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The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  874 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Hailed as a classic upon its first publication in 1934, The Valleys of the Assassins firmly established Freya Stark as one of her generation's most intrepid explorers. The book chronicles her travels into Luristan, the mountainous terrain nestled between Iraq and present-day Iran, often with only a single guide and on a shoestring budget.

Stark writes engagingly of the nom
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 24th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1934)
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3.85  · 
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 ·  874 ratings  ·  78 reviews


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Jan-Maat
Freya Stark is a great name, a bare fertility though is not a complete description of her writing style, which reminded me so strongly of Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon that I wondered, until I looked at the publication dates, if Stark's writings consciously or unconsciously had been used by West as a prose model.

There is however one important difference, West's account of a journey through Yugoslavia is tied together by her thesis that the virility of the Serbs and their self-concep
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Lucy
"Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or a penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half our domestic problems. The fear of an unbroken tête-à-tête for the rest of his life should, you would think, prevent any man from getting married. (Women are not so much affected, since they can us ...more
Ruthie
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Freya Stark lived a fascinating, fearless, adventurous, long life. She spent most of it traveling in the Middle East, much of that travel in regions where women traveling alone was unheard of. She traveled as a native, on a pack mule, sleeping in homes in small villages, learning how the locals lived.

She wrote many articles about her discoveries that were published in the journals of the Royal Geographic Society, and drew up maps of regions that were until then unmapped. She took photographs and
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Grady McCallie
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
In 1930, 1931, and1932, Freya Stark traveled as a single woman (with one or two hired henchmen) through mountain regions of what was then Persia, now Iran. Her exotically titled 'the Valleys of the Assassins' recounts those several trips, including one to see the ruins of Alamut, the castle of the Old Man of the Mountain, the original assassins.

Stark's writing is beautiful, with terrific descriptions of the landscapes she passes through. While most of what she does is not physically grueling (s
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Anfri Bogart
Freya Stark negli anni '30 del secolo scorso ha esplorato le zone più sconosciute della Persia. Erano regioni che sulle mappe della British Geographical Society erano bianche oppure erano disegnate per sentito dire. La presenza di una donna occidentale sola in quelle lontane plaghe era agli occhi della popolazione locale un fenomeno abbastanza sbalorditivo. Freya racconta di come si era quasi abituata a mangiare, leggere, lavarsi e dormire circondata dagli sguardi e dalla presenza di decine di c ...more
Dimitri
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: persia
Some book genres do age like wine. Memoirs grow from current events of yesterday into firsthand reflections on history. 1950s National Geographics restore the cutting edge reality of obsolete technology. Travelogues know a similar evolution; they take us back to lands which no longer exist.

While the narration wears itself thin as it wanders from one rocky hill to the next meagre yet hospitable meal among the nomadic tribes of Persia... it puts a giant footnote to the modernisation saga of the Pa
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Deborah Pickstone
This has been on the go for a while, unusually - but it is very good and really interesting. Freya Stark was one woman who broke every mould and dared anything. Admirable and inspiring.
Mark
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mary Kay Feather, Micky Ryan, Jim Lammers
Freya Stark was the kind of adventurer and writer the world doesn’t really know anymore. She was fearless, at least she made it sound on paper. Trained as a geographer and cartographer, she lived in Baghdad in the Thirties and traveled throughout the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan intrepidly, sometimes gathering intelligence for the British, sometimes on Archeological expeditions and other adventures. Freya went places that few westerners at the time would go, let alone a woman traveling al ...more
Dale
Oct 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
This is a collection of Stark's writings about her adventure travels in the middle east during the early 1930s, mostly in the Iran/Iraq border region. She traveled on foot and on horseback through what was then (and probably is still) very wild and dangerous country, in a place where women were expected not to be, and managed to face down a good many very difficult and dangerous situations. It's surprising that she survived; but in fact she continued to travel for decades, and died at age 101.

