Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Places in Between

I missed this when it was released several years ago, but a recent New Yorker profile of author Rory Stewart led me to seek out The Places In Between, and I'm glad a did.

The book is the story of Mr. Stewart's winter walk across Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban were evicted in 2002. Taking advantage of the Islamic cultural tradition of providing shelter and food to travelers, Rory, who speaks an Islamic dialect, tells the day by day story of the places he goes, the people he meets along his cross country, off the road walk.

What I found most chilling, and may change or harden your belief in what western military forces are doing in the country, is just how little the locals know of the world a few kilometers outside their villages. Beliefs that died in the west at the end of feudalism, are the norm in the mountainous villages and valleys he traveled.

The clear conclusion I drew was that Westerners will NEVER get their heads around rural Afghanistan. The illiteracy, the tribal animosities, the poverty begger modern western belief.

The story deserves your read. Orlando Bloom has signed on to play Rory in a film about his life.



Suburban Princess said...

That's what struck me when I was travelling through Morocco - in places where they dont have electricity and aren't slaves to the tv they know very little of what is going on in the rest of the world let alone have opinions or feelings on what the western world is up to.

My husband was a bit nervous tho when we were in Essaouira and he needed a beard trim and haircut...the barber was watching the news and Colin Powell was talking about something but the broadcast was in Arabic. With a straight razor whisking past his face my husband kept asking me how to say 'Im Canadian' in any language I could offer!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Thanks for the reminder - I read this profile as well and meant to pick up the book.

skorpeo said...

my father, when in vietnam in 1965-1966 as an advisor, was trying to convince a farmer that there were going to be elections and he could vote for his own ruler/president and he could have a say in his own government. a bystander explained to my father that farmers/rural folks don't give a hoot who runs the country. for thousands of years, these people have had their ruler picked for them. all they want or care about is their family, their farm, and their ox...not necessarily in that order.

while my idealistic side believes and supports what we're trying to accomplish in afghanistan, my practical side fears it is all in vain....

house things said...

I appreciate your book recommendations. Just finished Golden Boy by Martin Booth and Fools of Fortune by William Trevor. (I think the Trevor book is one you wrote about.)

Toad said...

Skorpeo, in a few short words you have summed up the book perfectly. The locals Mr. Stewart encountered were afraid to travel, and did only at great peril 5 km from their village. The greater world was irrelevant and unknown.

30 years of constant warfare dulls the senses.

RichSpen said...

His recent BBC television programs, two episodes, "The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia" were both interesting and thought provoking.