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An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan [Paperback]

By Jason Elliot (Author)
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Item description for An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot...

Part travelogue, part historical evocation, part personal quest, and part reflection on the joys and perils of passage, "An Unexpected Light" captures perfectly the emotional allure of a seldom-glimpsed world.

Publishers Description
Part historical evocation, part travelogue, and part personal quest, "An Unexpected Light "is the account of Elliot's journey through Afghanistan, a country considered off-limits to travelers for twenty years. Aware of the risks involved, but determined to explore what he could of the Afghan people and culture, Elliot leaves the relative security of Kabul. He travels by foot and on horseback, and hitches rides on trucks that eventually lead him into the snowbound mountains of the North toward Uzbekistan, the former battlefields of the Soviet army's "hidden war." Here the Afghan landscape kindles a recollection of the author's life ten years earlier, when he fought with the anti-Soviet mujaheddin resistance during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Weaving different Afghan times and visits with revealing insights on matters ranging from antipersonnel mines to Sufism, Elliot has created a narrative mosaic of startling prose that captures perfectly the powerful allure of a seldom-glimpsed world.

Citations And Professional Reviews
An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 1184
  • New York Times - 11/04/2001 page 36
  • New York Times - 12/02/2001 page 89
  • Entertainment Weekly - 12/14/2001 page 74
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 938

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Picador
Pages   473
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 5.5" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 17, 2001
Publisher   Picador
ISBN  0312288468  
ISBN13  9780312288464  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jason Elliot

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jason Elliot lives in London. "An Unexpected Light" is his first book.

Jason Elliot was born in 1965.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Travel > Asia > Afghanistan
2Books > Subjects > Travel > Asia > India > General
3Books > Subjects > Travel > Asia > India
4Books > Subjects > Travel > General > Essays & Travelogues

Reviews - What do customers think about An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan?

In the Top Ten Books I Have Ever Read on the Middle East  Oct 3, 2007
As a resident of the Middle East for almost a decade, and a professor, speaker, writer, journalist, for over 20 years, I have done thousands of hours of research and read hundreds of books on the Middle East, Islam and the cultures in that part of the world. "Unexpected Light" is one of the best that has ever been written. Elliott did his research on the ground, and tasted and tested a myriad of cultural and historical facets on the peoples in their own environment; an attribute that is greatly lacking in almost all of the teaching, writing, and commentary of the so-called "experts" in the West.
It truly shines the light of "Truth" on a very important subject.
An Incredibly Engaging Book  Apr 26, 2007
This book is not simply a travelogue. Jason Elliot is clearly a poet at heart. His book manages to teach the reader about Afghan society and culture while telling of his travels in such a way that leaves the reader spellbound. When I finished the book I felt both sad and happy at the same time; sad it was over and so happy to have had the opportunity to read it. When one can say that about a book, one knows it is truly a great read. Read this book; besides giving you countless hours of pleasure, it will enrich your life.
Afghanistan Unfolds in Your Mind Drowning Out CNN Forever  Nov 29, 2006
There are books I pick up that the author's talent makes me slow down as I don't want it to end. If you read as much as me, you begin to yearn for such a book now & again as it just doesn't happen enough (particularly nonfiction). Jason Elliot's first book has taught me more in a hundred pages than I've ever learned about Afghanistan in school or the news. I haven't even finished this book & I had to write about it.

Jason Elliot's prose captures the traditional pace of Afghanistan life as well as discordant notes due to the impact of war & western influence. He also works to unfold the soul of a people. He evokes this via excellent description, historical tales & summaries, his own romance & naivete towards Afghanistan, and the characters who keep him alive even when they can't communicate. I have no idea how he could top these adventures. I'm not sure I've ever read a travel book that has so transported me. I am so thankful I stumbled across this book & I hope it expands your world as it did mine.
A Must-Read for Anyone Who Enjoys the Unexpected  Oct 16, 2006
"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier."

Rudyard Kipling, "The Young British Soldier"

Anyone who's ever read these words, and, following 9/11, felt even an ounce of empathy for them, should not just read but embrace this wonderful travelogue.

Yes, sometimes the going gets difficult. Sometimes (e.g., at the beginning, after one particularly awkward transition out of a flashback), it may be as tough getting through this book as it was for the author to surmount yet another icy Afghanistan mountain atop a horse named Clockwork. But the rewards for doing so are rich indeed.

If you think all Afghan citizens are "the Taleban," know this: they hate the Taliban and wish the Taliban would go back where they came from - to America!

Hardly the uncouth barbarians that we Westerners, from both sides of the Atlantic, too often have accused them of being, the nationals of Afghanistan, whether Pasthuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, or Turkmen, seem genuinely delighted to greet a foreigner in their midst (Jason Elliot, the author); to inquire as to his health; to command a seven-year-old family member to bring him tea; to pelt him endlessly with questions (including, but not limited to, questions about marriage and sex in that distant province called Anglostan); and to offer him lodging. In fact, one of the only people to turn him out into the cold, just thirty minutes before curfew in Herat, hails not from Afghanistan but France.

This book leaves you understanding the difference between "terrorist" and "Moslem." At dawn and dusk, at lunch-, supper-, and bedtime, locals lay down their plowshares or teacups, unfold their mats, and kneel to share a moment with their maker. "God is good to us," one gentleman informs Elliot, moments after a bomb has devastated a neighboring street. Another bomb, one of thousands which seem as inexplicably and frustratingly common here as the elements, kills several in a group at noontime prayers. Yet life doesn't stop here; prayers and a reverence for God (Allah) don't cease being of the utmost importance. In fact, the Afghans, because of the constant danger rather than in spite of it, seem to live each moment to the fullest. As does Elliot, their guest, while living amongst them.

Ultimately, it is not difficult to understand why it was almost impossible for Elliot to leave.

Postscript: I read this book each day on the subway to and from work. It was frustrating, because I couldn't take my dictionary along. I'd dog-ear each page containing words that confounded me, and, at night, I'd finally learn what "arak"(1) and "tessellating"(2) meant. I considered this not to be a liability but a strength of the book; I relish books that challenge me!

(1) Middle Eastern distilled alcoholic beverage; clear, colorless, unsweetened, and flavored with aniseed.
(2) Assemblage of flat pieces (such as tiles) into one flat surface without overlaps or gaps; Middle Eastern artists were said to be masters of tilework, mosaic work, and other types of artistry requiring both creativity and mathematical skill.
A different kind of travel book all together.  May 27, 2006
I've been recommending this book to the readers I know ever since I read it for two primary reasons.

1 It's well written and engaging, you'll have fun reading it which is a nice change from books that you're simply proud to have finished.

2 Though the book only breifly mentions Sufism it is to me an obvious addition to any Sufi/mystics library. In describing the relationship between himself and Afghanistan the author really gets to some that inner experience that the mystic aims at. I believe the reader does as well.


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