Set mainly in Uzbekistan between 1900 and 1980, The Railway introduces to us the inhabitants of the small town of Gilas on the ancient Silk Route. Among those whose stories we hear are Mefody-Jurisprudence, the town's alcoholic intellectual; Father Ioann, a Russian priest; Kara-Musayev the Younger, the chief of police; and Umarali-Moneybags, the old moneylender. Their colourful lives offer a unique and comic picture of a little-known land populated by outgoing Mullahs, incoming Bolsheviks, and a plethora of Uzbeks, Russians, Persians, Jews, Koreans, Tatars and Gypsies.
At the heart of both the town and the novel stands the railway station - a source of income and influence, and a connection to the greater world beyond the town. Rich and picaresque, The Railway chronicles the dramatic changes felt throughout Central Asia in the early twentieth century.
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Imagine Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude on the empty plains of central Asia...The Railway is a bold and inventive, if damning, whirl through Central Asia's 20th-century history - Daily Telegraph
It is a work of rare beauty - anutterly readable, compelling book - New Statesman
A poet's novel, full of memorable descriptive passages and heart-wrenching asides - Independent
All picaresque exuberance, a jumble of influences from Persian to Soviet and beyond - Sunday Herald
Strange and beautiful - The Times
Robert Chandler's tenderly attentive rendering of The Railway perfectly captures the dreamy, circling music of Hamid Ismailov's prose - Daily Telegraph
About the Author
Hamid Ismailov, regarded as a man of 'unacceptably democratic tendencies' in Uzbekistan, was forced to flee his homeland, and so came to London in 1992. He was recruited by the BBC World Service to set up its Central Asia Service. He has published many books both in Russia and in Uzbekistan. The Railway and A Poet and Bin-Laden are the only two to have been translated into English.