Title: The Road to Oxiana

Author: Robert Byron

Genre: Classic Travel Literature

Lazy cliche: …Indiana Jones meets Noel Coward in exotic Central Asia

Byron set out to investigate and explore Islāmic architecture but he found himself doing far more. I don’t doubt his interest and knowledge on the initial subject matter, but I feel it was mainly an excuse to express his unique perspective on all manner of things.
The narrative takes in the people and places surrounding his quirky quest from Persia through to the Oxiana river in Turkestan (present day Afghanistan I think). There is a vast cast of characters breezing in and out of the pages which gives it a real Jazz-age feel. This style is of its time and takes a while for the modern reader to be acquainted with the fractured descriptions. Once you get past this whimsical style, the book rewards you with some pretty lyrical descriptions of far-flung places. The undertone of  dry humour and numerous witty asides make it very entertaining and enjoyable to read. Byron is at his best when recounting his rakish behaviour e.g – passing himself off as Muslim to enter a Mosque, he is also a master at recording and mocking numerous eccentric conversations.
This book is not really for a general readership;  if you enjoy those ‘picking-olive-blossoms-in-the-Tuscan-breeze’ type books you may not get into this. If you like well written classics from the Imperial past like Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene etc you will love this book.

 

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