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The Lost Heart of Asia [Paperback]

Colin Thubron
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 1995
This is a travel book on the newly emergent countries of central Asia, which contain the magical cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, the Kazakh Steppes, the deserts of Karakum and the Pamir Mountains. This is an enormous land, as big as Western Europe, secret, turned in on itself, heart of the Great Mongol Empire of Tamerlane, Route of Silk roads and scene of Stalin's cruellest deportations. Colin Thubron travelled by train, bus, car and foot throughout the former Moslem Republics, and this is the story of his encounters with their people, landscape and past. Central Asia, which since 1917 has been almost unknown, has become doubly important with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This book is a search into the region's fragmented identity and the crisis of the many once-dominant Russians who remain. Will central Asia fall prey to the Moslem fundamentalism of its neighbour, Iran, or revert to communism, or push into capitalism?

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The Lost Heart of Asia + Shadow of the Silk Road + Behind The Wall
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (6 July 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140246193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140246193
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,456,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

A distinguished travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron was named by the Times as one of the fifty greatest post-war writers. His books include Among the Russians, Behind the Wall, In Siberia and the New York Times bestseller Shadow of the Silk Road. He has won many awards.

Product Description

Review

"Thubron's journey takes him through a spectacular, talismanic geography of desert and mountain... a whole glittering, terrible and romantic history lies abandoned along with thoughts of more prosperous times... Thubon's grasp of this fantastical past is impeccable, and he weaves its mysteries with modern images into a dazzling embroidery" (The Times)

"Thubron writes with an originality and vividness that few contemporary authors can match" (Independent)

"Although the heroic age of travellers in Central Asia has gone for ever, this book will still deserve, for the intense beauty of its pose and the observant clarity of its visions, to stand alongside the best of those classic travel writings of the past" (Sunday Telegraph)

"This book is a masterpiece of travel writing... in plain English, it's a classic" (New Statesman) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'I would rather read Colin Thubron than any other travel writer alive on central Asia' - John Simpson, Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling.. poetic.. and honest 18 Aug 2006
By SWH
Format:Paperback
When I read this book I had to carry a pencil around with me to underline phrases and sentences, the odd turn of phrase. I never wanted it to end and I thought he was writing just for me, just to entertain me and to tell me a story. It comes across as intimate - the writing is so emotive and sentient.

To me, this is what travel writing, indeed writing, is all about.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Colin Thubron, I wish I was carrying your backpack for you on these journeys. Among the Russians made me laugh, this book made me drool! I have worked extensively in the Caspian region and you write what I live!For lovers of travel writing - buy this book!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Heart of Asia 27 Sep 2008
Format:Paperback
Colin Thubron explored the western Asian countries - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, and Kazakshtan, all of which were formally governed and administered by the Soviet Union.

He provides an outstanding account of people, history, religious activities, and culture of a vast region in line with history and politics. It is interesting to note how Stalin intimidated Arabic speaking people and Islamic worshippers. He didn't only interrogate or penalise his suspects and people who had made comments about him. The people were also banned to use their language at home and schools, and sing at mosques. After the collapse of Soviet Union, they gained freedom of expressions. However, the number of production of literature and music pieces in their language have not been rising. Mr Thubron reveals that masses of people have lost their jobs after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and they have been experiencing difficulties of obtaining everyday items, all of them have high prices. Ostensibly, there are loads of potential artists who are unable to buy stationery items.

Colin Thubron met several Muslim communities, and finds the reasons that they are one of the most strict and resilient communities in the world. They believe that all Muslim worshippers will be able to live on after their death if they have faithfully carried out their prayers five times a day.

