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Days and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road: Calcutta to Khyber
     

Days and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road: Calcutta to Khyber

by Weller
 
Now published in paperback, this work re-creates the author's remarkable adventures on the ancient route that spans India and Pakistan. For more than 30 centuries, travelers have walked, ridden, prayed, fought, and died along the 1,500 miles of the Grand Trunk Road that stretches from Calcutta all the way to the Khyber Pass. Anthony Weller interweaves his own

Overview

Now published in paperback, this work re-creates the author's remarkable adventures on the ancient route that spans India and Pakistan. For more than 30 centuries, travelers have walked, ridden, prayed, fought, and died along the 1,500 miles of the Grand Trunk Road that stretches from Calcutta all the way to the Khyber Pass. Anthony Weller interweaves his own journey with the history of the ancient route.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review

Marlowe & Co. is one of my favorite publishers. It keeps in print, in very attractive trade-paperback editions, travel books by William Seabrook, W. Somerset Maugham, Aldous Huxley, Alex Waugh, and perhaps most notably, Lawrence Durrell. Somebody at Marlowe shares my taste. All these literary classics about exotic places are by writers with vivid powers of description, who can evoke a place's past while accurately recording its present.

Marlowe has just reprinted (from its own 1997 hardcover edition) Day and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road, by Anthony Weller, and it fits right in with these older classics.

The ancient Grand Trunk Road begins at Calcutta, near India's eastern border with Bangladesh. From there it stretches 1,500 miles northwest to Afghanistan. The places it passes through read like a litany of the exotic: the Indian states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and the Punjab; the Indian cities of Benares, Allahabad, Kanpur, Agra, New Delhi, and Amritsar; the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Islamabad, and Peshawar; and finally, to Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass.

Weller made the whole trip, following the road that "natural as a river by now...has been the principal route across the subcontinent for at least thirty-five centuries." Its history is alive for him. "Countless invaders have used it like a whip," he writes. "Four great religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism — were born and grew up along the route. The Islamic idea of a single God spread down it. Empire after empire has fought for the road and its treasure."

Todaythe road once seen by Alexander the Great, Ibn Battutah, Clivo, and countless others, both conquerors and curious, is ruled by maniac truck drivers roaring through countless tiny villages.

And by a sharp-eyed and thoughtful observer like Weller, who notes it all and vividly reproduces the sights, the people, the faces, the incredible Indian jumble of life — everything but the smells — in the pages of this compelling and often moving book.
— Alan Ryan, barnesandnoble.com

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Grand Trunk Road slicing across the Indian subcontinent for 1500 miles from Calcutta to the Khyber Pass has been traversed by the likes of Alexander the Great, Kipling and Gandhi. Today, it's a truck route that cuts through Benares, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar and a multitude of towns and mud villages. It's also one of the most dangerous roads in the world, according to the author, where tribal feuds and clashes between India and Pakistan are often played out. This is the road Weller (The Garden of the Peacocks) chose to travel, having, as he explains, time on his hands after he'd finished a novel and gigs for his guitar playing were scarce. His entertaining adventures on the road provide a vehicle for colorful evocations of the diverse landscapes and cultures through which the road threads, and they complement instructive histories, current political and economic reporting and perceptive profiles of the people he encounters. This is a rewarding journey for armchair travelers. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
While the title is somewhat of a misnomer—since much of this ancient road cutting across India and Pakistan is too infested by bandits to travel after dark—make no mistake about the courage and intelligence behind this wryly observant travelogue.

"From what I'd witnessed, the future for most Indians looked like hell," writes novelist and travel writer Weller (The Garden of the Peacocks, 1996), and while this bleak prediction resonates throughout his account, one is equally impressed that India's explosive mixture of cultures and religions has not blown the lid off the world's largest democracy. Along this road, cut by conquerors from before Alexander, lie the birthplace of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, ornate but crumbling tombs—including the Taj Mahal ("that Moby Dick of architecture")—as well as the sites of great pilgrimages and human slaughter. Traveling this frequently crumbling artery, his hired drivers dodging careening trucks, Weller alights in the sacred Hindu city of Benares astride the Ganges, whose "stench is encyclopedic and hypnotic" and into whose waters are commited some 40,000 cremated bodies yearly. Up the road, Kanpur is the site of the 1857 massacre of 1,000 British men, women, and children that led Queen Victoria to formally annex India. Weller traces the paths of Kipling, perhaps the only writer of the time to look beneficently on the Indians during the Raj. Tireless, aside from a bronchial disorder caused by the poisonous air of New Delhi, Weller proceeds to the Punjab, home to the Sikhs, and passes into Pakistan, which, while lacking the liberties and the cultural freedom of its neighbor, is generally cleaner, with far fewer beggars and homeless people.

The last stage, up the forbidding Khyber Pass, in which dwell smugglers of all description, and through which he was required to hire an armed bodyguard, is perhaps the most exotic locale yet in an account brimming with beauty and strangeness.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569246702
Publisher:
Da Capo Books
Publication date:
08/28/1998
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
5.95(w) x 8.95(h) x 1.06(d)

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Shashi Tharoor
Stimulating and keenly observed.

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