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The Railway

by Hamid Ismailov

An eclectic array of characters takes the reader on a journey into the Central Asian area of Uzbekistan. Written over an 80 year period each story is unique in its blend of reality. Some are coarse, brutal but honest whilst others are humorous and witty. Not an easy read but nevertheless a good translation - and the glossary does help you to wind your way through this fascinating area of the world.

Extract

When those damned heathens arrested Zokhor Alam, Garang saw the way things were going and decided to stop practising all religious rites except that of circumcision, which he continued to carry out in and around Gilas in order to provide for his family. He was as competent at this as one of today's surgeons; ever since he was a child, after all, he had been pruning vines for Mahmud-Hodja, who was a friend of his father. Yes, Garang-Deafmullah was a true professional; wrapped in singed cotton wool, the circumcised members of the local boys were fully healed within a couple of weeks.
Large numbers of baby boys were born in the years before the War, as if people foresaw the need to provide themselves with plenty of male descendants, and Garang enjoyed a stable income. Drying in the sun among his apricots and tomatoes were whole garlands of rings of skin, waiting to serve as charms during the long childless years when the men were all serving as soldiers.
Translated by Robert Chandler

Parallels

A Carpet Ride to Khiva : Seven Years on the Silk Road by Christopher Aslan Alexander
Uzbekistan : the Golden Road to Samarkand by Calum MacLeod
Crisis in Uzbekistan by Charles Myers
 

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