Thursday, May 16, 2013


"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between 

“A more delightful country could not be imagined.” That bold statement occurs near the beginning of an article by Christopher Rand, “A Reporter at Large,” in the December 11, 1954 issue of The New Yorker. “Not only beauty but civility is here.”

Unfortunately, Rand laments, “America seems immune to Afghanistanism.”

While the States as whole seemed to be indifferent to the charms of that Asian country, a few Americans were thriving there. For example, a “plucky” American home economist
sometimes stops in at the palace to give the King's sisters-in-law a course in the planning of cold buffets for royal entertaining.
And other American women in the capital of Kabul,
single and married, go out whenever they can and do as much entertaining as their budgets will allow. Some of them ride, some play tennis, and some picnic on Sundays if they can wrangle transport; in their kitchens they supervise the creation of aspics, salads, and casseroles that would have astonished Alexander or Tamerlane.
The Americans in Afghanistan, Rand notes at the conclusion of his report
are newcomers on an ancient stage, and at the moment they seem to be rather tentative newcomers, awaiting a cue. One would like to ask the prompter what the cue will be—what drama is about to unfold—but this would no doubt be a fruitless inquiry. Wait and see, the answer will surely be. Wait and see.
Speculating about the future, Rand tells us, is “a fruitless inquiry” about the land he describes in the opening paragraph as “a large Central Asian oasis in the best manner, with delicious fruit.”

He left out one good bit of advice: "Don't bite into the apple."