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Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared Paperback – September 13, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlas (September 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934633933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934633939
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Robbins’ engaging travelogue is an educational antidote to misperceptions about the country spread by the movie Borat (2006). Robbins, the author of The Empress of Ireland (2005), among other works, intermingles tales of his own adventures in Kazakhstan with stories of the country’s Soviet history and various rulers. Over the course of his travels, Robbins speaks with a local philosopher, fends off a prostitute, and, of course, visits the country’s apple orchards. He learns that tales of King Arthur may well come from Kazakh legends, and he journeys through the country with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. From describing his visits to Kazakhstan’s wealth of oil fields to hearing a perfect John Lennon impersonation during his explorations, Robbins brings to light a complex and fascinating Kazakhstan unknown to most Westerners. --Katherine Boyle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“[This] engaging travelogue is an educational antidote to misconceptions about the country spread by the movie Borat.... From describing his visits to Kazakhstan's wealth of oil fields to hearing a perfect John Lennon impersonation during his explorations, Robbins brings to light a complex and fascinating Kazakhstan unknown to most Westerners.” (Booklist)

“Starred Review. A delightful and masterful travelogue. . . . combining grave topics with less grave ones and adding a good dose of wit. . . . Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

“A superlative addition to the literature of travel.” (The Observer [UK])

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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This book had me hooked from the first chapter.
Broschart
This was an absolutely scrumptious travelogue/history book, chock-full of interesting tidbits and trivia.
Meaghan
The author writes very well and includes his personal observations and experiences.
D.S.Marszalek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Vitya on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Unless you are interested in Soviet history or Kazakhstan already, this book would probably not be that interesting. Since I am both a keen student of the former and relatively interested in the latter, I found this book fascinating.
I have been to Kazakhstan two years ago (on business), but as is usually the case with brief visits, I only saw what's obvious and superficial. This book was perfect as it dug deeper and explained a lot of what I saw.
The author does a good job keeping it lively and interesting, his style remind me of Bill Bryce's travelogues. My only note (and I read the British edition, it may have been changed in the US) is that the book is somewhat rambling. The author follows a personal narrative ("I did this, saw that") but it jumps around in a non-linear fashion, so you are not exactly sure when things are taking place and what season it is. And some poor editing as well, I think the story about the President's youth is repeated a couple times.

Lastly - the attitude towards the President seems overly diffident. I agree with the author that the country owes most of its recent progress to him, but I think a more neutral tone could be achieved. Given the history of Western writers being smitten by Soviet dictators (I am implying the analogy), I think one should tread carefully.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Almelle on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have been interested in Kazakhstan since I spent a summer there almost ten years ago. Borat notwithstanding, most Westerners are unfamiliar with the region: this was the ONLY book about Central Asia among thousands of travel and guidebooks at my local mass-market bookstore.

Robbins' writing is a great introduction to Kazakhstan for westerners, as he reviews the country's history and relates amusing anecdotes from his travels. Most western literature on Kazakhstan is dryly academic or political in nature, and focuses on the country's problems and the need for international involvement; this is the first book I've read, that, while acknowledging the challenges, presents a positive view of Kazakhstan's present and future.

As E. Salimova points out in her review, the book is filled with western bias, and only an introduction - but it is a positive introduction, and one that I hope will whet western appetites for greater understanding of the region.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Graham on July 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a strange mixture of a travelogue and an anecdotal history of Kazakhstan. Robbins characterizes Kazakhstan as an ancient country which has been long forgotten in the West, and he seeks to rediscover the diversity of its past and present.

He describes his travels from the wild steppes of the central country, to the old capital at Almaty, to the nightclubs of the brash new modern capital at Astana. As we travel, he provides interesting historical side stories on the Kazakhstan exiles of Trotsky, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn; on Sakharov's witnessing of the first Soviet H-bomb tests; and on the horrific forced labor camps of Stalin's Gulag. He also recounts many other fragments of its history, not least that indeed "apples are from Kazakhstan".

As part of his visit, Robbins had multiple interviews with President Nazarbayev and was allowed to travel with him during a tour of some of Kazakhstan's remoter areas. Nazarbayev's quoted reminiscences are interesting, especially around the fall of the Soviet Union and the birth of independent Kazakhstan (although like all politician's memoirs, his words should probably be read cautiously). Robbins has clearly benefited from Nazarbayev's help and in return he is notably delicate in addressing potentially awkward issues. There have been allegations of significant high level corruption in Kazakhstan and of the forcible discouraging of political opposition, but these are not topics that Robbins dwells on.

On the plus side, Robbins has clearly fallen in love with Kazakhstan and he paints a broadly sympathetic picture of a country that has a difficult past, a beautiful but often barren landscape, a climate of hot summers and extreme winters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on June 13, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having just returned from a trip to Kazakhstan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Christopher Robbins' "Apples are From Kazakhstan: The Land the Disappeared. The book offers an excellent introduction to the country that is known to Westerners only as the home of Borat. Kazakhstan, one of the largest countries on earth, remains an enigma in many minds, and that is unfortunate. From the perspective of my personal visit to the country, the country has a lot of promise. Having visited several of their "Stan" neighbors, I can safely say Kazakhstan is leading the region in many respects. The book lays out many of the reasons why Kazakhstan is such a fascinating place, starting with the obvious: it is the home of the apple. The book describes the country's history as a home of exile, gulags, nuclear testing, rocketry, and much more, but paints a very promising and interesting picture of the nation, currently less than 20 years old, and its people. While much of the book is necessarily about the Soviet impact on the nation, it mainly focuses on Kazakhstan itself. If you are at all interested in the region or this particular "Stan", I highly recommend this book. It will give you much more than the Borat interpretation of the nation.
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