Indian writer Taran Khan on Friday won the 2021 Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year prize for her debut novel Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul.

The award, given in association with the Authors’ Club, is one of the two prizes under the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. It is named after Edward Stanford who published the Stanford’s Guides travel guide-books, and is sponsored by Stanfords, a travel books and map store established in England in 1901.

Shadow City takes the reader on a journey through the streets of Kabul as Khan walks around the city and uncovers a place quite different from the one she anticipated. She tells many stories, some about 3,000 years old ruins and poems, others from as recent as 2013 about beauty salons, Parisian-themed wedding halls, and the lives of Afghan filmmakers.

Read an excerpt of ‘Shadow City’ here

Khan’s Shadow City was among eight entries shortlisted for the prize. This included The Border by Erika Fatland, Without Ever Reaching The Summit by Paolo Cognetti, Wanderland by Jini Reddy, Travelling While Black by Nanjala Nyabola, The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts, Along the Amber Route by CJ Schuler and Owls of the Eastern Ice by Jonathan Slaght.

Lucy Popescu, chair of the Authors’ Club, called Khan’s work a “profound, beautifully written meditation on an ever-changing city, scarred by war, its people ever hopeful of a better future”. “Taran transports us to Kabul,” Popescu added. “It moved me to tears.”

Julia Wheeler, chair of the Stanford Dolman judges, said, “We enjoyed the weaving of Khan’s personal and family story with her observations and clear affection for the city. That Khan’s journeys were made over several years allows the myriad faces of Kabul to emerge and her interactions with individuals create meaningful and memorable pictures for the reader.”

The Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year is one of the two principal annual travel book awards in Britain, and the only one that is open to all writers. The other award is the British Guild of Travel Writers, but it is limited to authors who are members of the Guild.

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