Review: Stewart’s The Places in Between

The Places In Between
Rory Stewart

In theory, it is easy to hate an Eton educated upper class Scotsman who decides it’d be a lark to walk across Afghanistan six months after the fall of the Taliban. The idea reminds me of the stupidity and adventurism I encountered in my twenties with people going to the West Bank or Chiapas on a lark. People vacationing in other people’s misery so they can go home and brag about it is not really my cup of tea.*

But after reading Stewarts book, I have to say it is extremely good. We learn next to nothing about Stewart here outside of the details of daily walking. He is cold, he has dysentery, other than that, the focus is almost entirely on the people he meets, and I cannot think of a travel book that does a better job of honestly relating the lives of the people he meets.

Not every Afghan in this book is a noble tribesman; some are downright unkind to Stewart. Others are incredibly welcoming. Some are Taliban supporters; some are not. Some are drug dealers and some are subsistence farmers. I think the honestly in Stewart’s portrayal of the Afghans he meets is very respectful and his writing of this book is the best outcome of this kind of experience I can imagine.

*Which isn’t to say someone should never go experience another’s struggles. But if you’re going to do it, do it with humility and purpose, thanks.

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