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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ERIC NEWBY (1919-2006)

British travel writer Eric Newby, who chronicled his adventures in Afghanistan, India and Italy in a series of books, has died aged 86.

Newby was known for his 'A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush' (1958)- a light-hearted account of his journey from London to the mountains of Afghanistan.

What was interesting was the journey that made Newby a travel writer. For more than a decade following the end of World War II, he has toiled away in the British fashion industry, peddling what he called some of the ugliest clothes on the planet. He gave haute couture for travelling and writing in 1956. That's when he decided to head where few men have gone before - a mission to assail the 19,800 foot mountain Mir Samir in Afghanistan. What was interesting was the kind of training he received before heading off on this mission. In all, he did four days of mountain climbing before embarking on some the inhospitable terrain. Being ill-equipped only adds to the story of a country that turned out to be a study in contrasts even then.

Newby became Travel Editor for the Observer newspaper in 1964 and held that position till 1973. It was during this time that he published another stellar book 'Slowly down the Ganges' (1966) which is the story of the journey taken by him together with his wife down India's holy river.

He was a firm believer in the shelf life of travel books : "Another reason why the travel book may continue in popularity is that in many parts of the world travel has become too dangerous to take part in, except vicariously."
Recounting his journey through the world of travel, he talks of what drew him to it and some of the books that inspired him in this memorable piece:,,102014,00.html

Read more about his life and times here: