Set in Uzbekistan in the first half of the twentieth century, The Railway introduces to us the numberless remarkable characters of the small town of Gilas on the ancient Silk Route. A teeming, uproarious Central Asian tragi-comedy, it describes the vagaries of life, history and politics at a meeting point of cultures. mongst those whose stories we hear are Mefody-Jurisprudence, the town s alcoholic intellectual; Father Ioann, a Russian priest; Kara-Musayev the Younger, the chief of police; and Umarali-Moneybags, the old moneylender. Their colourful lives offer a unique and humourous picture of a little-known land populated by outgoing Mullahs, incoming Bolsheviks, and a plethora of Uzbeks, Russians, Persians, Jews, Koreans, Tartars and Gypsies. Governments change, revolutions come and go, but the life of the town persists. t the heart of Gilas stands the railway station, which doubles as Party headquarters and was the settlement from which the town evolved. It in turn stands at the heart of the novel- a source of income and influence, a route in and a way out, it is the connection to the greater world beyond the town. ich and picaresque, The Railway is a vibrant tapestry of a n
HAMID ISMAILOV, regarded as a man of 'unacceptably democratic tendencies' in Uzbekistan, was forced to flee his homeland, and so came to London in 1992. He was recruited by the BBC World Service to set up its Central Asia Service. He has published many books both in Russia and in Uzbekistan, but this is the first time his work has been translated into English.