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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (original 1958; edition 2010)

by Eric Newby

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886209,990 (3.85)47
Member:AlisonSakai
Title:A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
Authors:Eric Newby
Info:
Collections:Standard Paperback
Rating:***
Tags:Non Fiction, Autobiography, Travel Writing, British, Book Club, Britain, London, Afghanistan, Nuristan, Hindu Kush, 1950s, Adventure, Mountaineering, Walking

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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby (1958)

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» See also 47 mentions

English (18)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
A surprisingly hilarious tale of two spectacularly unprepared Englishmen hiking into the Hindu Kush region. All sorts of hijinks ensue, of course. ( )
  JBD1 | Feb 23, 2014 |
An entertaining description of two amateur climber's attempts to climb Mir Samir in modern-day Afghanistan. Newby downplays any prior climbing experience of himself and his friend, Hugh Carless, and the book depicts them very much as a pair of hapless Brits with the mad idea of climbing a mountain.

Mostly, I found this book very enjoyable, but it did peter out and lose focus after the summit attempt. ( )
  cazfrancis | Aug 17, 2013 |
They just don't make 'em like Eric Newby any more. Possibly the funniest travel book ever. ( )
  AnnB2013 | Mar 14, 2013 |
Thoroughly enjoyable book about a poorly prepared amateur mission to do some climbing in Afghanistan. The author and a friend set off with only a couple of days climbing practice in Wales, a can-do attitude and a sense of humour. You can't help but think they are a bit mad. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jan 22, 2013 |
In 1957 Eric Newby and Hugh Carless arrange to go on an expedition to Nuristan, one of the remote areas of Afghanistan little visited by Europeans. Hugh is a young man in the British diplomatic service and Eric is a salesman in the family fashion business.

The focus of the expedition becomes an attempt to climb to the summit of Mir Samir, a previously unclimbed peak 19,880 feet tall. Hugh had made a previous attempt in 1952, but had to return 3000 feet below the peak. Prior to the journey neither Newby or Carless had much mountainering experience, but did a few days instruction in the Welsh mountains before departure.

The next part of the book chronicles the expedition, driving from Instanbul through Persia to Afghanistan, and then recruiting some locals for the trip to the Hindu Kush.

The bulk of the book follows, which is an account of the journey towards Mir Samir, the failed attempt to reach the summit, and the chance encounter the two have with Thesiger, a legendary explorer. The book concludes with Thesiger's words as he sees Hugh and Eric blowing up a couple of airbeds "God, you must be a couple of pansies"

This is a most engaging book. Like so many great books, both fictional and nonfictional, it's about the journey and not the destination.

During the journey in the Hindu Kush Hugh and Eric had three main local companions, Abdul Ghiyas, Shir Muhammad and Badar Khan. At times the relationships were fraught but without these intermediaries the two Englishmen would have had an impossible trip. Travelling to Nuristan meant negotiating with ethnic groups of different backgrounds and customs.

As the journey progresses there are wonderful descriptions of the country, the inhabitants, the weather, and the barriers (physical and psychological) to the goal. Some historical background is interwoven throughout. No doubt some of the descriptions of the inhabitants would be regarded as inappropriate these days, but they do anchor this book in a certain cultural context.

Throughout the book Newby portrays himself as a somewhat effete amateur. There is humour aplenty, but its of the self depreciating wry school. There is the notion of "innocents abroad" right throughout the book
  SimB | Sep 21, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This classic trek from 1958 sees him blunder through the Near East and into Afghanisatn, through a rugged land of dangers and marvels where "we shoot people without permission" (plus ça change). In a gloriously improbable finale, he runs into Wilfred Thesiger himself. The epic voyager meets his lighter-hearted heir – but Newby, for all comic gift, never loses for one dusty mountain mile his own"capacity for wonderment"
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eric Newbyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waugh, EvelynPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'Il faudrait une expedition bien organisee et pourvue de moyens materiels puissants pour tenter l'etude de cette region de haute montagne dont les rares cols sont a plus de 5000 metres d'altitude.'
L'Hindou Kouch et le Kaboulistan.

Raymond Furon
Dedication
This book is dedicated to Hugh Carless of Her Majesty's Foreign Service, without whose determination, it must be obvious to anyone who reads it, this journey could never have been made.
First words
With all the lights on and the door shut to protect us from the hellish draught that blew up the backstairs, the fitting-room was like an oven with mirrors.
Quotations
CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0864426046, Paperback)

For more than a decade following the end of World War II, Eric Newby toiled away in the British fashion industry, peddling some of the ugliest clothes on the planet. (Regarding one wafer-thin model in her runway best, he was reminded of "those flagpoles they put up in the Mall when the Queen comes home.") Fortunately, Newby reached the end his haute-couture tether in 1956. At that point, with the sort of sublime impulsiveness that's forbidden to fictional characters but endemic to real ones, he decided to visit a remote corner of Afghanistan, where no Englishman had planted his brogans for at least 50 years. What's more, he recorded his adventure in a classic narrative, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. The title, of course, is a fine example of Newby's habitual self-effacement, since his journey--which included a near-ascent of the 19,800-foot Mir Samir--was anything but short. And his book seems to furnish a missing link between the great Britannic wanderers of the Victorian era and such contemporary jungle nuts as Redmond O'Hanlon.

At times it also brings to mind Evelyn Waugh, who contributed the preface. Newby is a less acidulous writer, to be sure, and he has little interest in launching the sort of heat-seeking satiric missiles that were Waugh's specialty. Still, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is a hilarious read. The author excels at the dispiriting snapshot, capturing, say, the Afghan backwater of Fariman in two crisp sentences: "A whole gale of wind was blowing, tearing up the surface of the main street. Except for two policemen holding hands and a dog whose hind legs were paralysed it was deserted." His capsule history of Nuristan also gets in some sly digs at Britain's special relationship with the violence-prone Abdur Rahman:

Officially his subsidy had just been increased from 12,000 to 16,000 lakhs of rupees. To the British he had fully justified their selection of him as Amir of Afghanistan and, apart from the few foibles remarked by Lord Curzon, like flaying people alive who displeased him, blowing them from the mouths of cannon, or standing them up to the neck in pools of water on the summits of high mountains and letting them freeze solid, he had done nothing to which exception could be taken.
Newby also surpasses Waugh--and indeed, most other travel writers--in another important respect: he's miraculously free of solipsism. Even the keenest literary voyagers tend to be, in the purest sense of the term, self-centered. But A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush includes wonderfully oblique portraits of the author's travel companion, Hugh Carless, and his wife, Wanda (who plays a starring role in such subsequent chronicles as Slowly down the Ganges). There are also dozens of brilliant cameo parts, and an indelible record of a stunning landscape. The roof of the world is, in Newby's rendering, both an absolute heaven and a low-oxygen hell. Yet the author never pretends to pit himself against a malicious Nature--his mountains are, in Frost's memorable phrase, too lofty and original to rage. Which is yet another reason to call this little masterpiece a peak performance. --James Marcus

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A humorous overview of Eric Newby's travels from Mayfair to the mountains of the Hindu Kush, north-east of Kabul, offering insight into the numerous eccentric characters and adventures he met along the way, and descriptions of the spectacular wilderness of Afghanistan. Last published in 1981.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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