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, now available for the first time in English, Schwarzenbach’s memoir rounds out the story of the adventure. Praise for the German Edition “Above all, [Schwarzenbach’s] discovery of the Orient was a personal one. But the author never loses sight of the historical and social context. . . . She shows no trace of colonialist arrogance. In fact, the pieces also reflect the experience of crisis, the loss of confidence which, in that decade, seized the long-arrogant culture of the West.”—Süddeutsche Zeitung
About the Author
Isabel Fargo Cole is a US-born, Berlin-based writer and translator. She is the initiator and coeditor of No Man's Land, an online magazine for new German literature in English.
“Above all, [Schwarzenbach’s] discovery of the Orient was a personal one. But the author never loses sight of the historical and social context. . . . She shows no trace of colonialist arrogance. In fact, the pieces also reflect the experience of crisis, the loss of confidence which, in that decade, seized the long-arrogant culture of the West.”
— Süddeutsche Zeitung
"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)
"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
"Schwarzenbach’s book, while fragmented, showcases the specificity and talent of her writing. [. . .] The book offers a memorable account of discovery and self-exploration at a time when Nazism came knocking at Europe’s doors. Schwarzenbach’s fragile notes reject yesterday’s racism and intolerance, and instead offer an ode to individual freedom."