The Road to Oxiana

Ranked #63 in Travelogue, Ranked #67 in Travelsee more rankings.

In 1933 the delightfully eccentric Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana -the country of the Oxus, the ancient name for the river Amu Darya which forms part of the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. His arrival at his destination, the legendary tower of Qabus, although a wonder in itself, it not nearly so amazing as the thoroughly captivating, at times zany, record of his adventures.

In addition to its entertainment value, The Road to Oxiana also serves as a rare account of the architectural...

Reviews and Recommendations

We've comprehensively compiled reviews of The Road to Oxiana from the world's leading experts.

Nicholas Shakespeare Byron was Chatwin’s first conscious model. The book is a candid account of a journey made in 1933 in search of Seljuk tombs. (Source)

Colin Thubron Oxiana is a coinage of his, and it doesn’t geographically specifically exist. It was a way of saying Persia (as it was to him) and Afghanistan. Byron’s journey starts in Venice and ends in what is now Pakistan. He went there in 1933-34, not long before he died in World War II, drowned when his ship was torpedoed. Although the book is terrifically chauvinistic – he’s appalling when he writes about the local people, almost always without sympathy and sometimes with extreme colonial arrogance – it’s full of wonderful descriptions. (Source)

Tim Mackintosh-Smith I recently wrote about this book and hooked what I wrote on what Chatwin said about it – that it was a sacred text – and what Wilfred Thesiger said, which was that it was a lot of nonsense. I think you can reconcile these views. It’s actually why I like the book. It’s sacred nonsense, or Robert Byron is a holy fool, if that makes sense. It’s nonsense because he sort of explodes the usual narrative of the travel book – the narrative itinerary where you go from A to B, B to C and so on. Byron is all over the shop. I think if you read his contents page, it tells you he goes to Tehran seven times... (Source)

Sandy Gall One of the classic books about travelling in Afghanistan. It’s fun to travel with Byron and hear what he has to say, although he is quite a snob. (Source)

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