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Eric Newby


Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Eric Newby (1919-2006) was a writer and traveller. After a distinguished war career, for which he was awarded the Military Cross, he worked for a number of years as a fashion buyer for a London store, but didn't care for the life. Then a diplomat friend, Hugh Carless, asked him to join him in a two-man expedition to climb Mir Samir, a 20,000 ft (6100 m) peak in the Nuristan mountains of Afghanistan. Newby accepted at once.

The book is written extremely entertainingly, in the style of the amateur Englishman abroad: understated and gently comic. Neither Eric nor Hugh had any previous mountaineering experience; their preparation took the form of a short crash course in Wales which gave them the rudiments but no more. In spite of their lack of experience they did manage almost to reach the summit, but had to turn back owing to lack of time when there were only ft left to climb.

After their attempt on the mountain the pair went on into Nuristan, following routes that had not been explored by Englishmen since the late nineteenth century. There were plenty of mishaps and narrow shaves along the way—at one point Eric fell over a cliff and would have gone down into the river 60 ft below, had he not landed unhurt on a ledge only 10 ft below the path. In spite of the light-hearted tone in which Newby recounts their adventures, the journey was evidently often dangerous and nearly always uncomfortable, and it represented a considerable achievement. The Nuristanis emerge as extraordinary people, alarmingly unpredictable but undoubtedly fascinating. Much has happened in Afghanistan since then, of course, and it will be a long time before Westerners can make any further explorations in that region.

13 September 2010

%T A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
%A Eric Newby
%I Penguin books
%C London
%D 1958, 1968
%P 248pp
%K travel
%O preface by Evelyn Waugh
%O illustrated with the author's photographs

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