To Live Or To Perish Forever

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A gritty, lively, and revelatory look inside the crucial and volatile nation of Pakistan

In To Live or to Perish Forever, Nicholas Schmidle takes readers to Pakistan’s rioting streets, to Taliban camps in the North-West Frontier Province, and on many surprising adventures as he provides a contemporary history of this country long riven by internal conflict. With the intimacy and good humor available only to the most fearless and open-eyed reporters, Schmidle narrates what was arguably the most turbulent period of Pakistan’s recent history, a time when President Pervez Musharraf lost his power and the Taliban found theirs, and when Americans began to realize that Pakistan’s fate is inextricably linked with our own.

In February 2006 Schmidle had traveled to Pakistan hoping to learn about the place dubbed “the most dangerous country in the world.” It was while there that he befriended a radical cleric (who became an enemy of the state and was killed), came to crave the smell of tear gas (because it assured him that he was sufficiently close to the action), and in the end, was deported by the Pakistani authorities, managed to get back into the country, and was chased out a second time.


“Schmidle offers a gripping, grim account of his two years as a journalism fellow in Pakistan, where his travels took him into the most isolated and unfriendly provinces, and into the thick of interests and beliefs that impede that nation’s peace and progress…. Schmidle has, with this effort, established himself as a fresh, eloquent and informed contributor to the ongoing dialogue regarding Pakistan, terrorism and the strategic importance of engaging Central Asia in efforts toward peace and stability.”Publishers Weekly

“A fascinating account of [Schmidle’s] years in Pakistan…. The story of two Pakistans the author discovered: one beautiful and friendly, the other frightening and deadly.”Booklist

“Nicholas Schmidle's portrait of Pakistan is worth more than a whole stack of intelligence reports. From remote Swat to teeming Karachi, he humanizes this labyrinthine country—where real danger has grown while the world focused elsewhere. Schmidle's blend of history and travelogue is by turns poignant and terrifying, but always relevant, always engaging, and more urgent now than ever."—Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away

To Live or to Perish Forever is foreign correspondence of the very best kind – the account of a natural traveler who has the language skills, temerity, and eyesight to arrive where outsiders rarely go and then to report revealingly on what he sees and hears. This is a personal, informative, empathetic, surprising, and entertaining book that illuminates Pakistan, a country of vital interest to the wider world.”—Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

"Nicholas Schmidle's To Live or to Perish Forever is the perfect primer on post-9/11 Pakistan. Poetically and also sensibly written, the book captures from up close the seminal events of Pakistan's recent history, including the Red Mosque siege and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. From depicting disenfranchised Baluchis to shady ISI officers, Schmidle humanizes what has become the world's most dangerous country - and epicenter of the new Great Game."—Parag Khanna, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation, author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order

“A riveting read by an intrepid reporter in one of the world’s most dangerous countries. Nicholas Schmidle has written a must-read book to understand turbulent but pivotal Pakistan. He crosses paths with extremists, witnesses flashpoints that transformed regional politics and, most important, makes sense of the complex challenges in south Asia. A marvelous piece of work.”—Robin Wright, author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East

On September 10, The New York Review of Books reviews the book and says, ""Like a good film director [Schmidle] presents extraordinary pictures of political mayhem and violence interspersed with dialogue, solid character actors, and tightly focused close-ups of bad guys."

On July 17, The New York Times listed the book as an "Editor's Choice." 

On July 10, The New York Times described the book as “richly reported…Brave enough to seek out some of the country’s toughest jihadis despite the grave dangers facing American reporters in Pakistan, Schmidle has amassed a treasure trove of stories."

On July 9, The Economist reviewed the book and commented on Nicholas' "intrepid journeys into the urban tumult of Karachi, the inner sanctums of extremist mosques and the tribal areas."

On June 29, The Globe and Mail wrote that the book, "offers genuine insight into the travails of a nation ravaged by violence and political instability…. [A] gripping and readable contribution to understanding the embattled landscape of Pakistan."

On June 8, Five Rupees reviewed the book and said that Nicholas "traveled to places that, forget journalists, the friggin' Pakistani military doesn't have the balls to go," and described him as "basically an anthropologist masquerading as a journalist." 

On June 1, Barnes & Noble reviewed the book and wrote that "much of the beauty of [Nicholas's] reportage comes from the fresh eye he brings to the flabbergasting array of forces contending for ascendancy." 

On May 10, the New York Post reviewed To Live or to Perish Forever and called it "a crucial policy textbook disguised as a page-turner travel memoir.