The other day I posted some comments on a novel by Steven Pressfield. I was halfway through the book at the time. Now I have finished it, and those initial impressions have been confirmed: The Afghan Campaign (2006) is a real masterpiece in the field of historical novel.
The story is narrated through the eyes of a soldier in Alexander the Great's army. We have a first-person account of his and his companions' vicissitudes, we hear soldiers' slang, we get an insight into their emotions during the campaign. The author's erudition is impressive, and it is used in a way that allows the narrative to be fluent and vivid. This is possibly the best thing than can be said about a historical novel!
What was it that pushed Alexander to venture his army into that unknown territory of the Afghans? Comparisons with more recent events are invevitable: the struggles of the British Empire in the 18th century, the Soviet occupation in the 1980's, the more recent conflicts of the Taliban era. There's some kind of fascination about those lands, and Pressfield certainly captures it in this wonderful novel.
Next stop, The Virtues of War (2004), about Alexander's campaign in India.