Synopses & Reviews
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. An Unexpected Light is a remarkable, poignant book about Afghanistan and a heartfelt reflection on the experience of travel itself.
"This extraordinary debut is an account of Elliot's two visits to Afghanistan....The result is some of the finest travel writing in recent years. With its luminous descriptions of the people, the landscape (even when pockmarked by landmines), and Sufism, this book has all the hallmarks of a classic, and it puts Elliot in the same league as Robert Byron and Bruce Chatwin." Library Journal
"[A] lyrical, unrestrained, and enthralling account of a journey into Afghanistan....I loved this book." Daily Telegraph (London)
"A work of substance and style, witty and moving by turns, never less than wholly passionate....What raises the book to the level of a classic is its intensely personal meditation on the magic of unplanned adventure, of the pain and pleasure of pushing into the unknown." The Times (London)
"[An Unexpected Light] will make frequent travelers to the country aware of how jaded they have become and give those who have never been there a wonderful sense of what it is like. And that, after all, is what a travel book is meant to do." The Observer
"Jason Elliot is an entertaining companion in a heartbreaking land, and his stylish prose is laced with intelligent analysis of a culture startlingly remote from our own." The Spectator
"I am sure this book will soon be among the classics of travel." Doris Lessing
"Humorous, honest and wry, a devotee of Afghanistan's culture, Elliot strives to debunk the myth of 'the inscrutability of the East' and paint, in careful detail, a portrait of a deeply spiritual people. For a first-time author, his literary talents are exceptional. His sonorous prose moves forward with the purposeful grace of a river; it reads like a text unearthed from an ancient land." Publishers Weekly
With a New Afterword by the Author
Part travelogue, part historical evocation, part personal quest, and part reflection on the joys and perils of passage, this acclaimed synthesis of description and insight remains as relevant today as when it first appeared. Jason Elliot's An Unexpected Light is a remarkable, poignant book about Afghanistan and a heartfelt reflection on the experience of travel itself.
About the Author
Jason Elliot lives in London. This is his first book.