21 August 2010

The Road to Oxiana (Robert Byron)

"Hawk-eyed and eagle-beaked, the swarthy loose-knit men swing through the dark bazaar with a devil-may-care self-confidence. They carry rifles to go shopping as Londoners carry umbrellas. Such ferocity is partly histrionic. The rifles may not go off. The physique is not so impressive in the close-fitting uniform of the soldiers. Even the glare of the eyes is often due to make-up. But it is tradition; in a country where the law runs uncertainly, the mere appearance of force is half the battle of ordinary business. It may be an inconvenient tradition, from the point of view of government. But at least it has preserved the people's poise and their belief in themselves. They expect the European to conform to their standards, instead of themselves to his, a fact which came home to me this morning when I tried to buy some arak; there is not a drop of alcohol to be had in the whole town."

The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron (1937)


Will said...

Nice to see you posting regularly again.

Toad said...

One of the best travel books ever.

A.E.F. said...

Admiral - while despondent having lost all my photographs from a 6 week sejourn in Florence - through my own fumbling attempts to grapple with modern technology - I read this post and then Byron's 'All These I Learnt'. Makes mere photographs seem very limited in their ability to evoke and illuminate.