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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  3,594 Ratings  ·  220 Reviews
No mountaineer, Newby set out with a friend to explore the formidable peaks of the Nuristan Mountains in northeast Afghanistan. His witty, unorthodox report is packed with incidents both ghastly and ecstatic as he takes us where few Western feet have trod.

Newby belongs to that enduring set of English travelers who investigate the world for their own amusement and then, to

Hardcover, 247 pages
Published August 1st 1999 by Adventure Library (first published 1957)
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A great classic in adventure travel writing, sort of a precursor cross between Theroux and Bryson. A Mayfair fashion executive, who moonlights as a magazine travel editor, reaches out to a Foreign Service buddy in 1956 to travel to the remote Afghanistan province of Nuristan and attempt to scale an unclimbed mountain in the Hindu Kush. It has a nice balance of humor, dangerous thrills, and personal encounters with fascinating geography and peoples. Entertaining with little lightning flashes of e ...more
Page 166 of the Picador edition of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush ranks among the funniest things I've ever read. On it, Newby quotes from a phrasebook of the Afghan Bashgali language, which apparently contains opening gambits like 'How long have you had a goitre?', 'I have nine fingers; you have ten', 'A dwarf has come to ask for food' and 'I have an intention to kill you', which made me laugh so hard I actually dropped my copy of the book. One day I hope to lay my hands on the phrasebook from ...more
This is a good light read.

Working in the clothing industry in 1950s London the author and his friends hit on the idea of having a mountain climbing adventure in Afghanistan. Why not after all? This is the 1950s, they'd never had it so good, and there were still years to go before the Profumo scandal.

Knowing nothing about mountain climbing and about as much about the Hindu Kush, they still think it's a good idea to attempt some peaks in Afghanistan but they do have a couple of days practise on a
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
It seems like it took me an awfully long time to get through such a short book. I think it was just his writing style and the way he included detail about certain things I wasn't so interested in, such as mountain climbing technicalities.
However, I did enjoy the book and stuck with it because I wanted to know what it was like in this part of the world in the 1950s as compared to the present.

In 1956, the author quit his job in the haute couture industry and trekked with a friend through a region
Tim Yearneau
Oct 27, 2014 Tim Yearneau rated it it was amazing
I had searched the internet for the best travel book ever and this book showed up on almost every list. How good can a book about two guy hiking up a mountain be? Well, I found out; fantastic, mind blowing great.

Newby writes in short straight clear prose with wry, witty self-depreciating humor delivered with impeccable timing. Time and time again he left me ROFL.

Hugh comes across as this mysterious, aloof, travel partner whom Newby is able to portray with gut wrenching humor. Part of the succe
Dinah Küng
Jul 14, 2012 Dinah Küng rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made a delightful read for a week resting in the south of France; while Eric and Hugh labored senselessly up a mountain I'd never heard of and through villages full of unpredictable but ultimately missable minor tribes, I reclined on a chaise longue laughing my head off. I think the charm of this book, which is less than riveting in terms of travel discovery or anthropological profundity, is in the hapless and very English "Boys Own" confidence and optimism of the two trekkers. Hugh ha ...more
Aug 18, 2011 Magdelanye rated it liked it
Shelves: disappointing, travel
The title of this iconic book summerizes it well.
One does not just take a short walk in the Hindu Kush, take a look at any map.
As EN discovers early on, the beginning and the start are separate events, and the execution
something else entirely. What began as a lark takes on the nature of a grail quest, without the
religious overtones. Eric and his posh, poseur friend Hugh share more with bumbling Don Quixiote
than with the noble knights, and their destination might appear to be more tangible, but
I read this book in a rather desultory way picking it up and putting it down for several weeks but it really began to resonate with me during a recent camping trip in the Lake District after putting 2 tents up in the pouring rain late at night and then discovering I had no way of boiling a kettle or making a hot meal.... Of course the English Lake Distruct hardly compares with the Hindu Kush but nevertheless it generated a real sense of empathy.

Eric Newby's impulsive adventure took place over 5
Richard Waddington
Sep 14, 2015 Richard Waddington rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of my favourite travel books and always a pleasure to re-read. The writing style is fairly formal, but the tone is light-hearted and accessible. To my mind, Eric Newby was one of the last great English gentlemen. He and his wife travelled extensively, all over the world (although the journey related in this book took place before he was married) during a time when travel was '' and you had to believe in the validity of your journey to such an extent that you wer ...more
Newby writes in a now-well-established genre of travel writing: the improbable, disastrous trip taken to an unlikely place by the totally unprepared. He wasn't the first to do this sort of thing -- among others, Peter Fleming's Brazilian Adventure stands out as an earlier blackly comic "bad trip," not to mention Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Today, the torch of the comic "bad trip" is carried by writers such as Redmond O'Hanlon, Bill Bryson, and Eric Hansen.

