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Unveiling the ancient Afghan beauty
Apr 02, 2005 07:38 PM 14674 Views
(Updated Apr 03, 2005 10:50 AM)



''A rattling good adventure yarn''

- Chicago Tribune

''In the grand manner...the Michener trademark realism and deft, crisp descriptive passages''

- Pittsburgh Press

''Mr. Michener has done for Afghanistan what his last book did for Hawaii and his first one did for the South Pacific''

- New York Herald Tribune

''Michener casts his ususal spell. He has a wonderful empathy for the wild and free and an understanding of the reasons behind the kind of cruelty that goes with it...romantic and adventurous''

- Newsday

''Frightening...vivid and colorful. The vast desert with its shifting sands, camel trains and bands of nomads that fires the imagination''

- Columbus Dispatch

''An extraordinary novel...the mountains sing and the deserts writhe in a kind of spasmodic horror of deathlessness. The caravansaries come to life; the old nomadic trials across the mountains spring into existence; the wilderness and the ruggedness of the land are communicated to the reader...excellent...brilliant''

- The New York Times

My dad's words

Father bought the book ages ago. And he believes there is a significance behind it's plot. First published in 1964, the story weaves around the geography & ruins of Afghanistan. At that time, the kingdom was gradually unearthing itself from a lost world and crawling towards modernism.

The book, said my father, intended its readers especially Americans & Europeans to stir something constructive for the development of the Afghans. The nation, then, was widely regarded as one of the most inconspicious on earth.

If the Pulitzer prize winning James Michener's aim was truly so, it is indeed praiseworthy. Caravans may have achieved just that 'cause it is inspiring & beautiful. A timeless talisman that endears to any generation.

''One of the world's great cauldrons''

Afghanistan, in Caravans, is set in 1946 and very accurately described. The characters, in comparison, are like miniature pawns bequeathed the chance to romance in its primitive yet alluring land.

Did the Afghan government confer a non-civilian award to the deserving Michener? If we were in the 1940's, we wouldn't need a better guide than Caravans to have a basic understanding of the country. Smitten, fictitious Mark Miller calls it one of the world's great cauldrons.

The striking dress of Afghans; women in chaderi (muslim covering with a tiny rectangle of embroidered lace through which the wearer can see but not seen); few barbaric capital punishments implemented by the public under the approving eye of Mullahs; the free nomadic Provindahs who travel across boundaries of Asia; the exotic cities of Kabul, Khandahar, Ghazni, Qala Bist, Bamian & Balkh and the other mystical towns, grand valleys, initimidating mountains, deadly deserts & mighty rivers are shared in rich, breathtaking detail.

Outstanding characters

The vivacious, stunning Ellen Jasper; sparkling, boisterous nomadic girl Mira; her father & strong leader of the Provindahs Zulfiqar; Ellen's estranged husband Nazarullah; her German lover Dr. Otto Stiglitz; all-knowing Nur Mohammed; the powerful Moheb Khan & Shah Khan and finally the handsome, practical Mark Miller. They have so different yet bewitching personalities.

Each of them have lovely sometimes tragic experiences to share. No one is good or bad here, the circumstances define them as the caravan of their life moves forward.

Mark Miller narrates Caravans to us. Working for the American embassy, his mission is to search for Ellen Jasper who is missing, lost somewhere in the dust of Afghanistan.

A masterpiece in an Afghan frame

The story-telling is simply fabulous including the sad yet best ending.

I will not review any more. Let the exquisite pleasure be yours.

Before I mount my Arab horse and gallop gently into the sunset, let me caress your ear with these final words -

'' Reading Caravans is a memorable and immensely satisfying experience worth preserving in fine, silky pouch for the use of future readers. ''

An unabashedly romantic adventure that quivers brilliantly across the sands of Afghanistan

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Caravans - James A. Michener