High Caucasus: A Mountain Quest in Russia’s Haunted Hinterland (Paperback)
  • High Caucasus: A Mountain Quest in Russia’s Haunted Hinterland (Paperback)

High Caucasus: A Mountain Quest in Russia’s Haunted Hinterland (Paperback)

Paperback 352 Pages
Published: 04/07/2024
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'Outstanding' TIMES

'Gripping' ECONOMIST


Emotionally scarred after witnessing the bloody climax of the Beslan school siege in Russia's North Caucasus, in which 314 hostages died, Tom Parfitt set out on a journey. In High Caucasus, he shares his remarkable thousand-mile quest in search of personal peace - and a greater understanding of the roots of violence in a region whose fate has tragic parallels with the Ukraine of today.

Starting in Sochi on the Black Sea and walking the mountains to Derbent, the ancient fortress city on the Caspian, Parfitt traverses the political, religious and ethnic fault-lines of seven Russian republics, including Chechnya and Dagestan. Through bear-haunted forests, across high altitude pastures and over the shoulders of Elbrus, Europe's highest mountain, he finds companionship and respite in the homes of proud, little-known peoples. This is a stunning story of confronting trauma through connection with history, people and place.

Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
ISBN: 9781472294807
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 280 g
Dimensions: 196 x 128 x 28 mm


Tom Parfitt has written an extraordinary book, a thrilling, profound masterpiece. His curiosity, courage and empathy shine from every page. I was gripped, from start to finish - Nicholas Crane, author of Clear Waters Rising

A thrilling and beautiful book. Tom Parfitt's extreme walk along Europe's wildest frontier - through the mosaic of restive statelets on the southern edge of Russia - is epic in itself, but it offers too a drill-down into the deepest layers of human experience - collective memory and individual survival, the legacy of horror and the joy of healing - Philip Marsden, author of The Summer Isles, The Spirit Wrestlers and The Crossing Place

Superb. Tom Parfitt is one of our great travel writers: curious, indomitable and brave. His account of his journey on foot across the North Caucasus is a masterpiece of observation and lyrical prose. - Luke Harding, author of Invasion

With this book, Tom Parfitt has re-invented travel writing for the 21st century. He's an adventurer with a heart; a journalist who saw too much death, but who - instead of running to the next crisis - confronted the horror and crafted a testament for its victims - Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland

A remarkable story of intense experience, thoughtfulness and feeling - Tristan Gooley, author The Natural Navigator

In these tender pages Tom Parfitt finds in the meadows of the North Caucasus and even in Russia itself a dignity that transcends circumstance. This is a travel book for our time, one that seeks fragments of hope among shards of war. Thoughtful, uplifting and hugely enjoyable. - Sara Wheeler, author of Terra Incognita

Tom Parfitt is the best kind of journalist - brave, empathetic and insightful, and with a beautiful writing style - Shaun Walker, Guardian correspondent; author of The Long Hangover

Evocative, intimate and insightful, this is an extraordinary look at life as a foreign correspondent as told from the messy inside. Tom Parfitt is brilliant at zooming in and out of the bigger picture, revealing the sweep of history as it's being written whilst also capturing every detail and feeling up close and personal. This beautifully written account of his relationship with the Caucasus in the aftermath of Beslan offers essential context for anyone trying to understand what is happening in Ukraine and Russia and what might happen next. Most of all, High Caucasus is a reminder of how deeply these not-so-far-away conflicts affect us all - Viv Groskop, author of The Anna Karenina Fix

The finest contemporary interpretation yet written of the landscape and people of the North Caucasus. Sharply observed and quietly devastating, High Caucasus reveals how a highland region scarred by war, despotism, and empire has also produced cultures and communities of awesome, resilient beauty - Charles King, author of The Ghost of Freedom

A keenly felt response to a harrowing experience, Tom Parfitt's High Caucasus is a life-affirming, uplifting book. A skilful blend of memoir, history and travelogue which brings this fascinating region vividly to life, it is also a testament to the recuperative power of walking - Merlin Coverley, author of The Art of Wandering

A vivid and insightful account of an epic journey through Russia's most volatile region. Parfitt is a captivating guide whose reportage is an enthralling blend of history, politics and the personal - Marc Bennetts, author of Kicking the Kremlin

Parfitt's epic walk, which he recounts with such sensitivity and narrative verve, didn't just take him across the wilds of the High Caucasus. It also took him into the pantheon of great travel writers - Paul Willetts, author of Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms

Courageous, clear-eyed, informative, and searingly real, Tom Parfitt's journey takes us through an epic human geography that has long fascinated. I gained intimate insight into the demonic forces that have driven the Russian project of colonisation on the ground. The sketches of highlanders and their mountains will stay with me, and so will the grief, anger, love and hope for the people and places of the Caucasian highlands - Kapka Kassabova, author of Border

In this vividly written, deeply researched and profoundly moving book, Tom Parfitt walks not only to investigate place but to heal. Layers of history, culture and trauma run through the beauty of the High Caucasus, and Parfitt is a wonderfully wise and empathetic guide. - Nick Hunt, author of Outlandish

An astonishing feat of walking and writing. In his journey across the North Caucasus, Tom Parfitt takes us step by step through the most remote mountainous landscape of Europe. He loves the mountains and knows the history, but there is much more here than that: it's a very personal story of the trauma the wars of this region have inflicted on its people -- and on Parfitt himself. A completely original book - Thomas de Waal, author of The Caucasus

A captivating book: richly evocative, magnanimous, and timely. Parfitt leads us across a wondrous landscape matched by the grand humanity of its inhabitants. As the solitary English walker contemplates the violent cycles of oppression and rebellion in the history of the diverse peoples of the Caucasus, their traditional hospitality never fails. His many encounters along the way -- edgy, comical, and sorrowful by turns -- come together as an unforgettable portrait of cultural vitality and endurance - Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov’s Magic Lantern

A magnificent book and a perfect companion to Tolstoy's The Cossacks and Hadji Murat. A masterpiece - Redmond O’Hanlon, author of Into the Heart of Borneo

A work of extraordinary imaginative empathy and power. Parfitt has an enviable combination of language and journalistic skills, together with an open heart and a willingness to talk to everyone along the way, from shepherds and village headmen to teachers and policemen. He is a story-extracting machine - The Spectator

An extraordinary 1,000-mile trek across the mountainous southern Russian republics of the Caucasus uncovering a brutal history that resonates today - Observer

Beautiful and memorable ... an outstanding book that should be read by anyone with an interest in the world that extends beyond the noise of Twitter - Times

A poignant, beautiful and sometimes unbearably sad first-person journey through an epic landscape... As Russia inflicts daily death and destruction on Ukraine, Parfitt's exploration of how to live with a history of violence and loss is achingly topical. - The Moscow Times

A redemptive memoir-cum-travel book that explores personal and national memories in a region blighted by trauma - The Financial Times

A meditative journey through historical memory, landscape and culture - Andrew North, Guardian

High Caucasus is full of "magical moments" - and sheds light on a long "misunderstood" region - The Week

A gripping, moving travelogue [and] a meditation on the role of memory in a fascinating place with a tumultuous, tragic past - The Economist

It's a wonderful blend of travel, nature, politics and history - I learned so much from it about that part of the world - Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

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