Strange Bewildering Time

Strange Bewildering Time

Istanbul to Kathmandu in the Last Year of the Hippie Trail

Written by: Abley, Mark

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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.

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.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Feb 7, 2023
Specifications 296 pages | 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Written By

MARK ABLEY is a nonfiction writer, poet, and journalist. He is a Rhodes Scholar and in 2004 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. His many books include The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind, a memoir of his father; Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages and The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English, among other books on language; Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott, an unconventional look at Canada’s colonial history; and several poetry collections and children’s books. His work has won international praise and has been translated into five languages. He lives in Montreal.

Written By

MARK ABLEY is a nonfiction writer, poet, and journalist. He is a Rhodes Scholar and in 2004 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. His many books include The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind, a memoir of his father; Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages and The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English, among other books on language; Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott, an unconventional look at Canada’s colonial history; and several poetry collections and children’s books. His work has won international praise and has been translated into five languages. He lives in Montreal.

Readers will marvel at this nostalgic travelogue.

” —Publishers Weekly

Open this book and you'll get wafts of sandalwood and spices, of sun-baked roads and thumb-worn pages, and a touch of hippie sweat. Mark Abley's Strange Bewildering Time is a gauge of how people have shaped the world and how the world shaped a wide-eyed poet. There's nostalgia, humour, and melancholy throughout this story, warm and honestly told. And as much as it is a look at how a young man changed, how relationships and experience can sometimes make the past seem foreign, I felt the older man very much alive in this — not so much a tale of someone looking back at a former self but of someone eloquently showing that if we keep our desire to search and express, the best parts of youth don't die.

” —Colin McAdam, author of A Beautiful Truth and Black Dove

This is the best kind of travel memoir — a rethinking and deepening of a journey made years ago. The older and wiser Mark Abley meets himself as a young man and the result is an account of the world, then and now, that is eloquent, rueful, and profound.

” —Elizabeth Hay, author of All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir

A wonderful book about travel during a time on the threshold of change in the world. Strange Bewildering Time lives up to its name and Mark Abley writes of his travels from Istanbul to Kathmandu, and everywhere in between, with eloquent detail, wit, and wisdom.

” —David Farley, author of An Irreverent Curiosity

This delightful blend of travelogue and memoir swept me away to a foreign land: the late seventies. Youthful and privileged, Abley and his travel companion understand little of the decolonizing world and people they meet. But with his signature wit, critical candour, and empathy, Abley’s older self offers context and the wisdom of hindsight. An absorbing portrait of regions in rapid transformation and a couple of young outsiders bemused by hospitality, sights and sounds they encounter on their trip of a lifetime.

” —Shauna Singh Baldwin, author of What the Body Remembers and The Tiger Claw