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The Road To Oxiana Paperback – 3 Jun 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 Jun 2004
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New edition edition (3 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844134229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844134229
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 297,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A brilliantly-wrought expression of a thoroughly modern sensibility, a portrait of an accidental man adrift between frontiers." -- Jonathan Raban

Book Description

'A brilliantly-wrought expression of a thoroughly modern sensibility, a portrait of an accidental man adrift between frontiers.' Jonathan Raban, New York Review of Books'What Ulysses is to the novel between the wars and what The Waste Land is to poetry, The Road to Oxiana is to the travel book.' Paul Fussell, Abroad

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
The Road to Oxiana is more than a travel diary, indeed it isn't really a diary at all although it reads like one, as Byron actually took several years to produce something that appears to have been written at the time. This is one of the all time classic travel books. Like Patrick Leigh Fermors' A Time of Gifts, also about a journey undertaken in 1933, this is a book by a young man who was experiencing the world at a momentous period between the two wars. Byron was 28, Fermor was even younger at just 19 and the age difference has lead to a more polished and certainly more readable style.
His humour and infectious enthusiasm for the countries he travels through and the people he meets starts with an apparent disaster with the non-arrival in Beirut of the experimental, and somewhat surreal, charcoal powered Rolls Royce that he had intended to travel in with his long suffering companion Christopher Sykes. We then continue on the road in a series of unpredictable and often ramshackle vehicles and an equal collection of unpredictable and ramshackle horses and ponies whilst continually dodging the Persian secret police who were desperate to find out what on Earth these men were doing.
Not for nothing is the book called the Road to Oxiana, as the River Oxus, which is ostensibly the destination, only gets a brief mention at the very end although I won't spoil the story by saying how. No, this is a book of a journey and the care and time that Byron took over his choice of words draws the reader into the extraordinary life of Iran at the peak of the Peacock throne, from unbelievable wealth to grinding poverty.
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Format: Paperback
Byron travelled through what was Persia and Afghanistan, between the wars, when apparently nobody from England stayed at home.
The depth and wit of Byron's writing is marvellous. He very efficiently balances a travelogue interwoven with his own observations and opinions. Most of the architectural descriptions are stunning and leave you envious. His cultural observations and some of the more ridiculous encounters he had with the locals had me laughing out loud. Based upon the current world situation if you really want to know something about the region I urge you to read this book.
It's a shame his life was cut short. I can only assume any further books he could have written would have at least equalled this one.
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Format: Paperback
Byron's style of writing is perhaps exactly what you would expect of someone of his class and background writing in the 1930's but that is not to say it is not a pleasure to read this account of his extensive travels in the the Middle East. His occasional digressions into detailed architectural descriptions are perhaps not to everyone's taste (it is at times difficult to envisage the no doubt magnificent buildings he describes) but these are far outweighed by Byron's amusing accounts of other travellers, the local and colonial officials, Marjoribanks, perilous car journeys in torrential rains and the history of the countries he travels to and through. Well done Pimlico for keeping this in print.
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Format: Paperback
I found it a bit difficult to get into "The Road to Oxiana" to begin with, despite a deep fascination with all things Persian, Afghan and Central Asian. I concluded, after a couple of false starts, that it was simply because I am not used to reading travel books, because once I got past the first few pages I found it hard to put down.
Byron was extremely witty and his observations acute. Considering he was travelling in the area in 1933-4, it is fascinating to read his opinions on Hitler, the situation in Bolshevik Russia, and European opinions. At times his descriptions of life in the Middle East are startlingly contemporary - clearly not much has changed in the last 70 years.
I laughed out loud at his habit of calling the Shah "Marjoribanks", because it was safer not to refer to him by name; and his description of his ill-fated visit to the toilet when in the grip of dysentry was hilarious (believe it or not).
"The Road to Oxiana" is a great book. Persevere through the first 10-15 pages and your patience will be rewarded.
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Format: Paperback
Byron captures a particular type of traveller at a very particular time. This book is at once witty, eccentric and learned. It reads like a diary, with the throw away lines that you or I would insert for our own amusement sitting perfectly by the frustrations of uncomfortable journeys and frustrated plans in a very foreign place, along with intellectual discussions surrounding Persian architecture and its place as an equal alongside the great European masterpieces. The author, however, saves his most poisonous (and therefore hilarious) barbs for the ridiculously pompous and arrogant Europeans whom he comes across, in particular the rude and self-important Herzfeld, the archeologist chosen by the University of Chicago to excavate Persepolis, who treats this marvel of the ancient world as his own private preserve.
The story goes that Byron wrote this "diary" on his return, re-jigging events and dialogues with the luxury of time in the comfort of England. This would explain the book's sharp wit and canny construction. Recently, however, I heard that his diaries from the trip had been unearthed, revealing that everything in the book is taken verbatim from his diaries, only with some editorial pruning after the event rather than rewriting everything de-novo. Whilst altering the myth, this in my eyes makes his achievement even more remarkable, making his stories even more entertaining with the certainty of their verity.
A great book. I never thought I would want to visit Iran, but this book has changed that.
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