Mark’s newest book, Strange Bewildering Time: Istanbul to Kathmandu in the Last Year of the Hippie Trail, was published by House of Anansi Press in February 2023.
The book has its origin in a three-month journey that Mark made with a friend in the spring of 1978. The Shah of Iran was still on his throne; Afghanistan was still at peace; Himalayan glaciers had not yet begun to melt. An eastward trek from Istanbul — a rite of passage for many young people in Mark’s generation — would become one of the most significant and transformative times of his life.
Decades later, Mark reread the three red notebooks he’d bought at a newsagent in Oxford, notebooks that were filled with 120 pages of single-spaced writing. In those days his handwriting was legible. The multitude of details in the notebooks are what enabled this book to be written.
But as well as recreating the past as vividly as he could, Mark also decided to reflect on the impact of the ‘hippie trail’ and the illusions of the vagabond idealists from Europe, North America and Australasia who made the Asian journey. The result is a literary travel book that explores not only a place but also a time.
“We can change the world,” Graham Nash told a generation in his song “Chicago.” Could we? Did we? Did we fail abysmally? Or was Nash wrong to imagine that we could?