Saturday, January 20, 2007

Book Review- "The Places in Between"

Americans know nothing whatsoever about how people live in far off countries such as Afghanistan. This ignorance leads the governments of Western nations to do many foolish things in a vain attempt to assist the less advantaged peoples of these third-world nations.

This is one of the many impressions to be gained by readers of Rory Stewart's book, "The Places in Between." Stewart walked across Afghanistan in 2002, from Herat to Kabul, employing his rudimentary knowledge of the lanquages of the people, plus quickly assimilated details of local customs. He maintained a quick wit, in lieu of any weapon besides a walking staff. Otherwise he undoubtedly would not have survived the trip.

His trip took about a month to complete, and included confrontations with packs of dogs, snow storms, rock-throwing kids, rifle toting militiamen, and many other adventures. It will become quite evident to the American reader that although Stewart engineered the distance successfuly, that the reader likely would not have.

Stewart is a brilliant writer. His detail of the people, mostly men, and the customs of the people he encounters, is spellbinding. Through his writings one comes away with an understanding of just how very different are the peoples of Afghanistan from us. At the same time, he is careful to detail the ways in which modern society has impacted the way of life of the people of the various tribes he came across.

This book was included by the New York Times on its list of best books for 2006. After reading it, I concur with the opinion of the experts.

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