Eric Newby

Overall Rating: 5
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Author: Eric Newby
Title: A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush
Time: 1956
Destination: Afghanistan
Length: a few months
Type: mountaineering expedition

Looking for punchlines

The story: It is the year 1956, and EN is an Englishman in his 30s who works in the fashion business. One day, he decides that he’s had enough of it and sets his mind on a mountain climbing expedition to Afghanistan. His friend Hugh Carless, who speaks a bit of Persian, comes along. The problem: neither of them is a seasoned mountaineer. They decide to practice on a few boulders at home first, then they drive to Istanbul and down to Iran. Eventually they make it to Afghanistan, where they venture into relatively unknown territory in order to find the particular mountain that they originally set out to climb. They never make it to the top. But in the end, they run into exploration legend Wilfred Thesiger. Or so the story goes.

Eric Newby, travel writer of great fame

The resulting book is legendary. It’s almost as if you can’t talk about travel writing without mentioning EN. Much has been said about his “English humor” and his particular sense of understatement. And yes, he is a funny writer. Especially the parts about the fashion industry in the beginning were hilarious. But to me, the fun wore off after a while. Or rather, I got weary of it. It almost seemed as though EN was putting on some sort of an act after a while. Like someone who is just looking for punchlines.

At some point I thought neither EN nor Hugh Carless really cared about anything. And so neither did I. I got bored.

Who should read this?

I finished the book. I enjoyed some parts (most notably the beginning and the end), while others really bored me (many parts in between). Maybe it was because I had been expecting too much from this, there being so much hype around it. To me, it seemed like one of those books that you put down and think: what’s next?

Do I recommend reading this? Well, you should probably give this one a try if you are into Afghanistan. Or if you totally enjoy British humor. But then make sure that you have already finished reading Peter Fleming and Nigel Barley. Or Bill Bryson. I found their books to be more worthwhile than this one.

A 5/10.

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