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An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 8. September 2000

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  • Taschenbuch: 496 Seiten
  • Verlag: MacMillan; Auflage: New ed. (8. September 2000)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0330371622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330371629
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 12,8 x 3,1 x 19,7 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 159.509 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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Ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978, this mysterious, romantic country has been shrouded in obscurity. As the Soviets forbade western reporters to enter the war zone and the Afghan fighters, the mujaheddin, found themselves inaccurately portrayed as savage, religious zealots, Afghanistan quietly slipped off the front page and into media obscurity. This veiled the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who lost their lives and the third of the population that fled into exile. However, in the schoolboy imagination of Jason Elliot back in the late 1970s, Afghanistan took a profound hold: "The Afghans seemed to belong to a different world, for which I was developing an inarticulate hunger; a people of prototypical human dignity, with Old Testament faces, who with guns almost as ancient as themselves were trying (and succeeding) to shoot down the latest in helicopter gunships". Still in his teens, Elliot set off for Kabul and the result, nearly 20 years later, is An Unexpected Light, the remarkable account of Elliot's travels in this extraordinary country, first in the midst of Soviet occupation and then in the face of the rise of the Taliban to power in the 1990s.

An Unexpected Light takes its title from Elliot's enduring wonder at his first encounter with Kabul, where "even as we stepped into its unaccustomed brightness that first morning, it seemed probable we had entered a world in some way enchanted, for which we lacked the proper measure". It is this inability to completely capture a country and a people with which Elliot falls in love that characterises this ambitious, sprawling book. Elliot's travels are truly extraordinary, from his teenage experiences with the mujaheddin in their campaigns against the Soviets to his truly hair-raising travels to the north of the country and often very funny evocation of the expatriate community of war-torn Kabul. However, in describing his travels Elliot also meditates among other things on the significance of travel, the tortured multicultural history of Afghanistan, "the results of successive clashings together of an impressive list of civilisations" and the worldly mysticism of Sufism. At times Elliot takes on too much, the prose becomes too lush and poetically congested and the book could have done with sharp editorial pruning, as it feels at least 50 pages too long at its close. Nevertheless, it is this diffuse nature that makes An Unexpected Light such a vivid and original piece of travel writing, based on a series of dramatic adventures. What emerges throughout is the remarkable generosity and placidity of a people who have been more accidentally enmeshed in violent conflict than congenitally predisposed towards embracing warfare.

Elliot recalls that prior to his first departure in the late 1970s, an amused Afghan diplomat suggested that "maybe one day you'll write a book about Afghanistan". In An Unexpected Light Afghanistan has finally received the loving, sympathetic and poetic book that it deserves. --Jerry Brotton


"The most sustained firsthand description of life in Afghanistan to be produced by a foreign observer in recent years . . . exciting."—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

"A work of substance and style, witty and moving by turns, never less than wholly passionate . . . What raises the book to the level of a classic is its intensely personal meditation on the magic of unplanned adventure, of the pain and pleasure of pushing into the unknown."—The Times (London)

"The surprise of the year: a lyrical, unrestrained and enthralling account of a journey into Afghanistan . . . I loved this book."—Daily Telegraph

"This extraordinary debut is an account of Elliot's two visits to Afghanistan. The first occurred when he joined the mujaheddin circa 1979 and was smuggled into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan; the second happened nearly ten years later, when he returned to the still war-torn land. The skirmishes that Elliot painstakingly describes here took place between the Taliban and the government of Gen. Ahmad Shah Massoud in Kabul. Today, the Taliban are in power, but Elliot's sympathies clearly lie with Massoud. Although he thought long and hard before abandoning his plan to travel to Hazara territory, where 'not a chicken could cross that pass without being fired on,' Elliot traveled widely in the hinterland, visiting Faizabad in the north and Herat in the west. The result is some of the finest travel writing in recent years. With its luminous descriptions of the people, the landscape (even when pockmarked by landmines), and Sufism, this book has all the hallmarks of a classic, and it puts Elliot in the same league as Robert Byron and Bruce Chatwin."—Library Journal

"An Unexpected Light is often unexpectedly funny and constantly perceptive, but it is also profound."—Jason Goodwin, The New York Times Book Review

"Elliot is an enthralling writer with a great gift for evoking places, people and atmosphere, from the pastoral calm of a fertile valley to the terrifying sights and sounds of war."—Merle Rubin, The Los Angeles Times

"Lyrical . . . alluring . . . a poignant remembrance, hued in the mixed reds of war and sunset, that comes close to a place that has already changed beyond imagination."—Paula Newberg, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"Humorous, honest and wry . . . [Elliot's] literary talents are exceptional. His sonorous prose moves forward with the purposeful grace of a river."—Publishers Weekly (starred)

"An Unexpected Light is an unexpected gift . . . Elliot's account is vivid and should broaden the reader's comprehension of an often misunderstood country."—Jonathan Shipley, Columbus Dispatch

"The author's impressive knowledge of Afghanistan's history, his seemingly boundless affection for its people, his understanding and respect for their culture and religion, and his flair for the language make this more than a casual travelogue. It is a plaintive love song whose discordant notes are provided by daily encounters with violence, hardship, and poverty."—Kirkus Reviews

"An Unexpected Light thoughtfully lays out new and overlooked information that policy-makers in the U.S. and the West as a whole need when trying to decide what may work."—Robert A. Lincoln, Richmond-Times Dispatch

"I am sure this book will soon be among the classics of travel."—Doris Lessing

"An astonishing debut: one of the most remarkable travel books this decade."—Willam Dalrymple
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .


