TO THE FRONTIER by Geoffrey Moorhouse


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To the North-West Frontier, that is, and the Hindu Kush--or, from Karachi to Gilgit: a leisurely but spirited trek through Pakistan on foot and by every other conceivable means of transport except the one Moorhouse wanted most--camel back. Nobody beats the British as travel writers, and Moorhouse (India Britannica, etc.) is near the top of this generation's class. He has, to begin with, the cheerful patience and wry wit needed to endure a two-hour bus ride to get out of the Karachi airport or a careening plunge across the vertiginous snowy-icy-muddy Lowari Pass in a Toyota. He has the relaxed charm and bonhomie needed to get along (in fractured Urdu and with dubious results) with non-English-speaking taxi drivers, with a cricket-crazy railroad superintendent in Baluchistan, with the fanatical founder of the Lahore Qur'an Academy (no public education for women, stone adulterers, etc.), with the Pathan Collector of Customs (top hark) in charge of the Khyber Pass (which Moorhouse, incredibly, wangled a permit to visit), etc. Though the book has no particular thematic unity, one recurrent issue is the brutality of the Zia regime, exemplified by the torture of a political dissident (Moorhouse smuggled out an affidavit detailing the atrocities). But what holds everything together is his style--the voice of an endlessly curious observer with a warm heart and keen senses: when the famous Zamzamah cannon was moved to the center of Lahore, ""the traffic saluted it perpetually with a cacophony of bleeps and tantivys and honks that would have sounded better from a squadron of bronchitic donkeys."" With a writer like Moorhouse roaming about Sibi, Quetta, Islamabad (""a joyless place""), or Peshawar, Paul Fussell will have to swallow his dictum that travel has died and only tourism remains. Colorful, sympathetic, engrossing.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart and Winston