A poet and journalist looks back on a remarkable journey from Turkey to Nepal in 1978, when the region was on the brink of massive transformation.
In the spring of 1978, at age twenty-two, Mark Abley put aside his studies at Oxford and set off with a friend on a three-month trek across the celebrated Hippie Trail — a sprawling route between Europe and South Asia, peppered with Western bohemians and vagabonds. It was a time when the Shah of Iran still reigned supreme, Afghanistan lay at peace, and city streets from Turkey to India teemed with unrest. Within a year, many of the places he visited would become inaccessible to foreign travellers.
Drawing from the tattered notebooks he filled as a youthful wanderer, Abley brings his kaleidoscope of experiences back to life with vivid detail: dancing in a Turkish disco, clambering across a glacier in Kashmir, travelling by train among Baluchi tribesmen who smuggled kitchen appliances over international borders. He also reflects on the impact of the Hippie Trail and the illusions of those who journeyed along it. The lively immediacy of Abley’s journals combined with the measured wisdom of his mature, contemporary voice provides rich insight, bringing vibrant witness and historical perspective to this beautifully written portrait of a region during a time of irrevocable change.
About the author
Mark Abley was born in Leamington Spa, England, in 1955. From age six to twenty he lived in Lethbridge and Saskatoon. After winning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan, he went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship and received his Master of Arts degree in English Language and Literature. He and his wife live in Montreal.
For the past seven years, Mark Abley has been a contributing editor to Macleans's and a regular writer for Saturday Night, CBC Radio's "Ideas" and The Times Literary Supplement. He has also written for the Globe and Mail, Canadian Literature, The Listener, and the New Statesman.
Abley’s story is simultaneously immediate and retrospective. The journals he kept during his travels offer scenes of vivid detail, while the distance traveled in time allows him to see ironies his 22-year-old self could not have fathomed. The past was a strange, bewildering time—but time itself is strange and bewildering … The blessing of this book is that Mr. Abley’s curiosity and compassion were not lost along the way.
Wall Street Journal
Providing an intimate glimpse of far-flung regions during times of change, just before some regions became inaccessible to Westerners … An engrossing travelogue with introductions to the Middle East and Central Asia, Strange Bewildering Time is nostalgic and thoughtful—a paean and a lament for a time long gone.
Abley masterfully navigates his acknowledgement of his innocent self as a foundation for the book while introducing witty and philosophical remarks that allow the reader to reevaluate the authority of the narrative lens. [Strange Bewildering Time] is a remarkable time capsule of culture and circumstance wrapped up in an enticing story.
A fascinating chronicle … Strange Bewildering Time: Istanbul to Kathmandu in the Last Year of the Hippie Trail charts the dissipation of hopes at the end of an era.
Literary Review of Canada
A riveting read … vivid and thoughtful.
Winnipeg Free Press
Readers will marvel at this nostalgic travelogue.
Gorgeous and lyrical … Strange Bewildering Time is … a meditation on the nature of memory, time and self-knowledge, as well as an account of a region on the brink of turmoil … There is poetry on every page.
Montreal Review of Books
A book often worthy of comparison with such enduring classics of travel literature as Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Between The Woods And The Water and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.