Saturday, November 25, 2006

Book: Rory Stewart's The Places In Between

My latest read is Rory Stewart's "The Places In Between". This book chronicles the author's walk from Herat, Afghanistan to Kabul, Afghanistan in January 2002. The guy has to be a little crazy trying to walk across Afghanistan only a few months after the American invasion and crossing the mountain passes in the dead of winter. Mr. Stewart is following the travels of Emperor Babur who nearly died traveling the same route in 1507 AD. It takes the author 36 days to do the walk. He stops at villages along the way and depends on their Muslim hospitality for shelter and food. Along the way he picks up a war dog whom he names Babur.

The book is a travelogue, a genre that I really have never read before. For that reason, I have mixed feelings about the book. I kept waiting for the climax or the punchline and it never came. The journey was interesting enough and you learn a lot about Afghan history and Muslim customs but, except for the general concept of walking across Afghanistan during wartime in the wintertime, there really isn't anything compelling about his story. It becomes a little repetitive when, at every village he ends up in, he has to negotiate for shelter and food.

All this said, I would recommend the book if you are familiar with travelogue style of writing and are interested in Afghanistan. The most touching part, in my opinion, is the last two paragraphs of the book when we find out the fate of Babur the dog. I guess in the end I did connect somewhat with the author and his companion. I just wish it had been a little earlier in the journey.

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