The Cruel Way

by Ella K. Maillart

Paperback, 1986




Virago Modern Classics / Virago Press Ltd (1986), Edition: New Ed, 232 pages


In 1939 Swiss travel writer and journalist Ella K. Maillart set off on an epic journey from Geneva to Kabul with fellow writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach in a brand new Ford. As the first European women to travel alone on Afghanistan's Northern Road, Maillart and Schwarzenbach had a rare glimpse of life in Iran and Afghanistan at a time when their borders were rarely crossed by Westerners. As the two flash across Europe and the Near East in a streak of √©lan and daring, Maillart writes of comical mishaps, breathtaking landscapes, vitriolic religious clashes, and the ingenuity with which the women navigated what was often a dangerous journey. In beautiful, clear-eyed prose, The Cruel Way shows Maillart's great ability to explore and experience other cultures in writing both lyrical and deeply empathetic. While the core of the book is the journey itself and their interactions with people oppressed by political conflict and poverty, towards the end of the trip the women's increasingly troubled relationship takes center stage. By then the glamorous, androgynous Schwarzenbach, whose own account of the trip can be found in All the Roads Are Open, is fighting a losing battle with her own drug addiction, and Maillart's frustrated attempts to cure her show the profound depth of their relationship. Complete with thirteen of Maillart's own photographs from the journey, The Cruel Way is a classic of travel writing, and its protagonists are as gripping and fearless as any in literature.… (more)


½ (26 ratings; 3.6)

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LibraryThing member ArtRodrigues
The author, along with her friend, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, takes a car trip in 1939 from Switzerland to Afghanistan. The narrative is part traditional travel narrative and part analysis of mental state of her companion who is referred to in the book as Christina. Maillart believes the trip will
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cure "Christina" of her chronic melancholy and addiction to morphine. But the journey is struggle from the beginning, as Christina continually lapses into her state of instability, while Mallart continues to do everything, she can to pull her friend out of it. The trip, itself, is a wonderous adventure through native cultures on the brink of upheaval by the coming of World War. Schwarzenbach, who died in 1942, published her own story of the trip, which is a dreamy set of essays that at times leaves you wondering whether this was the same trip taken with Maillart. I highly recommend reading "The Cruel Way" first, to give Schwarzenbach's "All the Roads Are Open" some needed context. I read the latter first and was confused about place and time until I read "The Cruel Way". Then it made sense.
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0860687511 / 9780860687511
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