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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I started reading this book because The Kite Runner got me interested in learning about the crazy-quilt of races, languages and cultures that make up Afghani-land. Elliot has written an unparalleled account of high adventure. This is not a travelogue, it's an account of his travels with Afghan warriors. And his description of them is very informative and sympathetic.
The book covers two periods, 1985 in the heat of the fight against the Russians, and 1995 as the Taleban are making their Puritanic onslaught. In the first visit, at age 19, he met a 21 year old Norwegian reserve officer, Pål Refsdal, who was also there to fight (Elliot found that he did not have the stomach for war was guided back to Peshawar over the Khyber Pass after 2 weeks). Refsdal went on to become Norway's most famous war reporter.
This is one of the finest travel books available, especially if you love wandering through the mountains and learning about isolated cultures, and even if you don't. As helpful background, Elliot gives us a very interesting short course in Afghan culture and mentality, along with explaining many Dari sentences.
There are two irritating things about the book. First, in spite of two maps inside the cover, I was continually running back and forth to a better map of Afghanistan (severe disagreement of various maps with each other is discussed in the book). Second, you have to figure out from the context what the dates are. I finally pinned them down as 1985 and 1995. So you have to do a little homework as you read.
I guess that Elliot was brought up on Kipling the way that Americans of an earlier generation were brought up on Hemingway.
I know the feeling of freedom from modern society via the backpack and the long mountain trail.
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1 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Ein Kunde am 20. November 2000
Format: Taschenbuch
I don't know what made me pick up this book. I've never been to Afghanistan and had no particular plan to read about it. Now I find my mind constantly returning to the book, to the images it leaves in the reader's mind and to the questions it poses. It is a book both about the nature of travel and about its declared subject. Elliot does not thrust his opnions on the reader, leaving you with plenty of room to discover your own thoughts and reactions to the events and encounters he describes.
An admirable book on a fascinating topic.
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56 von 58 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Afghanistan's Conscience in the West 2. Oktober 2000
Von Daniel J. Rose - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Of the currently posted reviews, it is interesting that they either rate this book at the top or at the bottom of the rating scale. This is a sign that the book elicits much more comment on the reviewer's state of mind than on the book itself. My review will be no different.
While I second those who extoll the book's poetry and its vivid portrayal of the Afghan land and culture, to me the real value of the book lies in its deepest appeal to the conscience (or lack of conscience) in the reader. Mr. Elliot's report is unique in that it covers two or three visits that he undertook that span the time during and after the Soviet war, just prior to Taleban occupation of Kabul and the roughly 90% of Afghanistan that it occupies today.
During this time, under extremely difficult circumstances, Mr. Elliot had access to people and places that would shortly be cut off and, in many cases, destroyed during the ensuing Taleban onslaught. The result, both of the circumstances and Mr. Elliot's reporting on them, is a tale filled with longing--a longing for some of what is, much of what was and has been lost, and what may never be recovered, an innocence and deeply human sympathy ravaged by the cynicism of the world.
Afghanistan was never an easy place to live, but it was long a place where humanity reigned supreme in the daily lives of common people. Some have called it the height of civilization, low-tech though it was. It had long been the seat of a kind of basic (and advanced) hospitality that has been all but lost, though much imitated, in much of the rest of the world. Elliot's deep love and intimate knowledge of these people and the remaining remnants of their culture informs every page of his vivid account.
In the end, he leaves those of us with the conscience to respond with a deep sense of loss, yet with a vivid picture of hope for the future of our common human destiny. Yes, he makes us want to visit what was once Afghanistan, the Land of the Free. But even more, he makes us accutely aware of the Jewel that has been lost and that we must all find again to restore the vital center of our own particular human culture where we happen to live, among the common people of our daily lives.
27 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Like Newby, Murphy, Asher, Thesiger? Then here's your man! 24. Juli 2000
Von Richard L. Wilson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
An extraordinary book that transcends the bounds of travelogue and gives us deep and personal insight into one of the most the world's most inaccessible regions. Elliot's Afghan friends and travel companions convey, in the midst of the grief and difficulty of war, an enviable warmth and humor that has made the country a favorite of travelers for decades before the Soviet invasion. There are many hair raising trips in overloaded trucks over vertiginous mountain passes, lavish descriptions of ruins seldom seen by westerners, and intriguing historical facts from this crossroads of peoples for the traveler, adventurer and historian. Elliot writes from the heart and out of love for the Afghan people and land and this shines through on every page more than any such book I've read since Thesiger's Arabian Sands (and upon inspection, even Thesiger's motives begin to seem cloudy compared with Elliott's affection and respect for his subjects). You will put this book down with a profound respect for the Afghan people and immense desire to visit this land... I cannot recommend this book highly enough - if you read it you will soon find yourself searching through old travel guides and looking for a way to travel the roads of Afghanistan first hand.