Sh
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Conrad
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
It is quite remarkable that an English woman should, in 1930, take a notion to travel by herself to the remote regions of northern Persia - a land still closely resembling the tribal patterns of medieval days. With local tribesmen as guides, she made her way over the mountains and through the valleys casting herself upon the hospitality of the villagers. She seems to have been quite fluent in language and well acquainted with the history of the area which certainly worked in her favor. A fascina ...more
globulon
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I learned about her by reading Lawrence Durrell's "Bitter Lemons of Cyprus". He just mentions her briefly but I was quite interested when I read her bio on wikipedia.

For me this book was amazing. She seems to have a great ability to relate to people and there are many instances where some kind of savvy was required, from simple humility and politeness to more tricky manipulations. She also does what little humanitarian aid she can, like dispensing medicines or trying to help make a splint for a
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Dana Stabenow
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
One of my 2014 favorite reads.

In 1930 and 1932 Freya Stark, a British woman in her 30s, traveled into Persia (Iran) as far as the rock of Alamut, the stronghold of that madman who seduced his followers with hashish into carrying out for-hire assassinations from Jerusalem to Marseilles. She went alone, on the proverbial shoestring, hiring guides as she went. Everyone thought she was mad as well, but when she came back from her second trip she wrote this book, which was an instant sensation and de
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Margaret
I'd read a biography of Freya Stark first, the excellent Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark that was a full account of Stark's life and adventures, and was curious to read something by Stark herself. The Valleys of the Assassins is the first I have read by her.

Her adventures in the Middle East, including experiencing different cultures as a lone English woman in many cases, are incredibly interesting. She traipses through the Arab world after Lawrence but while there is a largely British
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Sonia
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I ADORE Freya Stark. She inspired my own wanderlust many years ago, and always reminds me that there is so much to learn and explore.

To be honest, this book was a little tedious, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I am reading it decades after it was published. I can imagine reading it as a young woman in the 30s and my mind being completely in awe of the world that was out there.

So for Freya, as an explorer, as a traveler, and as an all around kickass lady, 5 stars. For this b
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william dalton
درباره سلسله ی اسماعیلیه در این مناطق صحبت می کنه
McGooglykins
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-november
This is a fascinating read for several reasons.

Stark went wherever she pleased and however she wanted, regardless of what the world expected from a single woman in the 1930s, only capitulating occasionally and only to a point, out of politeness and respect for cultures other than her own. It's refreshing and inspiring to read about a woman like her and to know that she existed. Courage and independence like hers are contagious.

This book is also fascinating in how clearly it demonstrates the Bri
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Rashmi
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel, History, Middle-ast, Women, Women Traveller,
A single woman, at the turn of the last century, travelling unknown, unmapped lands in search of adventures, geography and history, and essentially to carve out a career out of something that was quite unheard of, for the women of that time. This book is a collection of her experiences, jotted down in her journal/diary from her travels through the inhospitable stretches of Luristan and Persia. Stunning travel narrative aside, it is not much of a page-turner. As was the norms for books of the pas ...more
Lori
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm sure there was a good book in there somewhere, but it never engaged me and I found it very difficult to read.
Shannon Babb
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An interesting narrative about the Middle East from one of the Victorian era's greatest female explorers.
Peer
Oct 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Should be great, but so poorly written.
Aj
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I did quite like this book but it was a bit of a slog to read. Honestly, I think a lot of it was my own issue rather than any fault with the book. This is a book that is very firmly set in the 'travel writing' genre, which I'm finding is one that I have a hard time with.

This book challenges the reader to take it's time; with the language, with the absorption of the information presented, and with the story presented. A lot of location names and unfamiliar-to-me language is used, and while I was
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Yarb
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-but-unowned
Narratives of several journeys in remote areas of the Middle East, principally the Persia-Iraq border region, in the 1930's. Armed with the self-assurance of empire, but also innate savvy, cunning, and fluency in various local languages, the author explores the tribal hill-country of Luristan, and the area of northern Persia which was home to the titular assassins first described by Marco Polo, outwitting and deceiving unfriendly officials/police as necessary. She is motivated partly by her own ...more
Julie Whelan
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Reading Valley of the Assasins which describes the travels of this brave woman Freya Stark, as she travels through "Persia" in the 1930s, one has to admire her courage and great sense of adventure. Riding either horses or donkeys she explores first the region of Luristan then the Valley of the Assasins. This name comes from the leader Hasan-i-Sabbah (1071), whose name "Hasan" became corrupted to Assasin, due to his habit of drugging and then killing his enemies in his garden. Much of the writing ...more
Matt
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Freya Stark is the closest to a real Indiana Jones that I've encountered. Her adventures across the Middle East in the early 1930s are fascinating, with beautiful descriptions of the land, the people, and the history of the places she went. As a modern reader, it's hard not to think about the complicating factors. In particular, her archaeology is of the adventurous Indiana Jones type that often seems to create more ethical questions than it provides historical answers.

