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on 30 May 2012
The Buddhas of Bamiyan is a beautifully written, heartfelt eulogy to these astonishing monuments. Carved into an Afghan cliff face 1400 years ago, the Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Morgan's book tells their story and, through it, the messy, complicated story of Afghanistan. He takes the reader from the peaceful seventh century Buddhist kingdom of Bamiyan to the confusion and fear of the modern, war torn country.
Morgan has a clear, accessible style. His extensive and detailed research is obvious as the book contains new material and previously unpublished photgraphs.
Nobody will ever see these monuments again, but this book is undoubtedly the next best thing. Morgan has recaptured what he could of the essence, history and atmosphere of the Buddhas of Bamiyan and by doing so he has given them a meaning and significance that will hopefully outlast their Taliban destroyers.
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on 30 May 2012
Resisting the temptation to entitle this review "I can't believe it's not Buddha", I have to confess that I didn't come to this book as a historian, a student of Buddhism or someone with a particular interest in the present-day situation in Afghanistan, but, rather, as a listener intrigued by a recent item on Radio 4's `Today' programme on this now destroyed wonder of the world. Llewellyn Morgan's enthusiasm, his desire to entertain as well as instruct, was as evident in the radio interview as it is throughout his book.

A photograph of a VW Beetle parked between the larger Western Buddha's feet gives an indication of the huge size of the monuments and the same early pages hint at the huge scope of Dr Morgan's task as he traces the "periodic spasms of celebrity" enjoyed by the Buddhas, from their construction to the "deep paradox" of their destruction and the possible future of other, surviving treasures. It is a task well suited to both his scholarship and his ability to guide readers through the maze of original and often conflicting sources chosen from writers far removed from each other in time and intention, ranging from Xuanzang in the seventh century to Mullah Omar in the twenty-first.

If ever the sheer diversity of evidence threatens to dispirit the non-specialist reader, it is well worth allowing a little time for its assimilation, for cultural and political insights abound: from the fact that Afghanistan has arguably never fully recovered from the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century to the origin of the European fashion for cashmere shawls in the nineteenth as the country came to exert a powerful mystique over Westerners.

It was the size of the Buddhas that ensured they were destroyed "so that no one can worship or respect them in the future". Thanks to this book our respect for, and understanding of, them and the culture that produced them can only have increased. Dr Morgan hesitates to describe one particular nineteenth-century academic as having "an authentically academic talent for rendering an inherently exciting narrative dull" for fear of its being a hostage to fortune. He need not have worried: there is no ransom to be paid in this case. Far better to spend the money on this gem of a book.
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on 6 February 2014
A clear and detailed review of these amazing sculptures, and their location. Morgan has manipulated a very wide range of sources on a highly complex subject, to produce an excellent primer, not just to the statues, but their context in time and space.
The illustrations are intriguing, the bibliography is thorough enough for one to easily lose a couple of years following the threads. His emotional connection to the region and the country is apparent, without overwhelming the story. He covers a lot of ground, one could easily get distracted given the richness of his subject, but he is disciplined, informative and interesting. One can only hope that the security situation in Afghanistan over the next few years permits him to follow up his studies in this area. He's done a great job so far. Highly recommended.
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on 17 June 2012
If you work in Afghanistan or intend to visit - or you are just interested -this is a fabulous book that explains one of Afghanistans must famous places

Morgan gives us a glimpse into a fascinating past and describes the setting and context of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in a way that pulls the reader on and into the depths of history

Whilst Morgan descrbes an ancient story he brings it right up to date opening with the tragic destruction of the Buddhas and some keen insight into why some elements of Afghan society come to have such poor regard for the ancient history of their country -

The reader will be constantly surprised by this concise book - one for the Christmas stocking of anyone interested in Afghanistan beyond the clatter of machine gun fire
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on 4 October 2012
This is an intriguing and beautifully written book which looks at the history and religion of Afghanistan over the last 1500-odd years. I bought it on impulse, and have been delighted with my choice, as the breadth of the book's scope takes the reader on a journey through both landscape and time. Definitely to be recommended!
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on 8 November 2013
Even if you know the ending - the Buddhas were blown up - this is still a fascinating study of them and the culture that produced them.
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on 20 March 2013
If you want to know about the giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Talibans and the historical context this is ok. Don't expect, however, art historical, archaeological or historical expertise in the book.
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