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The Lost Heart of Asia

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Mountains has been in a constant state of transition The Lost Heart of Asia takes readers into the very heart of this little visited yet increasingly important region delivering a rare and moving portrayal of a world in the midst of change. Three weeks and only 141 pages in through the end of Chapter 5 means I'm not enjoying this one so it's back to the library for now I haven't read travel writing before aside from tourist guides like the Lonely Planet when actually visiting a place which is not at all the same thing although they are shelved together in the library and perhaps given my impatience with travelogue fantasies it's unsurprising that I didn't much like this Thubron spends a lot time by himself viewing landscapes or ruins than I anticipated and the cast of local characters that he meets turns over very uickly He has a strange way of writing about people all of whom come across as mysteriously tragic He surmises personality from physiognomy and always seems surprised when the people he meets are unemotional about historical events that occurred long before their births He also has a vague atmospheric way of writing about history he is clearly impressed with the long and brutal history of Central Asia but names and dates and specifics tend to get lost and all that stuck in my head were the descriptions of torture which I could have done withoutThere are some interesting characters here and Thubron did have some exposure to the culture and write about it in an interesting way but it wasn't enough to keep me going through this rather slow moving and dense narrative

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Region Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of newly independent republics Central Asia containing the magical cities of Bukhara and Samarkand and terrain as diverse as the Kazakh steppes the Karakum desert and the Pamir. I was probably spoilt when I read this book Either I had read too many good books or too many bad ones Either way this one didn't stand out as worthwhile I thought it was an ok travel book Thubron travelled in Central Asia a couple of years after the end of the Soviet Union in the period of transition while the current regimes were still establishing themselves Before the reoccurrence of large scale fighting in Afghanistan and steady migration of ethnic Germans and Russians out of the region Among the Russians I felt was a successful book although probably far too dated now to interest many possibly because Thubron spoke some at least Russian and so in Central Asia is dealing with people through the old colonial language Perhaps also because most of the areas he saw in the former book were part of a single cultural continuum rather than as in this book the border regions of a handful of civilisations nestling against the grasslands and cities in fertile valleysCentral Asia is a diverse area and too remote from most English language readership to be anything other than lost I imagine Entertaining and readable although I didn't think it was particularly insightful my abiding memory is of Thubron comparing a group of kebab eaters cleaning their skewers by plunging them into the sand to Roman legionaries it is an example of how a travel book doesn't offer a lasting portrait of a region but a snapshot momentary and elusive

Colin Thubron Ù 6 Free read

A land of enormous proportions countless secrets and incredible history Central Asia the heart of the great Mongol empire of Tamerlane site of the legendary Silk Route and scene of Stalin's cruelest deportations is a remote and fascinating. Thubron travelled through Central Asia in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet empire Enabled by his knowledge of Russian he managed to do it largely without intermediaries so this trip is far beyond what one would expect of a grand tour of this huge region Yes there are visits to the touchstones the abandoned ruins of almost forgotten empires the unimaginable savagery of the Mongols the still worshipped tombs of Sufi saints Yes there is the obligatory tale of the vermin infested underground prison used by the sybaritic emirs of Bukhara and the two British officers who spent years in it before their execution Thubron recounts how Central Asia had played host to a strain of Islam that was inuisitive and intellectual it produced one of the Middle Age's great thinkers Avicenna and how it was crushed But what really sets Thubron apart is his affection for the people of these countries and how they adapted to the wrenching decades of Russian domination followed by the devastation of the Russian collapse This is still the nineties; the self satisfied oil and gas rich Russia of Putin has not yet appeared it is gripped by the chaos of Yeltsin Thubron listens not always the most notable talent of Westerners abroad even if it's to the guide who swindles him or the elderly widow who having lost a father and a husband to the Soviet terror still believes in Communism He engages everyone down to the shepherds who turn out to be some of the last speakers of Sogdian spoken by Xerxes Darius and Cyrus the Great one of whom says of that language without sadness that it belongs in the past Above all in this collection of countries and cultures so poorly understood in the West Thubron has a talent for getting women to talk to him whether it is the tough matron nostalgic for the Soviets or the resourceful daughter in law who supports the family or the Kazakh woman who dreams of being a conductor And in this inflation ravaged region there is always the dream of moving to Thubron's England or New York This isn't a book about dust and ruins or elites or about deluded comic foreigners I think Sascha Baron Cohen should be sentenced to memorizing it it is about the people who live there enduring and often failing but still struggling to create something new

  • Paperback
  • 384
  • The Lost Heart of Asia
  • Colin Thubron
  • English
  • 11 January 2019
  • 9780060926564

About the Author: Colin Thubron

Colin Thubron CBE FRSL is a Man Booker nominated British travel writer and novelistIn 2008 The Times ranked him 45th on their list of the 50 greatest postwar British writers He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books The Times The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times His books have been translated into than twenty languages Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007

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