Elliot, Jason 1965-
Elliot, Jason 1965-
Born in 1965; children: one daughter.
Agent—Gillon Aitken Associates, 29 Fernshaw Rd., London SW10 OTG, England.
Thomas Cook Daily Telegraph Award, for An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan, 2000.
Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Jason Elliot is the author of An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan, an account of his experiences during two extended periods in the war-torn country of Asia. When he was only nineteen years old, Elliot first traveled to Afghanistan and joined Mujahedin forces fighting in opposition to invading Russian troops. Ten years later, Elliot returned to Afghanistan to absorb the native culture during a time of civil war. In each of his stints in the turbulent region, Elliot underwent trying experiences. He even traveled with guerilla fighters and slept among them in mountain shelters. He also socialized with war correspondents, who regularly reported on battlefield actions. Elliot's book includes details on the history of the region, as well as information concerning its culture and religion.
Upon publication in 1999, An Unexpected Light won praise from Times Literary Supplement reviewer Philip Glazebrook, who lauded the book as "splendid" and "very interesting" and hailed Elliot as "brave and honest." Readers of Elliot's book, Glazebrook affirmed, are "rewarded by the vigour and originality with which the author responds to every demand made by events on his head or on his heart." Glazebrook concluded: "This absorbing mixture of narrative and reflection records a love affair with Afghanistan, and reveals how deeply Jason Elliot was affected by the country and its people." In the Spectator, Sara Wheeler stated that Elliot "is an entertaining companion in a heartbreaking land, and his stylish prose is laced with intelligent analysis of a culture startlingly remote from our own." Wheeler noted: "A fundamental difficulty of the travel narrative is the sleight of hand required to achieve balance between the close-up and the big picture, between the hapless author, tolling up a steep hill in the foreground, and, lurking behind, the country, the world, the human condition. Elliot gets this just right, and it is no small achievement." In the London Times, Edward Marriott praised the book as containing "many breathtaking moments," and commented that Elliot is "alive to the magic of place." Marriott wrote that An Unexpected Light is "a work of substance and style, witty and moving by turns, never less than wholly passionate."
In his follow-up effort, Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran, Elliot returns to the Middle East, this time crossing the border from Afghanistan into Iran. Despite their proximity, these two nations are very different, with Iran possessing an ancient history as a cultural center, known for its art, philosophy, and poetry. Although Elliot includes references to this background, his primary interests lie in the present and future, and his book focuses particularly on the people he meets during his travels, and on the politics of the region. Part of his purpose seems to be to prove that Iran does not deserve its reputation as a volatile, anti-Western country. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted this last point in particular, calling Elliot's effort "a tempering treatise, one hopes, for those rushing to make war on Iran—and an education for those trying to stop them." A reviewer for the Economist believed: "He does not seem to have sought out those intellectually nimble Iranians who negotiate the competing demands of tradition and modernity with verve and imagination. Mr Elliot seems to have come to Iran in search of a fallen civilization, and this is what his mirror showed him." Looking at the book as an extreme travel guide, Brad Hooper, writing for Booklist, commented: "This author's traveling experiences will make armchair travelers gulp at the lack of creature comforts." A Publishers Weekly contributor added: "With Iran so central in the news, this is a good read for the armchair traveler and amateur geo-political strategist alike."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Elliot, Jason, An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan, Picador, 1999, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Elliot, Jason, Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Booklist, September 15, 2006, Brad Hooper, review of Mirrors of the Unseen, p. 22.
Economist, June 10, 2006, "Find What Ye Seek: Traveling in Iran" review of Mirrors of the Unseen, p. 86.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Mirrors of the Unseen, p. 765.
Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2006, review of Mirrors of the Unseen, p. 44.
Spectator, October 20, 1999, Sara Wheeler, review of An Unexpected Light, p. 62.
Times (London, England), October 16, 1999, Edward Marriott, review of An Unexpected Light.
Times Literary Supplement, January 7, 2000, Philip Glazebrook, "Beyond an Enchanted World," p. 26.