A Short Walk : A Preposterous Adventure by Eric Newby ; Preface by Evelyn Waugh
New York : Doubleday & Co., 1959. Hardcover. 240 pages ; b/w photographs ; 22 cm. $4.50 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
. . . an object lesson for the young on how to enjoy themselves and give enjoyment to others; a throwback to a happier age."
The "happier age" wistfully referred to by Evelyn Waugh is only a dim memory in these hectic times of scientifically organized adventure. All but gone are the inspired eccentricity, the graceful, light-fingered incompetence, the insouciant, off-hand curiosity about faraway people and places that once made the Englishman the butt of jokes and the object of profound respect across the world.
Today almost every corner of the earth has been explored by expeditions as large as armies, and recorded in books as elaborate and ponderous as the equipment that made these glorious conquests possible. But this extraordinary adventure (which will undoubtedly be banned as heresy by every respectable explorer's club) is one last, gleeful, nose-thumbing cry of defiance, a long-needed affirmation that two Englishmen who combine the most blatant physical and mental unpreparedness with outrageous nerve can still wander into a savage wilderness and emerge alive.
A SHORT WALK tells what happened when Eric Newby and his friend Hugh Carless decided to abandon their sedentary jobs and investigate the Hindu Kush mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Four days' experience scrambling up some rocks in Wales, an inadequate and bewildering assortment of climbing equipment, a meager supply of canned food (Irish stew and strawberry jam), three surly Nuristani porters —and the two innocent explorers were ready to go. The seven-thousand-mile trek by jeep from Istanbul to Kabul had already left them in a weakened condition, but that was only the prelude to the appalling experiences which followed as they began their fumbling assault on the towering 20,000-foot Mir Samir and penetrated the wild and wondrous country of Nuristan.
In the fourteenth century, Tamerlane crossed this same Nuristan. Since then, give or take a few Germans and Russians, no one has been foolish enough to go there. No one, that is, until Messrs. Newby and Carless undertook their preposterous adventure. That they are alive at all is amazing enough. But thank goodness they are, and thank goodness Mr. Newby has given us this beautifully funny book.
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