Jun 1, 2015

Foreign Authors for Vietnamese: The Lost Heart of Asia

Original Title in English
By Author: Colin Thubron
Publishers: Perennial, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers (1995, reprint 1995)
ISBN: 0060926562
My ref: ATA-331

About the Book: A journey into a little-know world on the brink of change, a window onto its peoples and their cultures - covered in depth by an extraordinary writer.

In this revealing work, award-winning writer Colin Thubron travels by train, bus, car and foot through Central Asia's five republics, three of which border Afghanistan: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of these independent republics, Central Asia has been in a constant state of transition. In some countries, Muslim parties coexist uneasily with former Communist leaders who encourage capitalist investment. In others, secular Western culture is making inroads where religious tradition remains deeply rooted. 

The Lost Hear of Asia takes readers into the very heart of this region that has become the center of world attention since the events of September 11, 2001.

Authors Note: This journey was undertaken during the first spring and summer of Central Asia's independence from Moscow. A brief visit the year before yielded some valued friends.; but in the shadow of political uncertainty the identify of several people recorded here has been disguised.

Years earlier I had travelled in the nearer Moslem world, then the European Soviet Union (for which I learnt a halting Russian) and eventually China. Central Asia supplied the final, most elusive piece of this personal jigsaw.

Book Review:

West of China, south of Russia, hemmed in by mountains, steppe, and desert, lie the five Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Cut loose from Moscow in the early '90s, the five "Stans" (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) discover that their newly found freedom plays tug-o-war with despair and a nostalgia for the certainties of the Soviet past. It's during this time that author Colin Thubron travels the width of central Asia, asking questions about the past, present, and future. Not content to simply bounce from place to place, Thubron travels from person to person, uncovering their many vibrant stories and developing a deep understanding of the area's lesser-known history. Kyrgyz and Uzbeks debate the place of Islam. Koreans and Germans, descendants from forced migrants, wonder if they know enough of their ethnic tongue to return to their homelands. Russians find themselves left behind, disbelieving, as the tide of Russian power recedes toward Moscow.

Central Asia was mostly off limits to foreigners during the Soviet years, and while officials are still uncertain about how to deal with a backpack-wearing solo traveler, the locals Thubron meets are not. Thubron finds the heart of Asia in the hearts of its people, swimming in a sea of tea, vodka, and hospitality. From the oldest-known Quran to a deserted Soviet naval base on the shores of a high mountain lake 1,500 miles from the ocean (used to test torpedoes far from spying eyes), Thubron's writing echoes the melancholy emptiness of the wide spaces he passes through. The Lost Heart of Asia is a rare meeting of a marvelous writer and a mysterious land. --Ken Peavler --

This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


  1. Turkmenistan
  2. The Desert of Merv
  3. Bukhara
  4. Lost Identities
  5. The Khorezmian Solitude
  6. Samarkand
  7. To the White Palace
  8. Tashkent
  9. Into the Valley
  10. The High Pamirs
  11. Steppelands
  12. The Mountains of Heaven

Other books from same author:
  • The God in the Mountain
  • Emperor
  • A Cruel Madness
  • Falling
  • Turning Back the Sun
  • Mirror to Damascus
  • The Hills of Adonis
  • Jerusalem
  • Journey into Cyprus
  • Where Nights are Longest
  • Behind the Wall

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