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The Places in Between [Kindle Edition]

Rory Stewart
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (271 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In January 2002 Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day he passed through mountains covered in nine feet of snow, hamlets burned and emptied by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers' floors, shared their meals, and listened to their stories of the recent and ancient past. Along the way Stewart met heroes and rogues, tribal elders and teenage soldiers, Taliban commanders and foreign-aid workers. He was also adopted by an unexpected companion-a retired fighting mastiff he named Babur in honor of Afghanistan's first Mughal emperor, in whose footsteps the pair was following.
Through these encounters-by turns touching, con-founding, surprising, and funny-Stewart makes tangible the forces of tradition, ideology, and allegiance that shape life in the map's countless places in between.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

We never really find out why Stewart decided to walk across Afghanistan only a few months after the Taliban were deposed, but what emerges from the last leg of his two-year journey across Asia is a lesson in good travel writing. By turns harrowing and meditative, Stewart's trek through Afghanistan in the footsteps of the 15th-century emperor Babur is edifying at every step, grounded by his knowledge of local history, politics and dialects. His prose is lean and unsentimental: whether pushing through chest-high snow in the mountains of Hazarajat or through villages still under de facto Taliban control, his descriptions offer a cool assessment of a landscape and a people eviscerated by war, forgotten by time and isolated by geography. The well-oiled apparatus of his writing mimics a dispassionate camera shutter in its precision. But if we are to accompany someone on such a highly personal quest, we want to know who that person is. Unfortunately, Stewart shares little emotional background; the writer's identity is discerned best by inference. Sometimes we get the sense he cares more for preserving history than for the people who live in it (and for whom historical knowledge would be luxury). But remembering Geraldo Rivera's gunslinging escapades, perhaps we could use less sap and more clarity about this troubled and fascinating country.(May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Stewart, a resident of Scotland, has written for the New York Times Magazine and the London Review of Books, and he is a former fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In January 2002, having just spent 16 months walking across Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, Stewart began a walk across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul. Although the Taliban had been ousted several weeks earlier, Stewart was launching a journey through a devastated, unsettled, and unsafe landscape. The recounting of that journey makes for an engrossing, surprising, and often deeply moving portrait of the land and the peoples who inhabit it. Stewart relates his encounters with ordinary villagers, security officials, students, displaced Taliban officials, foreign-aid workers, and rural strongmen, and his descriptions of the views and attitudes of those he lived with are presented in frank, unvarnished terms. Nation building in Afghanistan remains a work in progress, and this work should help those who wish to understand the complexities of that task. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1616 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
171 of 180 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Post 9-11 Travelogue Through Afghanistan June 10, 2006
Mr. Stewart has written an entertaining account of his walk across Afghanistan in 2002. The country was in shambles, the Taliban had just fallen and the Twin Towers had fallen a few months ago. As a nation, Afghanistan doesn't exist -- just a collection of warlords ruling their fiefdoms and encroaching each other's territories. So Mr. Stewart enters the county from Iran without a visa as if he was climbing Mount Everest -- because it was there.

The author is a superb storyteller and once the book has started, the reader will not be able to put it down. His writing style is conversational, as if he just arrived home and is telling you of his recent adventures. Why Harvest Books did not put this book out in hardback is beyond me. The reader should be aware that his next travel book "The Prince of the Marshes," will be out in August, 2006 where Mr. Stewart decided to move on to a less dangerous country than Afghanistan -- he went to Iraq.
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117 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understated Humor with Sadness at the Core June 25, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Writing with the understated humor in the best of Magnus Mills' novels (Restraint of Beasts, All Quiet on the Orient Express), Stewart accounts his long, arduous trek on foot through the brutal landscape of Afghanistan. Thought to be a spy, he is often accompanied by mysterious "guards" hired by the new government to supervise Stewart's meanderings. The conflict between Stewart and these guards provides much of the book's humor. But then about a third into the book, Stewart is offered a dog, a huge bear-like creature who is described as wise and weary. The dog, whom Stewart names "Babur," has been abused and neglected all his life and Stewart adopts him and determines to take Babur with him back to Scotland. For me, Stewart's tender relationship with the endearing dog Babur is the heart of the book. It will make you weep. This storyline alone makes the book worth reading. Of course, this book is much more than a man meets dog story. It is a firsthand account of the grotequeries that seethe within a country in a state of violent upheaval.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR JOURNEY MR STEWART November 25, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Someone in Kabul told me a crazy Scotsman walked from Herat to Kabul right after the fall of the Taliban"

Thanks for the book. For it was indeed a journey of great spirit and determination. Mr. Stewart was well prepared for this trip with vitamins and various medications he knew would be necessary to successfully complete this challenge; ibuprofen, antibiotics, just name it and he had it; sharing with the villagers he met on his way when they saw what he had and begged him.

