is known to have done it alone and unsupported.
Literature: his clean, uncluttered prose is moving and beautiful.
But also a work of scholarship: anyone who knows the interior of Afghanistan can confirm that Stewart's understanding of Afghan culture is exceptional - he speaks farsi and has really covered the ground. He is informed and careful and there are no cheap stereotypes. It is simultaneously:
anthropology (he stayed in over five hundred village houses on the walk),
archaeology (the finding of the lost city);
political science (his analysis as a diplomat of nation-building in Afghanistan)
and history (he follows and examines the diaries of the Emperor Babur and his solo crossing in winter calls into questions a number of historical assumptions about Afghanistan and its inaccessibility).
The Places in Between is a unique form of travel-writing: in which the journey, the prose, the erudition and the honesty of the writer are equally admirable. Buy it.