British journalist Elliot chronicles his love affair with Afghanistan in this evocative, albeit somewhat long-winded, narrative.
The author first visited Afghanistan briefly when he was 19 and the country was in the midst of its long war with the Soviet Union. Here he writes of his extended visit some ten years later, when the country was torn by civil war. When he arrived in Kabul, it was under daily rocket attack by the Taliban but had not yet fallen. Traveling within the city was fraught with danger; traveling outside it was arduous, hazardous, and in some instances impossible. On foot, on horseback, jammed into overloaded jeeps and dilapidated open trucks, Elliot ventures out to the north through high mountain passes, attempts a trip to the center of the country, partly by taxi and bus, and goes by airplane to Taliban-occupied Herat. As he travels, seeking out shrines and little-known historic sites, he muses at length about the country’s past and its customs. Everywhere he is treated with unfailing hospitality and courtesy by the Afghans, who guide him, shelter him, and feed him under the most difficult of conditions. The author’s impressive knowledge of Afghanistan’s history, his seemingly boundless affection for its people, his understanding and respect for their culture and religion, and his flair for the language make this more than a casual travelogue. It is a plaintive love song whose discordant notes are provided by daily encounters with violence, hardship, and poverty. Readers may well be put off by a certain smugness that marks Elliot’s accounts of his sometimes less than felicitous encounters with other Europeans or Americans, but there is no mistaking the genuineness of his admiration for Afghans and their country.
A vivid account of a journey through a distant, beautiful land.