An Extraordinary Journey Through Soviet Central Asia
Email this review


 A veteran foreign correspondent undertakes here what she calls a ``consummately unfashionable'' journey through what used to be called Soviet Central Asia. Actually, the journey is both consummately fashionable and somewhat glibly undertaken. But Geyer (Guerrilla Prince, 1991, etc.) does convey the sense of penetrating an alien, volatile, and sometimes threatening society. In Moscow, we see an eerie ``holy fool'' gibbering at a corner of Red Square--and a suave businessman genuflecting before him. And so it is with some trepidation that our valiant correspondent dons her money belt and heads for remote Tatarstan. The Tatars she sees as the key to Russian identity, their oppression of Muscovy in the Middle Ages having turned Russia against outsiders. Today, in the peeling, hallucinatory city of Kazan she finds a resurgent nationalism that is almost touching in its naãvetÇ as a people submerged by Russian power since Ivan the Terrible's conquest in 1552 is budding once more--and thumbing a nose at its former master. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan: It's an enjoyable trek, all in all, but a pervading superciliousness dims Geyer's larger ambitions. For example, in Uzbekistan, she visits the Shah-i-Zinda complex of mausoleums, where Qasim ibn Abbas (who brought Islam to Central Asia) is buried. The episode is thrown in touristically, simply because it happened and because one of the self-described ``stock-brokers'' who had come with her from Samarkand suddenly goes into a kind of trance. It is a strange and curious moment, but Geyer cannot rise to it. She simply says ``I actually began to tremble'' and casually mentions the ``awe'' of the event. This is a good book, but it also reminds the reader that a certain kind of self-importance blunts an otherwise receptive mind, and that travelogues and journalism require different sensibilities that are hard to sew together. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-02-881110-0
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1994