There are, I am sure, boo
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Jenny Yates
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
She was an amazing person, Freya Stark. She traveled by herself throughout Iran and Iraq in the 30s, making maps, meeting the locals, and looking for bits and pieces of history. She traveled by mule and on foot, using local guides, and every night she’d arrive unexpectedly at a some nomad’s tent and be invited to dine and given a place to sleep (often under the stars).

It sounds pretty glamorous, and it really is remarkable. But I have to say that this book was a bit hard to get through. Geograp
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Joseph
Jun 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Sorry, this is one of the few books I couldn't get into at all; as a matter of fact, I couldn't even skim it to the end. It was written in a different time and almost in a different, shorthand sort of language. While much space and many words given to describing clothing, discussion of history was minimal. Like any travelogue, many individuals Freya met on her adventure were named and their clothing described but soon were forgotten. Many valleys, mountains, hills, plains, streams were named and ...more
Owen
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the story of several journeys undertaken in the early 1930s by that intrepid Englishwoman, Freya Stark. Travelling only in the presence of local guides and speaking nothing but Persian for week after week, she leads us into the high mountain country of ancient Kurdistan, Luristan and Lakistan (and possibly a few other -stans), searching for traces of ancient civilizations (as well as Bronze-age man). She follows old trails through remote villages, occasionally coming across some major wo ...more
Kimi
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it
i didn't enjoy stark's writing as much as thesinger's. i had really been looking forward to reading this after seeing a review of a new biography about stark. her life was really interesting, being english, growing up in italy, and then later traveling on her own in the middle east after studying arabic in lebanon. the reviewer recommended this book, saying it was the best among the several she had written.

i suppose one could say her life was more interesting than her writing. she writes, at ti
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Jeannette López
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Se narra la historia de Freya, quien viaja a Persia por los años 1930 aprox. (?)

Me pareció una historia interesante por ser la primera que leo de este tipo, pero además porque no conozco nada de la región en donde sucede la historia, así que todo resultó nuevo e interesante.

Quedé impresionada con la actitud de Stark, quien se adentró en una región sin conocerla y, mayormente, por su cuenta, valiéndose de sus conocimientos geográficos y cartográficos para establecer rutas a seguir y descubrir la
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Abby
Jan 23, 2013 added it
I find I don't really like this person that much. But I keep reading her, because I admire her sheer guts and intellect, her uncanny ability to size up personalities, perceive truth and falsehood, bargain, barter, and schmooze. Her endless energy and interest. Her absolute fearlessness. And most of all, the way she puts all this together to get exactly what she wants. She would make a fantastic politician--seriously, make this girl Secretary of State. But that, I suppose, would violate her code ...more
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Freya Stark was born in Paris, where her parents were studying art. Her mother, Flora, was an Italian of Polish/German descent; her father, Robert, an English painter from Devon.

In her lifetime she was famous for her experiences in the Middle East, her writing and her cartography. Freya Stark was not only one of the first Western women to travel through the Arabian deserts (Hadhramaut), she often
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“Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half our domestic troubles.” 17 likes
“Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or a penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half our domestic troubles...Modern education ignores the need for solitude: hence a decline in religion, in poetry, in all the deeper affections of the spirit: a disease to be doing something always, as if one could never sit quietly and let the puppet show unroll itself before one: an inability to lose oneself in mystery and wonder while, like a wave lifting us into new seas, the history of the world develops around us.” 5 likes
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