WHO: William Dalrymple
WHAT: RETURN OF A KING:
The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42
WHEN: Published by Knopf April 16, 2013
“Absorbing and beautifully written.
The British humiliation in the so-called First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42) has long been viewed by historians as a classic example of imperial overreach. Still, it is a saga that makes for marvelous storytelling, filled with heroes, knaves, incompetent fools, and savage, bloodthirsty warriors. It has been told often before but perhaps never so well as by William Dalrymple.
“He places British intervention within the context of the ‘Great Game’ rivalry with the Russian Empire over influence in central Asia. When the British favorite in Afghanistan, Shah Shuja, was driven into exile, British officials in India feared enhanced Russian influence there and decided to reinstall him at the point of a gun. What followed was a mixture of farce, tragedy, and horror. The British army occupying Kabul was surrounded by a hostile and harrying population. When forced to retreat back to India through unforgiving terrain, thousands of soldiers and camp followers died from cold, hunger, or constant attacks by merciless mounted Afghans.
“Dalrymple doesn’t shrink from drawing the obvious parallel with the current American intervention. That may, or may not, be facile, but this is an absorbing and beautifully written account of a doomed effort to control an apparently uncontrollable population.” —Jay Freeman in a starred review for BOOKLIST
PRAISE FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM:
“Dazzling…The Afghan saga has been recounted many times, but never that I can recall as well as by Dalrymple. He is a master storyteller…Almost every page of his splendid narrative echoes with latter-day reverberations.” —Max Hastings, The Sunday Times
“Magnificent…The seductive artistry of Dalrymple’s narrative gift draws the reader into events that are sometimes almost unbearable, but his account is so perceptive and so warmly humane that one is never tempted to break away…This book would be compulsive reading even if it were not a uniquely valuable history.” —Diana Athill, The Guardian
Publicist for this title:
Erinn Hartman | 212-572-2345 | firstname.lastname@example.org