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The Places In Between

A friend in a PRT in Iraq recommended Rory Stewart’s book on his time in Iraq,The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq . I haven’t had a chance to read that one yet, but I did read Stewart’s The Places In Between over our local holiday earlier this week.  The book is Stewart’s journal of his walk across Afghanistan (from Herat to Kabul) in 2002.  It is incredible.  The closing line of the book’s preface is the best way for me to summarize his observances about the Afghans he met: “Villages combined medieval etiquette with new politcal ideologies.  In many houses the only piece of foreign technology was a Kalashnikov, and the only global brand was Islam.  All that had made Afghanistan seem backward, peripheral, and irrelevant now made it the center of the world’s attention.”

Stewart’s entries on each village are brief and the book is a fascinating read.  There is a large dog named Babur who plays a surprising role in the story.  There are former Taliban bullies and current Taliban bullies, warlords and nobodies.  Fascinating.

I read this right after Rashid’s Descent into Chaos to try to gain a different perspective on Afghanistan.  Check.  Highly recommended.


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