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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 16 May 2010

"The Road to Oxiana" by Robert Byron

This is a delightful travel book in which Byron travels in 1933-34 through Persia and Afghanistan towards (but never actually reaching) the Oxus river. He is intensely (and sometimes boringly) interested in Mohammedan architecture and its influences. His intended companions are The Charcoal Burners (who are driving an experimental charcoal powered car to India) but they let him down; eventually he meets up with Christopher who accompanies him for many miles. Nowhere is his relationship with Christopher stated; Byron was gay but Christopher Sykes later got married and had children.

The writing is lyrical and enormously beautiful in places. His descriptions of place are superb. His characterisations of some of the strnage and eccentric characters he meets (such as the man who speaks pianissimo, then mezzo forte, then fortissimo, then piano etc) is sometimes hilarious.

Interesting bits.

He suggests that Shiraz in Persia from whence derives red wine may be the originaotr of Sherry rather than Xeres in Spain.

He meets Jews expelled from Russia. He is aware of the problem with Jews and Germany and of the increasing fascism of Germany. Persia itself is under the despotic rule of the Shah whom he calls Marjoribanks.

He meets fire altars and the tomb of Zoroaster near Persepolis.

He hears (pp184-5) a story of a donkey who wears a 'loin' skin which sounds extraordinarily like the model for the donkey in the lion skin from The Last Battle by C S Lewis.

He plays a game using "a high net over which any number of people divided into two sides, can fist a soft football" (p 252) in the Russian Embassy in Afghanistan. Although Volleyball was invented in 1895 and an Olympic sport in 1924 (Paris), Byron seems not to recognise it.

He sees the two giant Buddhas in Shibar that were later destroyed by the Taliban but he is by no means impressed with them as works of art.

Links to Byron's photographs here.

A lyrical travelogue.

May 2010; 276 pages

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