- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
"Kaplan is an American master of...travel writing from hell...Pertinent and compelling."--New York Times Book Review
"An impressive work. Most travel books seem trivial beside it."--Washington Post Book World
The bestselling author of Balkan Ghosts takes readers on a journey through troubled regions where age-old cultural rivalries threaten to reshape the world of tomorrow. From West Africa to the fundamentalist enclaves of Egypt and Iran to the culturally explosive lands of Central Asia, the people who will remake our world tomorrow are profiled.
You have to hand it to Kaplan. He travels light, he travels dirty, and he goes to places that most travelers would thankfully avoid. He has also done his homework and has a useful frame of reference in which to fit his experiences and observations. Many are valuable. His comments on West Africa evoked wide discussion when they appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. In assessing the value of a diplomat's optimism about Africa, he asks drily, "How did he arrive at the airport?"—a reference to the crime, bribery, and anarchy often associated with mere arrival in Africa, but which high-level diplomats usually avoid. In considering levels of crime in various poor and overcrowded cities, he punctures easy explanations based on cultural factors by comparing similarly horrendous crime rates in Cambodia and Sierra Leone (he had believed that crime rates would be lower in Cambodia, with its ancient civilizations based in written language). Contrary to expectations, in Iran he notes how the country and its culture "appeared minimally affected fifteen years after the revolution." He contrasts the attention given to AIDS with that given to the 100200 million people who contract malaria every year and the 2.5 million people who die annually of the disease. His most enduring impression is of the weakening of state structures throughout the area and the growing strength of ethnic and religious identity.
He covers a much wider area than he did in his more valuable Balkan Ghosts, and his expectations about finding general paradigms are disappointed. Nor are his efforts to make his discoveries relevant to the US very convincing. But for sheer entertainment, vigor, sharp observation, and thoughtful comparison, Kaplan takes a lot of beating.
|Pt. I||West Africa: Back to the Dawn?||1|
|1||An Unsentimental Journey||3|
|2||Sierra Leone: From Graham Greene to Thomas Malthus?||32|
|3||Along the Gulf of Guinea||70|
|Pt. II||The Nile Valley: The Hollow Pyramid||89|
|6||Voices of the "Tormented City"||119|
|Pt. III||Anatolia and the Caucasus: The Earth's Strategic Core?||127|
|7||"The Still Point of the Turning World"||129|
|9||By Caspian Shores||163|
|Pt. IV||The Iranian Plateau: The Earth's "Soft Centre"||173|
|10||A Country of Flowers and Nightingales||175|
|11||The Revolution of "the Hand"||188|
|13||Qom's Last Tremors||215|
|14||The Heart of Persia||225|
|15||The Tower of Qabus||237|
|Pt. V||Central Asia: Geographical Destinies||243|
|17||Pre-Byzantine Turks and Civilization Clashes||256|
|18||Clean Toilets and the Legacy of Empires||273|
|19||China: "Super-Chaos" and "Physical-Social" Theory||290|
|20||Strategic Hippie Routes||302|
|21||The Roof of the World||312|
|22||The Last Map||325|
|Pt. VI||The Indian Subcontinent and Indochina: The Way of the Future?||339|
|23||Journey in a Plague Year||341|
|24||Rishi Valley and Human Ingenuity||354|
|25||Bangkok: Environmental and Sexual Limits||369|
|26||Laos, or Greater Siam?||390|
|27||Cambodia: Back to Sierra Leone?||401|
|28||Jungle Temples and the "Milk of Chaos"||421|
|29||One Death at the Edge of the Earth||429|
Posted December 4, 2004
Kaplan paints a picture of lives cursed by poor political systems that, at the time I read the book, was almost too hard to believe. So I had to check things out for myself. After living in West Africa for five months I can tell you, he nailed it. If you're not up for a rough trip through the Third World, read this book. It's the next best thing than experiencing it yourself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2004
Kaplan presents more than a travelogue of some of the most inaccessible places in the world, he also makes a compelling case about why these forgotten pockets need to be of more than passing concern to citizens of developed countries. While the author's characterization of these 'frontiers of anarchy' is provocative, his arguments cannot be ignored.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2001
This is one of the most thought provoking and dangerously depressing books to be published in the last decade. Kaplan clearly outlines the decay of the most far flung peripheries of the planet. This alone seems harmless, yet the reader becomes keenly aware that what's true for Sierra Leone might just become true of the United States. Just as Dante showed us the danger of sin in the Catholic world, so does Kaplan show us the danger of modernity in our modern world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 1, 2008
No text was provided for this review.
Posted October 25, 2008
No text was provided for this review.