The Friend. Navid Kermani on Daniel Schwartz and Their Walk in the Hindu Kush That Didn’t Happen

The January 19, 2019 issue of Das Magazin (No 3) features a cover story by Daniel Schwartz about his journey to look for and photograph the melting glaciers of Mir Samir in Afghanistan.

Read an excerpt in English below and click here to view the full publication.


One amusing work of travel literature that scarcely anyone in the German-speaking world has read is Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. Published in 1958, it describes the attempt of two English eccentrics – one of them the then 24-year-old Newby – to climb a twenty-thousand-foot peak in Afghanistan. Neither has any experience of mountaineering and their adventure, predictably, ends in fiasco. Which matters not one jot, at least not as far as the quality of the writing is concerned, so glorious are Newby’s descriptions of the country and its people, so dryly self-deprecating his account of his own exploits.
When Swiss photographer Daniel Schwartz approached me last spring and suggested that he and his friend the famous German writer and Orientalist Navid Kermani repeat Newby’s ‘walk’, I therefore agreed without hesitation. Both men are seasoned travellers and were concerned less with Newby’s affectation of dandyism than with documenting how the glaciers in this dangerous corner of the world are in retreat. Schwartz was to take photographs while Kermani, who speaks Farsi, engaged the locals in conversation. But then Kermani had to pull out at the last minute so that Schwartz set off without him, camera in hand. Back home in Cologne, Kermani did what he does best, as anyone who has read his magisterial novel Dein Name will confirm: he continued writing up his life, recording his experiences one day at a time. And of course he reflected on the trip he had had to cancel, his friendship with Daniel, his worries as a father. For this issue, therefore, we have brought together two very different bodies of work, which to our mind complement each other perfectly.

— Finn Canonica, Editor-in-Chief, Das Magazin, Zürich


The idea was for Swiss photographer Daniel Schwartz and German author Navid Kermani to take a walk in the Hindu Kush for Das Magazin. But when Kermani had to pull out at the last minute, Schwartz set off alone to photograph the melting glaciers. Kermani’s text is not, therefore, a travelogue, but rather a written record of a year spent at home in Cologne – his musings on the trip he never took, an illness in the family, the never-ending heat wave of the summer of 2018, and much more besides. By no means least, it is a touching portrait of Daniel Schwartz, the friend he had to send off into the world without him.

(Followed by extracts from Navid Kermani’s journal)