SOCIAL SCIENCES

Walking to Samarkand: The Great Silk Road from Persia to Central Asia

Skyhorse. Feb. 2020. 312p. ISBN 9781510746893. $23.99. TRAV
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In 1999, French author and long-distance walker Ollivier set off on a 7,200-mile journey from Istanbul, Turkey, to Xi’an, China, along the old Silk Road. This second installment, after Out of Instanbul, of a projected four-book series begins in May 2000 in Turkish Kurdistan near the Iranian border. The author spends much of this trek in Iran (about three-quarters of the text), dodging traffic and dehydration, avoiding corrupt policemen and maneuvering a society governed by strict clerics. In Turkmenistan, fundamentalism is replaced by a fanatical dictator and even more corrupt police. Ollivier ends up in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Great-trek books often disappoint, either recording the minutiae of the trip’s movement or the mindless distractions that ease that monotony. Not so with Ollivier, who imparts a sense of the Silk Road sights and people. He makes lasting friendships, and for each devil trying to extort from him, there are angels who help. But this book is more than just a travelog—it takes place prior to 9/11, and only in the last chapter is there a post–2001 reference.
VERDICT This will remind readers of travel accounts of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, offering a snapshot of a world that seems to change in an instant.CORRECTION Throughout the review of LeAnna Keith’s When It Was Grand (Social Sciences; LJ 11/19, p. 94), author Keith was misidentified as White. LJ apologizes for the error.

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