Well written, well told. I was truly impressed with how hospitable the people of Afghanistan were; those whom he encountered and offered him rest and meals and at times water to wash with, at their various humble abodes where he was invited to stay for the night. Even through they understood little English, Mr. Stewart was able to communicate to them by speaking Persian. I love reading about anything in the Eastern and Asian side of the world, so I was with him all the way. I felt like I was alongside him as he climbed those steep slopes and when he walked on the flat valleys. I drank tea with Mr. Stewart from glass cups, ate stale bread with him and soup, and enjoyed the rest at the end of the day, sleeping on a carpet or just on the floor.

The attention given to him was enormous as he persevered onwards. My main concern was just before he got to Kabul when he had to travel through the deep powdery snow which was known to cause frostbite, making it necessary to amputate limbs for some in the past. I held my breath as he and his dog companion Babur made it out of the snow covered mountains, and alas into another bright day. God bless you Rory Stewart.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Walking across central Asia without ruminating at length about the political and military crossfire would seem like an odd diversionary tactic by a writer any less assured than Rory Stewart. However, the Scottish author manages to evoke a powerful sense of what Afghanistan was like during his arduous, often moving trek through the wartorn country in 2002. Unlike Chris Ayres' humorous adventure of being embedded with the troops in Iraq in his blistering account, "War Reporting for Cowards", the then-29-year old Stewart is more straightforward with a true adventurer's spirit and an anthropologist's eye, as he set out on his own with his wooden staff through the central mountain range to Kabul. His immersion into the country was obviously aided incalculably by his fluency in Dari, which is the Afghan dialect of Persian, and his in-depth knowledge of the cultural custom and history of the country.

There is not a whit of romanticism in the author's vision, as he shares his experiences with people who have been grouped categorically by the news media with the hard-line Taliban. The most impressive aspect of the book is his ability to provide unique, almost idiosyncratic personalities to everyone he meets from the warlord Ismail Khan to his three Afghan traveling partners to a gregarious village headman to a war-beaten dog who becomes Stewart's constant companion. He names him Babur after the 16th-century Muslim emperor who traveled across Afghanistan to found the Mughal dynasty of India. Carrying the emperor's autobiography, the author draws compelling parallels with his own experiences and describes the Afghan people with becalming respect and admiration even if the ongoing threat of violence has hardened some of their sensibilities.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A peek into the Real Afghanistan
I really loved this book. It stuck with me long after I read it, standing out from the many books I have read about the Middle East. It is unique, inspiring, and moving. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lulu hicks
1.0 out of 5 stars waste of time
I was very disappointed in this book. A relatively stupid or just naïve person chooses to make a trek in a very dangerous area and has to give us so many repetitive details about... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read. Couldn't put it down.
Published 1 month ago by Backpacker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great writing and having been in those areas, it's an amazing story.
Published 2 months ago by PB
2.0 out of 5 stars he out his life in real danger by being stupid. Perhaps the Islamic...
While I found some of the things he came upon interesting, I found most of the book to be disjointed. What some people may consider bravery, I consider arrogance. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Provides great insight into a land and a culture unknown to most...
An enjoyable read that provides some cultural clarity and instills some much needed human optimism - however fragile - into the problems of Afghanistan. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Limey Smokejumper
5.0 out of 5 stars and drama into a wonderful flowing tale
Rory Stewart can weave history, politics, psychology, humor, and drama into a wonderful flowing tale.
Published 3 months ago by Brian Wickstrom
3.0 out of 5 stars impressive journey but difficult to appreciate details
The author's courage and commitment to walking across Afghanistan are amazing. For a reader not well versed in Afghan geography, culture and history, it can be an arduous read.
Published 4 months ago by VT Scooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Stewart's books and have enjoyed them and found them very informative
I have read several of Mr.Stewart's books and have enjoyed them and found them very informative. This book should be read by any and all who deployed, will be deployed and/or who... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Elisabeth G. McDonnell
4.0 out of 5 stars A voiceless Islam
Amazing survival story and insight into a primitive fierce peoples beliefs and life.which is very hard to have empathy for. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Fiona Thyssen
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More About the Author

Rory Stewart has written for the New York Times Magazine, Granta, and the London Review of Books, and is the author of The Places in Between. A former fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the British government for services in Iraq. He lives in Scotland.


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