As the centrepiece, the portrait of the two young women constitutes a core surrounded by connected landscapes, monuments, objects and decorative motifs representative of Middle Eastern architecture. The Cruel Way, written by Ella Maillart a few years later, recounts the eventful journey of the two adventuresses, providing a meticulous description that Bauer’s drawing echoes.
Without trying to recreate a complete narrative, the artist appropriates fragments of an exploration that he did not experience, but that nevertheless seems familiar to him. With lines that are sometimes softened, sometimes darkened, Bauer recycles these memories, adding a few pencil-written words to some of them, as he often does. Thus he revives the ambient atmosphere of this escape towards the unknown, between uncertainties and discoveries.
Consistent with his penchant for difficult, even tragic episodes of the past, and despite the distance in time, he succeeds in reflecting the adventure’s threatening moments, the ravages of history and scenes of devastation.
In a subtle balance, thin, straight lines drawn in colored pencil liven up part of the images, continuing all the way to the edges of the pages, like a framework shared by history, travel and drawing. From the worn carpet to the large Buddha of Bamiyan, represented before and after its destruction, Bauer skillfully translates – not without liberty – the sense of wonder, but also the obstacles and suffering of two protagonists who have become true national figures, and whose poignant story is still among the most inspiring.