John Anderson's Reviews > Shadow of the Silk Road

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
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Sep 29, 08

Recommended to John by: Review in NY Review of Books
Recommended for: anyone
Read in March, 2008, read count: 1

This is far from the first "travel book" that Thubron has written but it the first, and so far only, one that I have read. It is a remarkable book by someone who is clearly a remarkable man. He set out to travel the Silk Road which had such a huge impact in civilization, both East and West, yet the regions through which it passes, we in the West at least, now know nothing about. Well Thubron does. You or I could pass through this region and be impressed with its scenery or its people, but Thubron can see the shadow of what the Silk Road once was. And he is extraordinarily perceptive of the current state of affairs in the regions through which he passes and of the history that brought them there. He travels without camera. He draws pictures in words.
The names themselves, Xian, Kashgar, Samarkand, The Oxus, Antioch, conjure up associations that we can't quite flesh out with vision. By the time you have finished, you will remember vividly the Uighur, the Tocharians, and all the other astonishing peoples that still live and eke out their livings along a route fabled in name but for most of us, in name only.
I have just been invited to join the group on the eve of a months visit to China - nowhere near the beginnings of the Silk Road. I'll be in touch again on getting back.
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