I paid a visit to the local library last week and took out a large number of books. It seems that when I get fixated on a subject, I tend to read as much as I can about that topic. Recently, it has been Central Asia, an area of the world I have had a fascination with for the last two years or so. I think it may have something to do with my time on China’s Tibetan Plateau in 2006 (here, here, here, and here), an area very much linked with Central Asia; almost more so than theties with the dominant Han culture. Plain and simple, I want to go back and explore more of the region.
The book I’m currently reading is called Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. It is weighty tome of over 600 pages. I didn’t know it was that big when I ordered it from the library. But it covers in quite an interesting way, the history of the European conquest, if one may call it that, of South and Central Asia and the race which emerged between the English and the Russians to control the area. One could say that this era, beginning in the 1700’s, foreshadowed the Cold War of last century. There is intrigue and espionage, adventure and bravery, foolhardiness, cultural and religious explanations (Think Kipling’s book Kim). All in all, it is most interesting.
One thing I have found interesting is the names of places in countries like Afghanistan that prior to a few years ago would have been fairly obscure. Now place names like Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Ahmadabad are widely recognized. It is enlightening to read about how these towns were two – three centuries ago and how the roots of what happened then is playing out now.