42 von 47 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Outstanding 25. Juli 2001
Von A. Ross - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Afghanistan's current inaccessibility to Westerners presents a paradox of sorts: on the one hand, travelogues have a long tradition of providing armchair portraits of countries and people not easy visited, and on the other hand, in extreme cases such as contemporary Afghanistan, the difficulties in moving into and around such a country make such travelogues all the rarer. We should be therefore be grateful for this book, in which Jason Elliot recounts his travels and impressions from a trip made in 1979 as a teenager, and a trip 20 years later when he had learned Persian. It's a very traditional and endearing piece of travel literature, full of evocative descriptions of the sights and sounds, and most importantly, the people. While the book has plenty of the other usual travelogue elements-detailed descriptions of perilous trips in overstuffed decrepit vehicles, beautiful descriptions of obscure but astonishing ancient ruins, digestible tidbits of history, and asides of longing for unattainable women-the book's greatest value comes from Elliot's sensitive treatment of the Afghans he meets and befriends. Far from being the religious totalitarianists commonly associated with the country, virtually everyone he meets-almost every one of whom is male-is unstintingly curious, tough, enduring, and most of all, warmly hospitable. When he does encounter the Taliban, he notes how other Afghans warily regard them as powerful outsiders, with no constituency save themselves. Indeed, Elliot, writing in 1999, seems to scoff at the notion of them ever controlling the entire country, as their brand of Islam is so at odds with the forms widely practiced in Afghanistan over history. Elliot spends a fair amount of time and effort in trying to get to various Sufi shrines, and he does a good job of trying to explain the mystical nature of Sufism.
The book does suffer a little bit from Elliot's going back and forth between his two visits, and occasionally one loses track as to which visit an anecdote dates from, but the perspective he gains from having traveled in the country twenty years apart more than makes up for it. Elliot vividly conveys the troubles the Soviet forces had in the war, as well as the classic guerilla tactics used by the Afghans. He takes great pains to point out that the Afghan resistance was not a religiously based one, despite the connotation the word "mujaheddin" has taken in the West, but another struggle in a long succession of resisting incursions by more powerful states. What also emerges from almost every Afghan mouth is a sentiment of having been "abandoned" by America following the Soviet withdrawal. He makes no direct judgment on the matter himself, but like any good reporter, lets the people speak for themselves. In the end, one is left lamenting the destruction of Afghanistan during its tenure as proxy Cold War battleground, and the resultant forces that have allowed the Taliban to impose their will-a least for the moment. If only one thing is totally clear from their history, it is that the Afghan people will only live so long under the yoke of oppressors.
16 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
An Unexpected Delight! 17. Juli 2001
Von Ben Fried - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Mr. Elliot, obviously, is well connected in contemporary Afghan circles, both outside and inside Afghanistan. This fact enabled and encouraged him to travel in a most unusual and remote country during a most difficult and turbulent era. The author did not travel on a preplanned itinerary but from the start surrendered, instead, to encounters and events. This underlying current gives the account much of its unique quality and realism. The book is richly strewn with delightful coinages, penetrating insights sensitive observations, humor, historical and other intriguing information and descriptions. The, included, short introduction to Sufism is quite good. Puts Afghanistan and its people on the map. Erudite. A gripping and moving account of people and places entangled in the web of war-time meshed with the author personal inner-journey. A tribute to the human spirit.
15 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan 24. Mai 2000
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Jason Elliot's travels in Afghanistan are told with evocative poignancy of a land racked through the centuries by invading armies. Ravaged most recently by the Soviet Army and now by internal strife Afghanistan endures. Whether telling the tale of the Afghan warrior beckoning the rocket-shy author to step out of the cold but protected shadows of a Kabul doorway into the warmth of the sun, or the harrowing tale of a mountainous truck ride under the light of a crescent moon, Elliot shares the beauty and poetic delicacy of a rough but resilient land. This is classic travel writing which enraptures and enables the reader to smell and taste the smoke and dust of the journey , to feel the sharp bite of the cold mountain air as night descends, and captures, as the author says, " a ray of beauty out of the backdrop of harshness." The dignity of this land and its poetic people is shared with respect and startling skill by the author.
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