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High Caucasus

A Mountain Quest in Russia’s Haunted Hinterland
  • Author
    • Tom Parfitt
Format
Regular price £25.00
Regular price Sale price £25.00
'A thrilling, profound masterpiece' Nicholas Crane, author of Clear Waters Rising

'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

A breath-taking memoir of Tom Parfitt's remarkable 1,000 mile walk through Russia's Caucasus region in search of solace and understanding after witnessing the Beslan school siege.

On 1 September 2004, Chechen and Ingush militants took more than a thousand people captive at a school in the Caucasus region of southern Russia. Working as a correspondent, Tom Parfitt witnessed the bloody climax in which 314 hostages died, more than half of them children. The experience left Tom emotionally shredded, struggling to find a way to return to his life in Moscow and put to rest the ghosts of the Beslan siege.

Having long been fascinated by the mountainous North Caucasus, Tom turned to his love of walking as a source of both recuperation and discovery. 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 his journey in Sochi on the Black Sea and walking the mountain ranges to Derbent, the ancient fortress city on the Caspian, Tom 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. Walking exerts a restorative power; it also provides a unique, ground-level view of a troubled yet exquisite corner of the world.

High Caucasus is a stunning memoir of confronting trauma through connection with history, people and place.
  • Published: Jul 20 2023
  • Pages: 352
  • 236 x 162mm
  • ISBN: 9781472294760

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Press Reviews

  • Sara Wheeler, author of Terra Incognita

    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.
  • Viv Groskop, author of The Anna Karenina Fix

    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
  • Shaun Walker, Guardian correspondent; author of The Long Hangover

    Tom Parfitt is the best kind of journalist - brave, empathetic and insightful, and with a beautiful writing style
  • Philip Marsden, author of The Summer Isles, The Spirit Wrestlers and The Crossing Place

    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
  • Luke Harding, author of Invasion

    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.
  • Charles King, author of The Ghost of Freedom

    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
  • Merlin Coverley, author of The Art of Wandering

    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
  • Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland

    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
  • Marc Bennetts, author of Kicking the Kremlin

    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
  • Paul Willetts, author of Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms

    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
  • Nicholas Crane, author of Clear Waters Rising

    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
  • Tristan Gooley, author The Natural Navigator

    A remarkable story of intense experience, thoughtfulness and feeling
  • Kapka Kassabova, author of Border

    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
  • Nick Hunt, author of Outlandish

    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.
  • Thomas de Waal, author of The Caucasus

    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
  • Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov’s Magic Lantern

    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
  • Redmond O’Hanlon, author of Into the Heart of Borneo

    A magnificent book and a perfect companion to Tolstoy's The Cossacks and Hadji Murat. A masterpiece
  • The Spectator
    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
  • Observer
    An extraordinary 1,000-mile trek across the mountainous southern Russian republics of the Caucasus uncovering a brutal history that resonates today
  • Times
    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
  • The Moscow 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 Financial Times
    A redemptive memoir-cum-travel book that explores personal and national memories in a region blighted by trauma
  • Andrew North

    Guardian
    A meditative journey through historical memory, landscape and culture
  • The Week
    High Caucasus is full of "magical moments" - and sheds light on a long "misunderstood" region
  • The Daily Mail
    One of the most harrowing, beautifully written and finest accounts of a mountain trek that I have ever read - an instant classic