The author discovers the fact of the countries which are not easy for everybody to visit. It is a very entertaining book and a good item while sitting in an armchair, and makes you feel that there is no need to visit those countries experiencing difficulties of inefficient transport, as well as dealing with complicated bureaucracies.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A voyage of discovery among the peoples and countries of the central Asian former Soviet republics. A revealing insight into historic but little known cultures and with amazing contrasts to Western ways of life and ideals. A poignant collection of encounters with residents who are torn between the formerly surpressed Islamic heritage and the legacy of their Soviet rule. Both informative and emotive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as good as "In Siberia" 25 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback
I agree with the reviewers stating that this book is very well written. As in «In Siberia» Thubron comes though as a very gifted writer in «The lost heart of Asia». Though the Lost heart of Asia is 80 pages longer than In Siberia, Thubron succeeds to go much more into depth and cover the region more thoroughly in «In Siberia» than in «The Lost Heart of Asia».

First «The lost Heart of Asia» is primarily a book about Uzbekistan (213 out of 367 pages) and Turkmenistan (50 pages). As long as a book about Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is what you search for, that is of course no problem. Be aware of this if you mainly are interested in reading about some other country in the region though. It is hardly fair to hold against a book the year of publishing, but also be aware that the book was published in 1994 and a lot has happened since then.

The manuscript for the rest of the region needs to be worked more on. The chapters about Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are simply weak (and short as if the writer know they are weak). The chapter on Kazakhstan has some great qualities but is not worked enough on to fulfill its full potential. The nuclear testing sites and the Soviet Nuclear program, the Gulags, the deported minorities and life in the mines, Bajkonur Kosmodrom and the Soviet Space program, the Aral sea, are some examples of topics that arguably need to be covered first hand in a travel book about Kazakhstan.

One can argue that the Aral sea is covered in the Uzbekistan chapter and that central Asia is more than Gulags and toxic waste. A problem though, is that the coverage of the Aral sea and the Karakalpakistan region is the weakest in the coverage of Uzbekistan (The Aral sea is covered excellent in «Chasing the Sea» by Tom Bissel though).
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read several of Colin Thubron's books now, and he has quite the most relentlessly negative view about everyone and everything he encounters. The people he meets are presented either as miserable and hopeless; if they don't actually say this they are made out to be deluded fantasists. If a building is old and ruined this represents decay and neglect, if it is new or restored this is a symbol of soulless stamping out of 'true' national identity. I travelled in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan recently myself, and came away with a very different impression of places and people. The writing is good, but my goodness if the was your only source of information you would not be inclined to go near any of the places he writes about.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fine
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Virginia L Holly
4.0 out of 5 stars A journal of soul-searching
This is quite a melancholy book. It principally deals with the identity crisis that the inhabitants of the former Soviet Asian states felt in the immediate aftermath of the break... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr Gordon Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
perfect
Published 2 months ago by NICHOLAS ANDREW COATES
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Glad to have my own copy!
Published 3 months ago by Elizabeth Stone
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has cured me of my desire to travel there and I can only...
This is so well written I am transported to those deserts on the silk Road. This book has cured me of my desire to travel there and I can only hope that life is better for its... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nareva
3.0 out of 5 stars central asia
Thi8s is the story of one mans journey through the 5 stans of central asia namely -Turkmenistan,Tajikistan,Uzbeckistan,Kazakhstan and Kirghizstanshortly after they became... Read more
Published 7 months ago by G.I.Forbes
2.0 out of 5 stars Slightly dated
Having just returned from Uzbekistan I found this book very dated and subsequently was not much use to someone visitng now. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sali
2.0 out of 5 stars A pitiful account of Central Asia
Having read Thubron's "The Lost heart of Asia" I am afraid I should not care to travel in the company of mr. Thubron. Read more
Published 15 months ago by D. Nichols
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights into Central Asia
Through 367 pages we follow Colin Thubrons journey by planes, trains and automobiles through the 5 stans of Central Asia. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jorn Berg (NO)
2.0 out of 5 stars No match to other travel books
The book is extremely informative, as you'd expect from a marathon stint around Central Asia's "-stan" countries. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2011 by gwaan
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