Like several of the writers mention
Nov 01, 2015 Vilis rated it really liked it
Krietni vairāk humora un pašironijas nekā būtu gaidījis no 'klasiska' ceļojumu stāsta par mēģinājumu šķērsot Afganistānas nepieejamo Nuristānu. Dizentērija un strīdi ar vietējiem gan bija aptuveni gaidītajā apjomā. Ja ir kaut mazākā interese par žanru, silti iesaku.
Clive Walker
A delightfully understated and hilariously funny account of what must have been a very serious undertaking. Fraught with danger, the author, seems not to notice as he stays ahead of death by the narrowest of margins. Where the rest of us, mere mortals that we are, may feel compelled to describe the tortuous hunger or the withering cold, Newby is moved to remark on an attractive butterfly which catches his eye, or an amusing incident regarding his boot .

Similar in narrative style to Jerome K. Je
Apr 27, 2013 Don rated it it was amazing
(FROM MY BLOG) By 1956, Eric Newby had devoted ten years of his life to working as a dress buyer for a London fashion house. Then one day, he received a telegram from Hugh Carless, a casual friend, asking "CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE?"

Nuristan -- which until 1896, when its people were forcibly converted to Islam, had been called Kafiristan (land of the infidels) -- is one of the most remote and backward provinces in Afghanistan, nestled in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, northeast of Kabul. Af
Feb 08, 2009 Juha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like travel literature, are interested in exotic cultures and lands and history.
This classic account of the author's climbing expedition to Mir Samir in Afghanistan in the 1950s is both informative and entertaining. The tone of the volume shifts from light and hilarious to more exhausted as the authors moves from preparation of the trip in England and Wales to the actual hardships in the Hindu Kush. Yet Newby never loses his wry humor. The extensive and detailed nature descriptions are well-crafted but may become a bit tedious at times. But the descriptions of the culture a ...more
Jim O'Donnell
Sep 13, 2011 Jim O'Donnell rated it it was amazing
Surprisingly, even though I am a lover of mountains and trekking and, to be quite honest, would go just about anywhere, the Hindu Kush hasn’t really topped my Bucket List. I’m glad it did for Eric Newby however.

A former SBS officer, Newby, middle-aged, well-off and sick to death of his job in the fashion industry leaves (companion in tow) to scale a never-conquered mountain (Mir Samir) in one of the most remote regions of the planet. And they know nothing of climbing.

In 1958 it had already bee
Jan 28, 2016 Rupa rated it it was amazing
A travel classic. This is the unbelievable tale of 2 Englishmen who try to make a first ascent of a 19,000 ft mountain in the 1950s. The journey to the peak is through harsh and remote wilderness near Afghanistan. This would be quite formidable for even the most seasoned explorers/mountaineers but our pair were drawing on British grit and not much else.

Allow me- their only climbing experience was a 3 day crash course, when stuck on high glaciers they would refer to their climbing pamphlets rega
Deborah Pickstone
A travel classic and very funny with it! Two chaps set off to climb a mountain in Afghanistan with no prior experience of climbing mountains.....what could go wrong?

I laughed my socks off!
Jun 20, 2016 Brandy added it
The book jacket describes this as "laugh out loud funny" and while I was amused in a few places, I think a lot of the British humor flew right over my head (sadly). The other factor that might have interfered with my enjoyment was my deep seated irritation with travel novels in which the authors are frustratingly ill-prepared and take seemingly ridiculously dangerous risks, which seems to be a classic theme of the genre. But perhaps this novel was the first of that type, so I have to give some c ...more
Jan 06, 2015 Durdles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
The understated title does little to prepare you for the sheer joy of this account of two ambitious amateur explorers attempting to climb a (previously unclimbed?) 19,500 foot peak in the remote fastness of Nuristan. That non-climbers could even consider this in ill-fitting boots after 4 days training in Wales says much about the can-do attitude of men who had fought through WW2. The preparations for the trip are reminiscent of "Scoop" and fittingly the foreword is provided by Evelyn Waugh, a gr ...more
I wish I’d waited until I’d found a better edition than this Picador, ppbk. The font size is unnecessarily small; especially and annoyingly so when compared to Newby’s “Something Wholesale” from the same publisher. That might not have been a problem except that the high absorbancy of the relatively coarse paper does absolutely nothing for the crispness of the text. Picador clearly worked to a tight budget in 1974 (oil crisis, monetary inflation) not to have reset the text with larger type (and t ...more
Steven Hargrove
May 02, 2011 Steven Hargrove rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes self-deprecating humor
A short note to a friend in the Foreign Service inquiring about where to go for holiday led to a lifetime as a travel writer for Eric Newby. Although previously employed in advertising, on a sailing ship, and for many years in the wholesale fashion business, an expedition to Afghanistan (then Nuristan) in the mid-1950s with his friend Hugh Carliss led to Newby's classic travelogue. The foibles of these two plucky and utterly overmatched Englishmen make for a superbly fun read, filled with the tr ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Jul 01, 2013 Babak Fakhamzadeh rated it it was amazing
A fantastic travelogue. The book's difficult to obtain in 'the West', but thank god for the illegal presses in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Here, this book can obtained by the 100s.

