Bibliophile reviews A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (travel) by Eric Newby

Year published: 1958
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Afghanistan, 1950's

In 1956 Newby and his friend Hugh Carless embarked on a quest to climb Mir Samir, a mountain in Nuristan, a remote area of Afghanistan. Considering that neither had any real mountain-climbing experience and they were badly under-equipped and not in very good physical shape, it is amazing how few accidents they had and that they managed to climb almost within sight of the top of the mountain, after which they travelled even further into Nuristan, apparently in order to become the first white men to visit the place.

Review: Eric Newby was a humourist in the best English tradition, a master of funny understatement and irony. This, while not his only travelogue, is the one he will be remembered for. It pops up on many lists of the world's best travelogues, and for good reason, and it seems destined to become a classic of the genre. It is well written, funny and interesting, and describes one of those marvellously pointless journeys that can only be justified by repeating a quote attributed to Sir Edmund Hilary on being asked why he wanted to climb mount Everest: "Because it's there". In this case, it was a mountain that, to anyone's knowledge, had never been climbed before, didn't seem too difficult for amateurs, and furthermore, was situated an area mostly unexplored by Europeans. This was enough for Mr.Carless, who then managed to lure his friend into coming along with him, for which we can thank him because the offshot was this book.

Rating: A funny and interesting account of a journey that today would be nearly impossible because of the political situation in the country. 4+ stars.


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