The Road to Oxiana
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In 1933, the delightfully eccentric travel writer Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana, near the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Throughout, he kept a thoroughly captivating record of his encounters, discoveries, and frequent misadventures. His story would become a best-selling travel book throughout the English-speaking world, until the acclaim died down and it was gradually forgotten. When Paul Fussell published his own book Abroad, in 1982, he wrote that The Road to Oxiana is to the travel book what "Ulysses is to the novel between the wars, and what The Waste Land is to poetry." His statements revived the public's interest in the book, and for the first time, it was widely available in American bookstores. Now this long-overdue reprint will introduce it to a whole new generation of readers. This edition features a new introduction by Rory Stewart, best known for his book The Places In Between, about his extensive travels in Afghanistan.
Today, in addition to its entertainment value, The Road to Oxiana also serves as a rare account of the architectural treasures of a region now inaccessible to most Western travelers, and a nostalgic look back at a more innocent time.
hand on the heart, and the general assumption of self-deprecation. M. Bouriachenko and the man with the dove’s voice addressed us as “Sahib”. Perhaps they thought this sounded more equalitarian than the Persian Excellencies and Highnesses we used to them. The hours fled, the decanter flowed, the telegraphist was carried out, I fell into a torpor, the Russians began to unload their emotions, and when I woke up I found Christopher gasping for breath under the souls of the whole community. It was
39, 86, 88, 95, 111, 114, 145, 293, 295, 327, 328 Amiriya, 76, 233 Amu Darya river, see Oxus Anau, 298 Andkhoi, 275, 278, 280 Aprsam, minister of Ardeshir, 174 Arch of Ctesiphon, see Ctesiphon Ardarun V, 174 Ardekan, 208 Ardeshir, 162, 164, 165, 173, 174 Ardistan, Mosque, 208 Arnold, Matthew, 290 Artaxerxes, 42 ASHRAF, 225, 226 Palace, 225–226 Assadi, Mutavali Bashi of Meshed Shrine, 218, 238 Asterabad, 137, 225, 227 Avicenna, 322 Ayn Varzan, 76 Ayrum, Chief of Police in
cleaned out. I must describe it, and indeed the whole hotel. Downstairs three large rooms with glass fronts give on to the street. The first is the kitchen, indicated by a pool of blood and a decapitated cock’s head on the pavement. The second and third are filled with marble-topped tables, and hung with European scenes painted on glass by an Indian familiar with the early numbers of the Illustrated London News. Here too are Seyid Mahmud’s desk, a cabinet gramophone on legs from Bombay, and a
paths that divide Persian gardens into squares and oblongs. Each path is an avenue of poplars or planes, and is accompanied by irrigation runnels; inside these, each square contains fruit trees or bare plough. Squares sound formal; but really, Plantation or Wilderness is the proper word to describe a Persian garden. Winter and spring had met on this afternoon. A strong warm wind carried a sound of chopping with it and a rustle of dead plane-leaves; through those leaves perked the green crooks of
about us, while the heavy luggage rides on top. The chauffeur is an Indian, a Peshawari, and consequently most respectful, but he stutters, and when he and Christopher get stuttering together conversation moves slowly. Besides him, we have old Puss-in-boots with his rifle, from Maimena, and a couple of Turcomans, one resembling a Guards’ officer, the other an Etruscan Apollo. For travelling, Puss-in-boots wears a brownlamb skin hat, a frock-coat of black felt, and breeches of the same which are