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Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia Paperback – October 12, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
Bissell's relationship with Uzbekistan began with an ignominious Peace Corps stint in the 1996, which saw him leaving after less than a year due to a mental breakdown. He returned in 2001, ostensibly to research and write an article about the decline of the Aral Sea, but in a large part, to confront his demons from that earlier experience. As the title foreshadows, he spends most of his trip bouncing around the country in an attempt to come to grips with it (indeed, it isn't until the final 50 pages that he gets to the Aral and discusses its plight). Bissell isn't on any particular itinerary so much as he wants to see the high points and take care of a few tasks (like smuggling money to someone). Because his Uzbek is shaky and his Russian is almost non-existent, he hires a 20-something Uzbek translator named Rustam.Read more ›
This book could not have succeeded in its current form if Bissell had not hooked up with Rustam, his young, proud, intelligent, opinionated, endearing translator and advisor. The tension between Bissell's typically Politically Correct American views and Rustam's practical Uzbek views on the country's history, politics, and future (not to mention women) makes a lot of the book work.
Yes, early in his book, Bissell gives a description of the Aral Sea situation uncannily similar to that in "Ecoside in the USSR" by Feshbach, et al. (I own that book also). He credits "Ecoside" in his bibliography. I suppose that if this were an academic work, he'd have to have appropriate footnotes, but the important thing is that more people will find out about the eco-problems of Central Asia by reading "Chasing the Sea" than will work their way through Feshbach.
Bissell has stones.Read more ›
We learn that Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world; though this achievement has not come without considerable cost (also amazingly enough they grow rice too). That this desert nation relies so heavily economically on such a thirsty plant is unusual, but Bissell details how the American Civil War cut off the supply of cotton, encouraging tsarist Russia to look for a new source. Demand for cotton only escalated during the Cold War. To grow the cotton, the Amu Darya River (known in antiquity as the Oxus) was diverted. This river, which forms part of Uzbekistan's southern border and the primary source of the Aral Sea's water, now no longer feeds into it at all. The formerly vast river, which once formed a huge inland delta, is now a mere creek at best as it reaches the receding shores of the Aral.
The Aral Sea's certain demise sometime in the first few decades of the 21st century will have ugly consequences.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've taken to buying any Vintage Departures title I see in a used-book store, and this one be my favorite yet. Read morePublished 6 months ago by chungking
This is a great introduction to the area. The author writes about his own experiences but includes an equal amount of history. It's very informative and well-written.Published 7 months ago by Emily Montoya
The book sucked. The mention of the "sea" was not until the last chapter, and it was brief. I received a much more through education of this subject from Wikipedia!Published 9 months ago by christopher
I have been a fan of Tom Bissell's writing ever since I came across it in Harper's Magazine. I specifically remember reading a short story set in Central Asia that eventually would... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Patrick Mc Coy
Excelkent book. Very well written. The author does a great job of weaving in history of the region with his experiences in today's Uzbekustan. Read morePublished on November 2, 2013 by SQS
As a former Peace Corps volunteer from Central Asia, and a person having worked in Central Asia several years beyond that, I found this book very irritating. Read morePublished on March 18, 2012 by D. R. M.
The title is a bit of a misnomer. Bissell really spends most of his time not even anywhere close to the Aral Sea but exploring Uzbekistan. Read morePublished on November 12, 2011 by Brian Maitland
I've been reading pretty widely in the travel literature genre for ten years or so now, and I try to finish anything I pick up. Read morePublished on January 27, 2010 by A Reader
The author writes from a fund of historic knowledge about a place little known to most Americans, Uzbekistan. Read morePublished on May 9, 2009 by Mary Carhart