Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


Scholars' Library: Mark Abley on 'Strange Bewildering Time'

Scholars' Library: Mark Abley on 'Strange Bewildering Time'

19 July 2023

17:00 - 18:00 (GMT+01:00)

Online Platform


Join Mark Abley (Saskatchewan & St John's 1975) for a conversation on his book: Strange Bewildering Time'

Part of the Lifelong Fellowship portfolio, The Scholars’ Library is a monthly book talk series, where Rhodes alumni can come together to present, discover and debate their literary works. If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out to Georgie Thurston at

For our July event, we are pleased to invite you to take part in a conversation with Mark Abley Yancy (Saskatchewan & St John's 1975) on his book Strange Bewildering Time. Moderated by a fellow scholar, Mark will speak about his physical journey, his journey of writing the book, as well as the impact of the Hippie Trail and the learnings we can take from it today — amongst other topics.

A poet and journalist looks back on a remarkable journey from Turkey to Nepal in 1978, when the region was on the brink of massive transformation.

In the spring of 1978, at age twenty-two, Mark Abley put aside his studies at Oxford and set off with a friend on a three-month trek across the celebrated Hippie Trail — a sprawling route between Europe and South Asia, peppered with Western bohemians and vagabonds. It was a time when the Shah of Iran still reigned supreme, Afghanistan lay at peace, and city streets from Turkey to India teemed with unrest. Within a year, many of the places he visited would become inaccessible to foreign travellers.

Drawing from the tattered notebooks he filled as a youthful wanderer, Abley brings his kaleidoscope of experiences back to life with vivid detail: dancing in a Turkish disco, clambering across a glacier in Kashmir, travelling by train among Baluchi tribesmen who smuggled kitchen appliances over international borders. He also reflects on the impact of the Hippie Trail and the illusions of those who journeyed along it. The lively immediacy of Abley’s journals combined with the measured wisdom of his mature, contemporary voice provides rich insight, bringing vibrant witness and historical perspective to this beautifully written portrait of a region during a time of irrevocable change.

You can obtain a copy of Strange Bewildering Time here

Mark Abley (Saskatchewan & St John's 1975) is a nonfiction writer, poet, and journalist. His many books include The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind, a memoir of his father; Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages and The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English, among other books on language; Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott, an unconventional look at Canada’s past; and several poetry collections and children’s books. His work has won international praise and has been translated into five languages. He lives in Montreal.

There is no cost to attend this event, and we hope that all will join us! If you would like to support The Rhodes Trust, please consider giving time through volunteering, or giving a gift to the Scholars Fund. A generous Scholar Alum is providing a matching fund of up to $200,000 USD, and Scholars making their first gift, or their first gift since 2016, will be matched 1:1. If you are interested in our volunteering opportunities, they can be found on our website.

ALT TEXT: A light blue background within which says 'Scholars' Library series' in a bolder, darker blue. There is the Rhodes 'R' and inside of that there is a shelf of books of various colours.


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