DANZINGER'S TRAVELS: Beyond Forbidden Frontiers Paperback – January 1, 1988
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Danziger's Travels is, no doubt, a fun read. Mr. Danziger does a fine job of relating what he sees in his long trip across Eurasia -- once he actually gets going. The hand-wringing, wingeing, and adolescent philosophizing that is given before the actual trip starts could be skipped (pp. 1-16 in the hardcover). At least he keeps it brief unlike T.E. Lawrence who carries on for 100 pages before landing in Jiddah (just start after he lands in Jiddah, an excellent book after that.) ( Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph )
Danziger writes an entertaining travelogue about an interesting time, particularly in central and east Asia (the Afghan resistance to the Soviets, the rebuilding of Tibet, the economic invasion of Sinkiang by the Han, the first cracks of daylight into China and Tibet since the 1950s, Khomieni's Iran in its early days.) He certainly had good timing. The book reads effortlessly and he is an excellent writer on what he sees and the people he meets. And I will grant this: He indugles in very little navel-gazing (after the first chapter) something which many current travel writers could learn from.
My problem with the book as a whole is that it just doesn't ring true. No one has this kind of luck, is this patient, had this kind of equanimity and equilibrium, while having the smarts of a local and the endurance of a Kenyan distance runner and the nerve of front line soldier. Just far too many perfect coincidences. (And he needn't have shared his sexual conquests with us: I guess he really was YOUNG wasn't he?)
This excerpt makes the point: "I wasn't prepared to have my movements hampered by artificially imposed barriers* and I wanted to break the myth that all foreigners were a breed apart." [*Such as the local laws!] My, he pontificates well for a man with the wisdom of age 25 or 26.
A fun read, if can take it with a grain of salt and keeping the thousand and one nights in mind. A peek at some interesting times in Asia. Certainly not a classic. The gushing reviews indicate to me less the quality of this book than the limited travel literature reading of the reviewer. I strongly recommend to you the following:
Jupiters Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph
One Man Caravan ("Incredible Journeys" Books)
News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir (Marlboro Travel)
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (Travel Literature)
Love & War in the Apennines (Travel Literature)
Seven Years in Tibet
Arabian Sands (Penguin Classics)
Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea
Two Years Before the Mast (Signet Classics)
Sailing Alone around the World, by Joshua Slocum
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy
No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, A Perilous Climb, by Felice Benuzzi
Nick Danziger tells a great tale, and the journey across Afghanistan, dodging Soviet patrols and Hinds is riveting.
To me this is a classic travel novel, and a great read. Read it for yourself and you won't be disappointed.