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Out of Steppe Paperback – 4 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099524996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099524991
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Daniel Metcalfe journeys through the five 'stans, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, and brings to life the human tapestry they comprise
-Sunday Tribune

This book's idea is timely: a quest for six ethnic communities that, after surviving the depredations of Sovietism, are now, as Central Asia modernises, disappearing ... [Metcalfe's] book has many virtues, the greatest of which are courage and a keen eye for detail, plus an ability to convey the essence of a place through the briefest of anecdotes

This is a book of great warmth and immense scholarship, in the best tradition of travel writing. It opens up a region about which most of us are vague. It is fascinating reading
-Irish Times

This is an important book: a first-hand account from an adventurous traveller who has dared to explore the fulcrum of Asian geopolitics. Read this and you will understand why we need to care about Central Asia. Metcalfe has reminded us of why travel-writing matters
-Nicholas Crane, author of Clear Waters Rising

Enterprising and finely written ... Metcalfe can justly be compared with British adventurers such as Robert Byron -Economist

Fresh, witty and full of quirky detail…the book is also a serious, sometimes moving account of environmental degradation, political repression and social isolation -Financial Times

Book Description

Exploring his life-long fascination with the Silk Road, Daniel Metcalfe travels alone through remote regions of Central Asia in search of some of its lost peoples.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By CA ALEXANDER on 16 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Daniel writes with sparkle, wit, pace and insight and as such the book is an agreeable read that avoids the usual hook followed by travel writers in Central Asia, of following the Silk Road. Instead Daniel chooses to visit less travelled places, to discover some of the lesser-known peoples of the region. He speaks some Farsi and Russian, which help him in his travels, and has clearly researched his subject well.
All this makes for a great read in terms of Daniel's travels, but left me a little disappointed with his actual destinations. His interaction with these minority people's is fleeting and superficial at best, given that this is a road trip and one where there is little time to understand much more than a sound-byte from each region. As such, stereotyping creeps in. When Daniel visits the ground floor of the Nukus museum in Karakalpakstan, his focus is on the moth-eaten taxidermy - all that remains of the region's once-flourishing wildlife. It's all part of a picture he builds of ecological disaster, grimness and depression. And yet, the first-floor of the museum contains one of the largest and most extensive collections of Avant Garde art in the former Soviet Union in a place where the arts flourished, far from Moscow's censorious gaze. Daniel doesn't make it to the first floor or to the most successful private secondary school in the whole country, which is also in Nukus.
I found myself wanting to know more about the year or so Daniel spent in Tehran, learning Farsi and interacting with local students, than his whistle-stop tour of -stans. He's a great writer and I hope that future books will be less about the journey and more about the destination.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Moya Nolan on 13 April 2010
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a truly fascinating book about people, cultures and landscapes you rarely hear of, telling the good and the bad and the horrible in equal measure
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D Marley on 23 Sep 2010
Format: Paperback
Daniel Metcalfe has clearly steeped himself in the works of earlier generations of British writers on the wildly romantic realm of Central Asia - Robert Byron at the outset, Colin Thubron and Geoffrey Moorhouse in the middle years, and Jason Elliot and Rory Stewart in more recent times. Unfortunately he doesn't quite live up to their standards, as either a writer or a traveller.

Out of Steppe is by no means a bad book; it just isn't very original or very striking. It was received with a remarkable amount of praise on publication, but what is most notable about it is that in an era when the health of the travel literature genre is decidedly parlous, here is a book that feels decidedly like a publishing throwback.
A well-educated (and presumably well-funded) young man sets out on a series of fairly aimless and indulgent travels, and subsequently invents a theme for them and writes a very effective but less than dazzling book on the subject: this is how travel writing worked for decades, right up until the 1990s. But these days proposals and manuscripts of this kind usually go straight into the slush pile. Somewhere between the Bill Brysons and the interminable years in Provence, Tuscany and Spain commissioning editors decided that there was no longer a market for this kind of thing. It's remarkable that Metcalfe got his book published at all.

His written style is perfectly proficient, and his descriptions of place and atmosphere are very effective - though there is rarely much in the way of true sparkle of flair. His "project" - to visit and tell the tales of "the lost peoples of Central Asia" - however, is at best an exercise in barrel scraping, and at worst outright disingenuous.
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By Tina McGeorge on 9 May 2014
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A fascinating travel book. I was amazed by the erudition, and entertained by the author's humour (reflected in the title's pun) A book that deserves the praise it was given. I recommend it unreservedly!
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