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on 7 December 2001
I have read many travel books, some of them outstanding, but never one as complete as this. It is full of wonderful descriptions, acute observations and a mountain of unsuspected information. In the last few weeks, I have heard many ignorant and prejudiced views about Afghanistan and Afghans, very often purporting to be journalism. Once you've read this book you would have to disagree.
As one of the worlds great crossroad nations, prestigeous civilisations have crossed Afghanistan throughout its history and left their imprint on the its peoples. I for one would love to go there and meet these fascinating people and visit the living cities and villages, and the archaelogical sites which remain from its complex past.
Jason Elliot is a marvellous wordsmith and teller of stories.
This is a book to revel in.
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on 9 July 2001
Jason Elliot does well in conveying his perceptions, thoughts, feelings and experiences in the book. Admitadley i don't read travel books, this one i read for personal reasons. It really had me captivated, being of ethnic afghan origin myself (but brought up in the west) Elliot does well to understand and articulate the prevelant cultures existing. Whilst a westerner himself illustrating these well.

There were no signs of arrogance or preconceptions from him, he wrote what he saw. A few minor criticisms would be that he didn't understand the term "Ahlul-Kitaab" (people of the book) in islaam, he says they are non-disbelievers, infact, they are a different group of disbelivers.

Also, i thought his focus on Tajik (ethnic eastern persians), Uzbek and other minority cultures, whilst i felt neglecting the other Afghans (Pushtuns) and their history. since they along with the Tajik are the main eastern iranians of the ex-satrapy.

He also had some resentment to the Taliban, and i thought to the Pashtuns, since he stayed away from the deep south and East, but 4/5 years after the book has been published they have done well to restore peace and stability (and control) in the region (which Elliot himself admits he could not foresee).

Excellent insight into a country which is tired from interference that always resists.
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on 3 October 2001
With an easy grasp of the history which so cloaks this strange land, the author weaves a rich strand of story telling between his adventurous encounters with the locals over a decade of modern visits to Afghanistan and the events of the more distant past...I had been given new insights into this long suffering people who have been wrenched back into the international spotlight of media attention. The book permits a better understanding of the range of experiences that foreign invasion followed by civil war have brought Afghanis in the last 20 years, while setting this in the context of many centuries of foreign interventions.
The book is full of entrancing descriptions of people and places which paint a glowing picture of this mountainous country which cast such a spell over the author that he had to return to it again and again. A wry aspect of the book is the way that the author occasionally passes comment upon his youthful recklessness and naivity from a more mature standpoint.
The book in my view rates comparison with the best travel writing by its judicious mix of adventure, history and cultural insight.
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on 15 March 2015
Well, not surprisingly, there is not a lot of books to pick from on this country. I should have taken more note that Mirrors of the Unseen, was a similar set of ramblings. As another reviewer has observed this gentleman spends too much time on the finer details of history and religious matters rather than the people and places extant. Knocking on the doors of NGO's is not my idea of getting to know a country. Clearly a knowledgeable observation but frankly rather boring.
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on 1 November 2001
This is probably the best travel book I have EVER read.Jason Elliott writes in a hauntingly simple yet beautiful manner. His observations are insightful and often disturbing. You are left with an understanding of a nation in torment that is holding on by the skin of its teeth to a glorious and savage past.
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on 15 November 1999
An extraordinary book that transcends the bounds of travelogue and gives us deep and personal insight into one of the most the world's most inaccessible regions. Elliot's Afghan friends and travel companions convey, in the midst of the grief and difficulty of war, an enviable warmth and humour that has made the country a favourite of travellers for decades before the Soviet invasion. There are many hair raising trips in overloaded trucks over vertiginous mountain passes, lavish descriptions of ruins seldom seen by westerners, and intriguing historical facts from this crossroads of peoples for the traveller, adventurer and historian. Elliot writes from the heart and out of love for the Afghan people and land and this shines through on every page more than any such book I've read since Thesiger's Arabian Sands (and upon inspection, even Thesiger's motives begin to seem cloudy compared with Elliots affection and respect for his subjects). You will put this book down with a profound respect for the Afghan people and immense desire to visit this land... I cannot recommend this book highly enough - if you read it you will soon find yourself searching through old travel guides and looking for a way to travel the roads of Afghanistan first hand.
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on 24 December 2012
A wonderful read that is interesting and informative. I regret that most of us know little about this country and we should because in our names we are waging a war there. Only by knowing more about the country and the people will we ever understand what it is all about. Beautifully written.
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on 17 March 2000
'An Unexpected Light' is thought-provoking, moving, shocking, sensitive, humorous and unflinchingly honest throughout. Jason Elliot writes passionately about the culture, history and present torment of the Afghan people. He risks his life every day (usually with admirable calm) in this beautiful but highly dangerous country, whether on unsurfaced mountain roads or on the streets of a mined city which is bombed daily. His love and respect for the humanity and spirit of the Afghan people blazes through every elegant, precise sentence. He is a keen observer; enjoy a wealth of wise travelling truths and unforgettable, often poignant anecdotes as he eases beneath the chaos of war and spends time with the people of Afghanistan, not to mention the encounters with Westerners living and working in a faraway, war-torn land. A wonderful book.
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on 19 December 2012
This was a most moving and heart rending journey into a country that has been raped and ravaged for too long by governments pursuing their own ends. All politicians should read books like this, written by travellers who go in peace and they should learn from history that a proud and independent nation will fight to protect what it holds most dear.
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on 3 December 2001
An excellent read that has now been opened again after recent events in New York. Gives a fascinating insight into the real people in Afghanistan their way of life and history. Loses pace towards the end of the book and gets bogged down in history a bit. All in all a worthy read for the majority of us from a "civilised" society.
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