Posted by: biblioglobal | March 29, 2018

Uzbekistan: The Railway (Book-from-every-country #117)

For most of the book, I thought of The Railway by Hamid Ismailov as one of those books that is clearly written for a local audience and isn’t trying to cater to outsiders’ understanding. In other words, I found it confusing and blamed my confusion on my own ignorance. That’s definitely part of it. Clearly the publisher recognized the English speaking readers were likely to need some assistance, since the book comes with just about every possible aid to readers- a map, a family tree, a preface, an eight page long list of characters, and copious footnotes. The only thing missing was a glossary, and to be honest a glossary would have been helpful!

1006277However, there’s also an interview with the author at the back of the book in which he states that part of the book is made up of fragments from an earlier, unpublished novel that he wrote with the intention that it could be understood only by himself! So maybe this book is just plain confusing, regardless of where you come from.

Each chapter tells a tale or two about the inhabitants of Gilas, a small town outside of ‘The City’. Many characters show up repeatedly, though the chapters are more or less independent stories. The first chapter features men lounging about gossiping and most of the stories read like gossip-magnified tall tales. The tales are frequently crass and occasionally truly horrific, but nothing seems to be taken particularly seriously. The stories also show the complicated interplay between the traditional, primarily Muslim, culture in Uzbekistan and life in the Soviet Union.

One interesting thing I learned is that Uzbekistan has a large Korean population. Why? Because Stalin had the ethnic Koreans living in eastern Siberia forcibly transported to Central Asia where many continue to live to this day.

I enjoyed the fact that The Railway referenced The Day Lasts a Hundred Years, the book that I read for Kyrgyzstan (the author was Kyrgyz, though the book actually takes place in Kazakhstan). I never wrote up a blog post for The Day Lasts a Hundred Years, which is a shame because it was an excellent and interesting book. Like The Railway, it highlights the role of Soviet and local culture with the railroad playing a central role. Unlike The Railway, camels and astronauts also play important roles. My confusion with The Railway notwithstanding, I’m finding it really interesting to learn about Central Asia. It’s an area that I knew very little about before my book-from-every-country project.



  1. Sounds so confusing, but glad to see you’re still chipping away at the globe!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: