Travel writing classics: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958) by Eric Newby
The original jacket featured a quote from none other than Evelyn Waugh calling Newby's book "Funny, exciting - an object lesson for the young on how to enjoy themselves and give enjoyment to others; a throw-back to a happier age." Who are we to argue with Mr Waugh?
There's something terribly English about the proceedings as Newby, with his friend Hugh Carless bumble their way across Nuristan Province and the Panjshir Valley - a care-free and chaotic tone captured perfectly in the self-deprecating title.
This was the book that confirmed Newby's place amongst the Pantheon of travel writers. As with all the best adventures (to read about perhaps rather than experience) this is a tale of youth, of ill-preparedness and various near and actual disasters, all exploited to wonderful comic effect by the author.
Has it aged well? Probably not entirely. But then A Short Walk... is very much a book - and adventure - of its time. It's as unlikely for a book like it to be written today as it would be for anyone to set off on a trip such as the one described with such naivety and haste. If it was a "throw-back" for Waugh, it remains a highly entertaining period piece today when read through the gauze of time rather than as a window into a forgotten past of derring-do and Boys' Own adventure - a story from the Golden Age of travel writing. Pick up a copy and marvel at the crazy, and it has to be said rather brave exploits of Newby and Carless through a land that struggles to fathom them just as much as they do it.