Stewart, Rory 1973-
Stewart, Rory 1973-
Born 1973, in Hong Kong, China. Education: Balliol College, Oxford, B.A., M.A.
Writer. Foreign Office, served at the British Embassy in Indonesia, 1997-99, British representative to Montenegro, and Coalition deputy governor of Maysan and senior advisor in Nasiriyah, Iraq, 2003-04; Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, fellow, 2004-05; Turquoise Mountain Foundation, chief executive, 2005—. Military service: British Infantry, officer for Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment); received Order of the British Empire (OBE), 2004.
Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, Scottish Arts Council Prize, and the Spirit of Scotland Award, all 2005, all for The Places In Between.
The Places In Between, Harcourt. (Orlando, FL), 2006.
The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Contributor to New York Times Magazine, Granta, Sunday Times, Guardian, Financial Times, and the London Review of Books.
Raised in Malaysia by British parents, Rory Stewart gained an early appreciation for Asian cultures. After being schooled in England and serving for a short time in the British Army, he traveled as a foreign services officer throughout Indonesia, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. In 2000 Stewart set off on foot across a 6,000-mile stretch of Asia, covering the countries of Nepal, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. When asked by a Publishers Weekly contributor about his motivation for such a dangerous undertaking, Stewart responded: "Every time I try to answer that question I come up with these complicated motivational statements about my family, or about the fact that I love walking, or the fact that I grew up in Asian cities and have always been very interested in villages. I think underlying all of this was a strong sense that this would be an adventure."
Stewart focused on his 2001-2002 travels through Afghanistan in The Places In Between. A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the book as a "remarkable text" and a "gripping account of a courageous journey, observed with a scholar's eye and a humanitarian's heart." Barney White-Spunner, writing for Asian Affairs, remarked: "I thoroughly recommend this most enjoyable account of one of the few parts of the world that can still claim to be unknown, or at least to have become so in the past twenty years. Stewart's style is very readable, being direct but with a nice humorous touch." A contributor to Publishers Weekly regarded the book as "by turns harrowing and meditative, … edifying at every step, grounded by his knowledge of local history, politics, and dialects." New Statesman reviewer Helena Drysdale wrote of The Places In Between as "an unsentimental and revealing portrait of a country that we have always admired and feared, but about which we know too little…. Stewart's terse prose is well suited to the pared-down deserts and mountain crests. It sometimes rattles like the gunfire that pursues him out of a village."
Following his momentous journey, Stewart took a short respite in his native Scotland, then traveled to Iraq where he was offered a position with the Coalition as deputy governor of the southern province of Maysan. Over an eleven-month span, Stewart worked with other Coalition diplomats and local political and religious leaders in an attempt to create a new government and provide basic services to civilians. He later wrote about the frustrations and dangers of his time in Iraq in his second book, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq. Michael Upchurch wrote in a Seattle Times review: "His spare, vivid, understated prose serves him brilliantly in conveying the complexities and conundrums that faced the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in the early days of the occupation of Iraq. And that makes The Prince of the Marshes something far better than the work of a standard-issue policy wonk." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "Engrossing and often darkly humorous, his book should be required reading for every political commentator." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews maintained that the book "will reward readers interested in the Iraq war, or disaster management, or anyone interested in taking an intelligent adventure."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian Affairs, November, 2004, Barney White-Spunner, review of The Places In Between, p. 411.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of The Places In Between, p. 224; June 15, 2006, review of The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, p. 627.
New Statesman, July 19, 2004, Helena Drysdale, review of The Places In Between, p. 52.
Publishers Weekly, February 13, 2006, review of The Places In Between, p. 72; May 22, 2006, review of The Prince of the Marshes, p. 44.
Seattle Times, August 2, 2006, Michael Upchurch, review of The Prince of the Marshes.
Rory Stewart Home Page,http://www.rorystewartbooks.com (November 14, 2006).