All the Roads Are Open
In June 1939 Annemarie Schwarzenbach and fellow writer Ella Maillart set out from Geneva in a Ford, heading for Afghanistan. The first women to travel Afghanistan’s Northern Road, they fled the storm brewing in Europe to seek a place untouched by what they considered to be Western neuroses. The Afghan journey documented in All the Roads Are Open is one of the most important episodes of Schwarzenbach’s turbulent life. Her incisive, lyrical essays offer a unique glimpse of an Afghanistan already touched by the ‘fateful laws known as progress’, a remote yet ‘sensitive nerve centre of world politics’ caught amid great powers in upheaval. In her writings, Schwarzenbach conjures up the desolate beauty of landscapes both internal and external, reflecting on the longings and loneliness of travel as well as its grace.
Maillart’s account of their trip, The Cruel Way, stands as a classic of travel literature, and Schwarzenbach’s memoir rounds out the story of the adventure.
‘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.’—The National (Abu Dhabi)
‘Few of Schwarzenbach’s own writings have been translated into English, and even fewer are available in print . . . Finally, we have the opportunity to read her: Seagull Books have reissued two recent and excellent translations of Schwarzenbach’s literary travel writing. Death in Persia was only published in German in 1998, long after Schwarzenbach’s death, and first published in English translation by Lucy Renner Jones in 2012. All the Roads Are Open, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole, was first published as a full English collection in 2011. Together, they map Schwarzenbach’s dual struggle to overcome her own inner conflicts and, somehow, to resist the fascism that overran Europe as she made her way to Afghanistan in 1939.’—Helen Finch, Times Literary Supplement
‘All the Roads Are Open . . . collects the wonderful newspaper articles Schwarzenbach wrote during the journey. “With our Afghan friends we felt as safe as in Abraham’s bosom,” she declares, although the cover photo of her—trousered, lanky, David Bowie with an Elroy Jetson haircut—will inspire readers today to wonder what all she might have left out.’—Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice