Review: Tamerlane’s Children

by Nathan Hamm on 1/5/2007 · 3 comments

There have been a handful of books published lately that can be considered part of a small “went to work in Central Asia, kept a journal, and made a book from it” genre. Examples include Uzbekistan a Short Road Traveled by William Duncan, Keith Rosten’s Once in Kazakhstan: The Snow Leopard Emerges, Rob Ferguson’s The Devil and the Disappearing Sea, and Unknown Sands by John W. Kropf. Of these four, I have only read Ferguson’s book, though a review copy of Kropf’s is on the way. Ferguson’s book is a memoir of his time working in Uzbekistan, and reads like a straight retelling of his (admittedly fairly interesting). One does not feel immersed in a narrative like those found in the travelers’ accounts of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and though someone like me is not necessarily the target audience for such a book, I did not feel like I came away with too much new information.

Robert Rand’s Tamerlane’s Children: Dispatches from Contemporary Uzbekistan, though somewhat in this genre, is a different creature altogether from Ferguson’s book. Rand lived and worked in Uzbekistan between August 2001 and November 2004 as a writer and freelance journalist. He left for Uzbekistan, he says “as a trailing spouse,” following his wife who took up a position with the United Nations in Tashkent.

Tamerlane’s Children
is divided into two sections. The first consists of seven journalistic chapters covering topics and personalities such as love in Uzbekistan, cotton, Amir Timur, and Sevara Nazarkhan. The second part tries to capture what it was like living in Uzbekistan and is compiled from Rand’s personal diary, his reporter’s notebooks, and interview transcripts. The book wraps up with a chapter on Andijon and a look at the future. The book strikes a good balance between the personal and the informative, and, though it may sound weird coming from me, may be worth picking up solely for conversation with Craig Murray. But even if Murray’s not enough to motivate you, Tamerlane’s Children is worth picking up as a snapshot of life in contemporary Uzbekistan.

Tamerlane’s Children is available at Amazon and surely in good bookstores if you are so lucky as to have one of those around.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 3 comments }

craig murray January 6, 2007 at 5:25 am

Hi Nathan,

I agree it’s an excellent book. Although not a strictly chronological arrangement, the material in fact runs largely chronologically and there is a clearly discernible shift in perception. He starts with Uzbekistan as a not so bad society, and “all those policemen around make my Uzbek staff feel safe” (I paraphrase), and journeys on to a perception of the real state of things. I think that’s the common experience of longer term expat residents in Tashkent. But the cultural perceptions are acute throughout.

Did I ever send you a copy of my book? If not, email me an address and I’ll do so.

Craig

Laurence January 7, 2007 at 4:56 am

Nathan, Thank you for this interesting review. I look forward to reading YOUR book …

Michael Hancock January 9, 2007 at 2:08 pm

I would want to read it just to hear what he says about Sevara Nazarkhan. She’s easily my favorite Uzbek singer. Since I live in southern Kazakhstan, that’s not saying that she’s the ONLY Uzbek singer I know, mind you. I saw her in concert a few times, and I fell in love with her voice, and the fact that she is that rare gem in non-Turkmenistan-Central-Asia that doesn’t lip synch.

Is there a Sevara fan club? Should I start one? I understand, perhaps incorrectly, that her boyfriend/husband was a host-brother to a Peace Corps Volunteer, or something like that. I seem to recall PCV staff in Uzbekistan also being close to her in some way – I wasn’t the only person connected with PC UZ at those concerts.

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