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Eric Newby had already written accounts of his service on a grain hauling sailing ship and of his capture and escape in WWII, the latter aided by a woman he married, when he realized that he wasn't cut out for his job in the dress trade and sent his friend Hugh Carless, Second Secretary of the British Embassy in Rio, this famous telegram:


Which prompted the equally famous response:


Neither man was much of a climber and they stocked themselves with typically hardy but foolish British aplomb, then "trained" for a week in Wales before setting off to one of the most inhospitable and little explored regions on Earth, Nuristan, home of Mt. Samir, north of Kabul. No one had ever summitted the mountain, a glacial peak reaching 20,000 feet.

Newby's account of their misadventures, their growing resentment of each other and their improbable success is an archetype of much modern travel writing.

At one point in the '90s I read almost every book in the terrific Vintage Departures series. Redmond O'Hanlon, Tony Horwitz, Joe Kane...they all owe a great debt to the form Newby originated. And I think Newby was the first to hit upon a key to our enjoyment of these books, when he reached the following moment:
,br> 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.

We don't read them because we wish we were actually sharing their adventures, but to be reassured that such travels are a mistake. Better to be in a comfortable chair enjoying their comical suffering.

As for Newby and Carless, their tale closes with an immortal line. Having met up with Wilfred Thesiger, a famed British explorer and travel writer, they shared his camp for the night.

The ground was like iron with sharp rocks sticking up out of it. We started to blow up our airbeds. 'God, you must be a couple of pansies,’ said Thesiger.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Eric Newby Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Eric Newby
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Eric Newby (1919–2006) (IMDB)
    -GOOGLE BOOK : A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
    -WIKIPEDIA: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
    -OBIT: Eric Newby (The Guardian, 10/22/06)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby, 86, Acclaimed British Travel Writer, Dies (MARGALIT FOX, October 24, 2006, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Travel writer Newby dies aged 86 (BBC, 10/22/06)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby, travel writer and fashion buyer, died on October 20th, aged 86 (The Economist, 10/26/06)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby (The Telegraph)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby: Travel writer best known for 'A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush' (Independent, 23 October 2006)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby (The Scotsman, 10/24/06)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby (Reuters, 10/22/06)
    -OBIT: Wanda Newby (Sam Jordison, 3/09/15, The Guardian)
    -AUDIO OBIT: Famed Travel Writer Eric Newby Dies at 86: Melissa Block talks with Wanda Newby, who often went along on her husband's journeys. (NPR, OCTOBER 24, 2006)
    -OBIT: Eric Newby, 1919-2006 (Brooke Allen, January 2007, New Criterion)
    -OBIT: Hugh Carless (The Telegraph, 12/21/11)
    -EXCERPT: Memories of a traveller's life: Eric Newby, one of the world's best-loved travel writers and former Observer travel editor, died on 20 October, aged 86. Here we reprint a passage from his classic book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. (The GUardian)
    -ESSAY: Summer Reading : Travel (Eric Newby, 5/31/1987, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Meeting Thesiger in Piccadilly and the Hindu Kush: Fellow traveller Eric Newby recalls his encounters with the great Wilfred Thesiger (Eric Newby, 8/27/03, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Who and when not to tip: So long as the practice persists, here's how to reduce it (Eric Newby, 1/09/66, The Guardian)
    -AUDIO: Eric Newby: Roy Plomley's castaway is writer Eric Newby (Desert Island Discs, 6/25/82, BBC)
    -PROFILE: Around the world in 80 ways: A former dress salesman, seafarer and soldier, he was saved from the Nazis by his future wife and they embarked on a life of travel together. His accounts of their journeys are classics but, writes Nicholas Wroe, the octogenarian writer dislikes retracing his steps (Nicholas Wroe, 6/09/01, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW: Eric Newby: Through Love and War: An interview with Eric Newby at his home in Guildford, England in 2004, excerpted from A Sense of Place (Michael Shapiro, Travelers Tales)
    -PROFILE: How we met: 45. Eric and Wanda Newby (CAROLINE BOUCHER, 02 August 1992, Independent)
    -PROFILE: Eric Newby: At the frontiers of the language: The writer Eric Newby has perfected the comic portrait of the Englishman abroad. But he is most proud of fooling the censor. James Owen, 5/22/09, tHE tELEGRAPH)
    -PROFILE: Eric Newby's other half: Wanda, the great travel writer's widow, is as formidable a presence in real life as she is in Newby's books, as Sam Jordison discovers (Sam Jordison, 5 April 2011, The Guardian)
    -TRIBUTE: 'I remember the hum of excitement he created' (Alexander Frater, 29 October 2006, The Observer)
    -TRIBUTE: Memories of Eric Newby: Eric Newby cut the trail for modern travel writers - with his lawnmower as much as with his pen (Rory MacLean, 10/23/06, The Guardian)
    -TRIBUTE: The enduring magic of Eric Newby: Returning to the great travel writer for the first time since he died, I am reminded of what we've lost, but consoled by how much life his books retain. (Sam Jordison, 14 March 2007, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Following Eric Newby's footsteps in the Hindu Kush: Half a century after Eric Newby wrote the definitive Afghanistan travel book, Lianne Gutcher visits the Panjshir Valley to meet his local sidekick (Lianne Gutcher, February 2009, Wanderlust)
    -ARCHIVES: Eric Newby (The Telegraph)
    -ARCHIVES: Eric Newby (The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, By Eric Newby (Boyd Tonkin, The Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush (Greg Waldmann, Open Letters Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush (Kari Herbert, The Guardian)
    -BOOK LIST: The 20 best travel books of all time (Travel Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush (Rick Skwiot)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush (Leaves & Pages)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush ( Jeruen Dery, Blogcritics)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush (Michael Shapiro, World Hum)
    -BOOK LIST: The top 10 travel books of the century: The Modern Library's nonfiction list egregiously ignores travel literature. We redress the oversight. (DON GEORGE, 5/19/99, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Hindu Kush (Tucker Cox, Zeteo)
    -REVIEW: of A Book of Lands and Peoples, edited by Eric Newby (Ian Thomson, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Round Ireland in Low Gear by Eric Newny (Evelyn Toynton, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of What the Traveller Saw by Eric Newby (Arline Youngman, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of A Traveller's Life by Eric Newby (Anatole Broyard, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Around the World in 80 Years by Eric Newby (Desmond Balmer, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby (Larry McMurtry, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby (Simon Mawer, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Love and War in the Apennines (Linda Herrick, NZ Herald)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Eric Newby and the Literature of Travel (Sam Pickering, The Sewanee Review)

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