- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Arrow (4 March 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099524996
- ISBN-13: 978-0099524991
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,15,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Out of Steppe Paperback – 4 Mar 2010
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"This book's idea is timely: a quest for six ethnic communities that, after surviving the depredations of Sovietism, are now, as Central Asia modernises, disappearing ... [Metcalfe's] book has many virtues, the greatest of which are courage and a keen eye for detail, plus an ability to convey the essence of a place through the briefest of anecdotes" (Independent)
"This is a book of great warmth and immense scholarship, in the best tradition of travel writing. It opens up a region about which most of us are vague. It is fascinating reading" (Irish Times)
"Daniel Metcalfe journeys through the five 'stans, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, and brings to life the human tapestry they comprise" (Sunday Tribune)
"This is an important book: a first-hand account from an adventurous traveller who has dared to explore the fulcrum of Asian geopolitics. Read this and you will understand why we need to care about Central Asia. Metcalfe has reminded us of why travel-writing matters" (Nicholas Crane, author of Clear Waters Rising)
"Enterprising and finely written ... Metcalfe can justly be compared with British adventurers such as Robert Byron" (Economist)
Exploring his life-long fascination with the Silk Road, Daniel Metcalfe travels alone through remote regions of Central Asia in search of some of its lost peoples.See all Product description
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Little-known to the West, of course. The people in these lands are all quite aware of each other, having traded and intermarried amongst themselves for centuries. They share not only language but also culture. But the six nations that Metcalfe wants to seek out are islands of separateness in this world. All of them find life a struggle in every way.
Metcalfe meets the Karakalpaks who live near the decimated Aral Sea. Once famous fishermen, they have been reduced to diseased subsistence by the utter environmental disaster that has befallen their land. They see no future for themselves. The Germans of Kazakhstan, forcibly settled there by Stalin, are the remnants of a proud people who had settled in Russia under the favour of Catherine the Great. They now find themselves isolated amongst the drug and alcohol-riven communities that surround them, neither fish nor fowl, neither true Germans nor yet Russians. Bukharan Jews are next on Metcalfe's agenda. Here another sort of disaster is going on - as the Jews die out, the diaspora comes in touristily, and find that all the gems of Jewish architecture are slowly rotting away, and the Uzbeks who own the properties now are more interested in presenting a Disneyfied concoction to the visitors, thereby adding to the cultural vandalism. The remaining Jews are insular, and it's only by pretending to be Jewish himself that he manages to insinuate himself into their lives.
The remaining three cultures are somewhat of an afterthought, I felt. The Sogdians of Turkmenistan and the Hazaras of Bamiyan are dealt with in pedestrian fashion, and the Kalashas of the Hindu Kush are probably treated better in other books (such as Alice Albinia's Empires of the Indus). Metcalfe can be commended for his zeal here, but the early parts of the book are much better than these.
Overall, an uneven tome with both high and low points.