All the Roads Are Open: journey to Afghanistan in 1939

The Swiss journalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach recounts her trip through a compilation of essays.

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The introduction to this compilation of essays sums up how to approach the book as a whole: despite the scandals that marred Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s short life, it remains best for readers to overlook these incidents and focus on the raw talent that presents itself in her writing.

Schwarzenbach was a Swiss journalist and photographer who, along with travel writer Ella Maillart, set off from Geneva in 1939 and headed for the far off destination of Afghanistan. Essentially, the book takes two women, a motor vehicle full of character, little in the way of foreign language skills and the creeping threat of the Second World War, and brings all these ingredients to the boil in a journey full of comedic horror.

However, the deftness of Schwarzenbach's pen is what really sets the tone. Through lyrical prose and a keen sense of wonder, the long road to Afghanistan is never tedious. Complete with picturesque descriptions of passing mountains, fields, valleys, deserts and their enigmatic denizens, All the Roads Are Open still enchants more than 70 years after its conception.