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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush Paperback – September 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Travel Literature
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet; Reprint edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0864426046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0864426048
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For more than a decade following the end of World War II, Eric Newby toiled away in the British fashion industry, peddling some of the ugliest clothes on the planet. (Regarding one wafer-thin model in her runway best, he was reminded of "those flagpoles they put up in the Mall when the Queen comes home.") Fortunately, Newby reached the end his haute-couture tether in 1956. At that point, with the sort of sublime impulsiveness that's forbidden to fictional characters but endemic to real ones, he decided to visit a remote corner of Afghanistan, where no Englishman had planted his brogans for at least 50 years. What's more, he recorded his adventure in a classic narrative, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. The title, of course, is a fine example of Newby's habitual self-effacement, since his journey--which included a near-ascent of the 19,800-foot Mir Samir--was anything but short. And his book seems to furnish a missing link between the great Britannic wanderers of the Victorian era and such contemporary jungle nuts as Redmond O'Hanlon.

At times it also brings to mind Evelyn Waugh, who contributed the preface. Newby is a less acidulous writer, to be sure, and he has little interest in launching the sort of heat-seeking satiric missiles that were Waugh's specialty. Still, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is a hilarious read. The author excels at the dispiriting snapshot, capturing, say, the Afghan backwater of Fariman in two crisp sentences: "A whole gale of wind was blowing, tearing up the surface of the main street. Except for two policemen holding hands and a dog whose hind legs were paralysed it was deserted." His capsule history of Nuristan also gets in some sly digs at Britain's special relationship with the violence-prone Abdur Rahman:

Officially his subsidy had just been increased from 12,000 to 16,000 lakhs of rupees. To the British he had fully justified their selection of him as Amir of Afghanistan and, apart from the few foibles remarked by Lord Curzon, like flaying people alive who displeased him, blowing them from the mouths of cannon, or standing them up to the neck in pools of water on the summits of high mountains and letting them freeze solid, he had done nothing to which exception could be taken.
Newby also surpasses Waugh--and indeed, most other travel writers--in another important respect: he's miraculously free of solipsism. Even the keenest literary voyagers tend to be, in the purest sense of the term, self-centered. But A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush includes wonderfully oblique portraits of the author's travel companion, Hugh Carless, and his wife, Wanda (who plays a starring role in such subsequent chronicles as Slowly down the Ganges). There are also dozens of brilliant cameo parts, and an indelible record of a stunning landscape. The roof of the world is, in Newby's rendering, both an absolute heaven and a low-oxygen hell. Yet the author never pretends to pit himself against a malicious Nature--his mountains are, in Frost's memorable phrase, too lofty and original to rage. Which is yet another reason to call this little masterpiece a peak performance. --James Marcus

Review

a total success' -- New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

Newby writes in a dry and witty style which I found perfect.
Nicolas Dell'oso
Eric Newby's account of his trip to the Hindu Kush is a book both daunting and delightful.
W. Weinstein
This book also has one of the best last lines I've read in quite a while.
Glen Engel Cox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 66 people found the following review helpful By hugh riminton on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
They don't come sweeter than this. Facing middle age, Eric Newby abandons his chosen career as a fashion wholesaler to embark on a whimsical journey to remotest Afghanistan to attempt a mighty peak that has never been climbed. His companion, an old friend, knows as much about high-altitude (or ANY) climbing as he does: not a skerrick. They are almost parodies of a vanished England - absurdly brave, amateurish and uncomplaining; Newby's account of their scratchings up airy ice-walls will have the sweat springing from your palms. Along the way we get a rich insight into the rare mountain societies of one of the most mysterious nations on earth, but it is Newby's character itself that makes this book such a joy. Self-mocking, his courage entirely inferred, Newby's modesty holds until the final hilarious, appalling line. We may not want to go climbing with him, but we'd welcome his company on any journey. In fact, Newby's courage was always a key to his personality. His teenage years were spent as a high-rigging sailor on grain ships in the Southern Ocean. In World War Two he was a commando with the Special Boat Squadron. His capture, escape, and life on the run is memorably recounted in another of his classics "Love and War in the Appennines." But for me, "A Short Walk.." remains his most charming, exciting and extraordinary book.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Glen Engel Cox on September 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Quintessentially English bit of travel, with the ambitious idea of climbing Mir Samir in Afghanistan, but ostensibly to visit Nuristan next door. The English bit comes into play when you discover that Newby isn't a mountain climber, nor is his traveling friend. They "practice" for four days in Wales before embarking.
This is the type of travel literature I favor. A trip, yes, with its attendant hazards and foibles, but also a story about the travelers, why they travel and the people they meet. So far, I can sense a "difference" in travel writing, easily two categories now, but possibly many others. This book would join with Seth & O'Hanlon as a "Hardship Trip"--a journey filled in pain and danger. Salzman and Mayle are "Sedentary Travelers." They both got to the place, then stuck around and observed the things that happened around them. This book also has one of the best last lines I've read in quite a while. I can't quote it, because not only would it ruin the line for you in case you choose to read this book yourself, but also because it is necessary to sit through the 180 or so pages that go before to fully appreciate the irony of it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
In A Short Walk, Eric Newby and companions manage to do everything wrong in order to climb a remote mountain in the Hindu Kush, which happens to be located in Afghanistan. But that's only the best part. The trip starts with a climbing trip to Ben Nevis where the would be climbers are given a pamphlet on how to climb in ice and snow, which is their only introduction to high climbing. They drive a car from Britain to Afghanistan and manage to do everything wrong in a very earnest and english way. Their death defying attempt to climb the mountain has the best of intentions, the worst training and some rather dodgy gear. A brilliant travel story and a excellent guide on how not to climb mountains!!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By W. Weinstein on September 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Eric Newby's account of his trip to the Hindu Kush is a book both daunting and delightful. He makes light of the incompetence and ignorance of both himself and his companion in the realm of climbing and exploring. Yet what they achieve is nothing short of remarkable, given their level of ignorance. Perhaps a more experienced team would have sensibly given up in the face of hunger, illness and cold. Messrs. Newby and Carless soldier on and the account, understandably slightly incoherent, is both funny, self-deprecating and very, very readable. Their account of a chance meeting with the famous explorer Wilfred Thesiger is recounted, far less humorously, by the great man in one of his recent books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm sure that this book had a different impact upon me than on readers who picked it up before the attacks of September 11 and the ensuing war in Afghanistan. After having my head filled with heavily-slanted news profiles of places like Kabul and Jalalabad and the people of this part of central Asia, it was extremely refreshing to lose myself in Eric Newby's impressions of the land, the people and the history. Newby was not an expert or scholar - and this layman's perspective may be precisely why I found the book so interesting. Of course, I also agree with the previous reviewers who enjoyed the story of Newby and Carless' somewhat foolhardy travels. But I also recommend this book to anyone who wants to add to his or her understanding of this region.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Nicolas Dell'oso on December 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a great travel book through part of Afganistan in the mid-1950's. Newby writes in a dry and witty style which I found perfect. It's not condecending or superior or too trite or "cute". It's only about 260 pages and that's a pity as I would of loved it being twice as long. I first came across it as an unabridged recording on 8 cassettes - it was a magnificent reading of it and it become a favourite of mine from the first. If you find or buy the recording (I think only one recording of it was ever made) then get it as it's well worth the price - but you might have to try the UK edition of this web site for it. Please ignore the one poor review listed here - this is a wonderful book. It's the sort of book I would like to write myself!
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