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The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan Paperback – May 4, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 340 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

A broken heart can lead men astray, but few have wandered as far off course as Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker. In 1822, after sailing to Calcutta on a merchant ship, he learned that his fiancée in America had married another man. He set out on a journey that ultimately brought him to Afghanistan, with the mad hope of carving out a kingdom for himself. Amazingly, he halfway succeeded. Trading on little more than a flair for diplomatic pomp, Harlan became a confidant of Afghan princes and a player in the Great Game between Russia and Britain. Macintyre recounts Harlan's travels with dispatch, and draws on unpublished journals to let his subject's voice seep through. Harlan was relentless in cataloguing his obsessions, which included camels, alchemy, and fresh fruit; the first American to visit Kabul, he wrote memorably about the sherbet sold in the bazaar there, made with snow carried by donkey from the Hindu Kush.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Review

“One of the most remarkable discoveries in the history of biography . . . It is a far more adventurous tale than the one invented by Kipling: its twists and tensions and dangerous escapades make it more like a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson or John Buchan or Rider Haggard . . . It's a 'ripping yarn' as we used to say, and Macintyre is an excellent narrator, describing with skill a spirited and fast-moving life.” ―David Gilmour, The New York Review of Books

“Macintyre unearths a trove of unseen documents...and imparts a tactile understanding of Afghanistan's cultural impulses. B+.” ―Raymond Fiore, Entertainment Weekly

“Macintyre has been able to piece together this never-before-told story by a great archival find...[He] also tells with unflagging élan...There is so much tragedy, cruelty, and general badness afoot in this book that I wonder how to explain how really funny it is. But it is.” ―Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Globe

“Macintyre's riveting, scrupulously researched book [on Josiah Harlan] should place this remarkable man where he rightfully belongs.” ―Alexander Frater, The New York Times Book Review


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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First edition (May 4, 2005)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0374529574
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0374529574
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 15.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.84 x 8.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 340 ratings

About the author

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Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of his work.

(Photo Credit: Justine Stoddart)

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
340 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

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Roy New
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly excellent read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 30, 2017
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mark lees
5.0 out of 5 stars Value
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syd peru
4.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Would Be King
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 7, 2013
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raffals
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 1, 2016
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libba
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 18, 2016
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