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Literature / The Places In Between

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The country had been at war for twenty-five years; the new government had been in place for only two weeks; there was no electricity between Herat and Kabul, no television and no T-shirts. Villages combined medieval etiquette with new political ideologies. In many houses the only piece of foreign technology was a Kalashnikov, and the only global brand was Islam. All that had made Afghanistan seem backward, peripheral, and irrelevant now made it the center of the worlds attention.
Rory Stewart

The Places In Between is a 2006 non-fiction travel book by Scottish diplomat and member of British Parliament Rory Stewart. It concerns his trip across Afghanistan in January of 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban, as he walks on foot from Herat to Kabul. Along the way, he meets many colorful characters, some of whom try to kill him.

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Rory. He devotes a few chapters to the desecrated remains of various archaeological sites that date back to pre-Muslim periods.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Many of the people Rory meets are murderers, former torturers, Taliban members, and other unpleasant sorts of people. Most of them, however, are courteous to Rory as he is their guest.
  • Canine Companion: Early on in the trip, Rory comes across an abused retired fighting dog which he decides to adopt and take with him the rest of the way. He names the dog Babur, after the 16th century conqueror and Afghanistan's first Mughal emperor in who's footsteps Rory is following.
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  • Call to Adventure: Subverted. Rory has absolutely no reason to be in Afghanistan, especially during a time of war. He himself can't answer why he went there in the first place other than to complete his entirely on foot trek across most of Asia.
  • Crapsack World: Afghanistan has been plagued by war, famine, illiteracy, crime and tribal rivalries for centuries, and it doesn't look like it will improve anytime soon.
  • Fish out of Water: Rory. He makes up for it by having a good working knowledge of the languages and history of the areas he treks across.
  • Footnote Fever
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted. Rory is practically an Omniglot and seems to be very familiar with the history of Afghanistan, but he sticks out like a sore thumb to most of the Afghans he meets, and he embarrasses himself a few times throughout the trek.
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  • Road Trip Plot
  • Sacred Hospitality: Most of the people Rory meets are desperately poor and can't provide very much, but some still do manage to pull together what they can for their guest. On the other hand, a rich Mullah and landowner(and former Taliban leader) that Rory spends a few days with provides a very paltry meal even by Afghan standards and generally treats him with disdain.

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