Gripping account of a courageous journey, observed with a scholar’s eye and a humanitarian’s heart.



Just after the fall of the Taliban, a doughty Scot walks across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul, observing, studying, starving, freezing, encountering poverty, cruelty, ignorance, generosity, warmth and terror.

Published in the U.K. in 2004, this remarkable text paves the way for Stewart’s account of his subsequent adventures in Iraq, The Prince of the Marshes, to be released in the U.S. in August. His stroll through Afghanistan was part of an extensive peregrination across Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal, and the author confesses that he can’t really explain why he did it. Instead, he records in plain prose a frightening journey across a land only the naïve could call a nation. Stewart passed from the control of one “big man” to another, plagued by dysentery and always in danger from the elements. But the locals’ repeated warnings to not travel alone had less to do with the weather than with the whims of the Afghans he was likely to meet, armed and governed by only the most primitive moral codes. In various harrowing moments, Stewart was roughed up by young warriors, had to listen while armed men discussed raping young women (or one another) and kept walking while fully expecting a bullet in the back. His keen sense of when to persist and when to yield enabled him to survive. Stewart generally found shelter and simple food along his tortuous route, though often only with much complication. (It helped that he spoke several Persian dialects and was familiar with the region’s history, mythology and religious customs.) He saw unspeakable poverty and encountered deep ignorance of the outside world. Along the way, a huge, nearly feral earless dog joined him after being tormented in its village. Their eventual parting is only one heartbreaking moment in a narrative of painful poignancy.

Gripping account of a courageous journey, observed with a scholar’s eye and a humanitarian’s heart.

Pub Date: May 8, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-603156-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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