Newby, mid-level management at some fashion firm, quit his job and convinces an old friend of his, Carless, working in the British foreign service, to visit Nuristan, even today a very undiscovered part of Afghanistan. Newby and his wife meet up with Carless in Istanbul, after driving from London to the Turkish c
Rick Skwiot
Nov 17, 2012 Rick Skwiot rated it it was amazing
An improbable—though hilarious—foray into Afghanistan by two Brits in 1956.

After a bad day at the office, the then 36-year-old London fashion salesman decides to quit his job, kiss goodbye his wife and children, and mount an ill-conceived exploration of mountainous Afghani hinterlands with an eccentric foreign service friend luxuriating in Rio.
After two days of mountain-climbing school in Wales, they drive off toward Kabul. Within weeks they find themselves scaling 19,000-foot mountains, inching
Jun 09, 2008 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: walks, 1950s, hills
In 1956 Eric Newby, a refugee from London haute couture, and Hugh Carless, a career diplomat, set out from Istanboul in a station wagon, intent on driving overland to Afghanistan, where they hoped to scale Mir Samir, a towering mountain in the Hindu Kush. Both Newby and Carless were complete amateurs, relying on decade-old army rations, donations from venerable geographic societies, and an endearing naïveté. Just about everything that could go wrong did -- breakdowns, accidents, imprisonment, mu ...more
Mar 29, 2010 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Outside Magazine
Book #2 in my 50 in 52 Weeks

Eric Newby's account of his failed ascent of Mir Samir in northeastern Afghanistan. The book painstakingly details his journey and interaction with the indigenous tribes.

Sadly, this novel could have been condensed into a 20 page retrospective in Outside Magazine. While the book begins with promise, the technical details of the actual climb often read like a textbook.

Newby spends a great deal of time providing a rich and often sleep inducing history of the region and
Jan 15, 2010 Drusha rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone liking accounts of exotic locales
Recommended to Drusha by: Gayle Nesom, years ago
This book was published 1957 years ago by Eric Newby who was a great travel writer at the time. This book covers a trip to the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan that Mr. Newby and his friend took around 1952. If you like dry, British humor, this is the funniest book you'll ever read. It's a serious account of the trip, yet it's very droll.

It covers a region of the world that, while very much in the news today because of the violence perpetuated currently, was a very exotic yet gentle destinati
May 09, 2015 David rated it really liked it
Delightful and amusing at the start. Wonderfully evocative and keenly observed. Self-deprecating in terms of what was achieved, starting from the title! The last sections however lose some of the lightness of touch of the beginning.
Jan 19, 2015 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, british, favorites
There are so many books and so little time that I rarely read a book twice. Eric Newby's A Short Walk is one of the very few exceptions. An eccentric, frighteningly intelligent, and irascible former editor recommended it to me twenty years ago, and it immediately became one of my favorite books. It's howlingly funny, an account of a trip to the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan, a place so different that it might as well have been on a different planet. Newby and his friend Hugh Carless plan to climb a ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book for 30 years and have certainly read it more than once. When I discarded my other Eric Newby books I kept this one, because it was my favourite. But I remembered nothing about it, which is unusual for me.

I'm not sure what prompted me to pick it up yesterday and actually, having read it, I'm not entirely sure why I chose to keep it either. It is hugely enjoyable - a romp, insofar as driving across Europe and the Middle East to climb a mountain can in Afghanistan be described as
This book truly deserves it's cult status as a classic of travel writing. Eric Newby has written a wonderful self deprecating story about an amateur expedition to climb a mountain, Mir Samir, which the locals themselves regarded as unclimbable. The mountain was in the Hindu Kush region, in Afghanistan, a very mountainous and difficult area even today. Newby was working in his parents dressmaking business when he sends a telegram to his friend Hugh Carless asking him to travel to Nuristan and cli ...more
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George Eric Newby CBE MC (December 6, 1919 – October 20, 2006[1]) was an English author of travel literature.

Newby was born and grew up near Hammersmith Bridge, London, and was educated at St Paul's School. His father was a partner in a firm of wholesale dressmakers but he also harboured dreams of escape, running away to sea as a child before being captured at Millwall. Owing to his father's frequ
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“I was heavily involved on all fronts: with mountaineering outfitters, who oddly enough never fathomed the depths of my ignorance; possibly because they couldn’t conceive of anyone acquiring such a collection of equipment without knowing how to use it…” 4 likes
“Mustering this sad, mutinous little force, I drove them before me up the Linar gorge, cursing the lot of them. It was not difficult for me to work up a rage at this moment. All of a sudden I felt that revulsion against an alien way of life that anyone who travels in remote places experiences from time to time. I longed for clean clothes; the company of people who meant what they said, and did it. I longed for a hot bath and a drink.” 1 likes
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