Raymond Fiore
April 16, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Macintyre recounts the true story of Josiah Harlan, famously fictionalized by Rudyard Kipling (later adapted in 1975’s The Man Who Would Be King with Sean Connery). In 1822, he fled his Quaker Pennsylvania roots for an intrepid journey through China, India, Russia, and most notably, Afghanistan. Though Harlan’s Americanness informed his obsession with wandering and conquering, his inspiration ”in pursuit of novelty and adventure” was Macedonian — as in Alexander the Great, whose Far East exploits he fetishized. Macintyre unearths a trove of unseen documents (like Harlan’s mawkish love poetry and a Persian manuscript declaring him Prince of Ghor) and imparts a tactile understanding of Afghanistan’s cultural impulses.

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