Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared

Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared

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by Christopher Robbins
     
 

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A funny and revealing travelogue of Kazakhstan, a country rich with wild tulips, oil, nomads who hunt with golden eagles, and a disappearing landlocked sea.

Closed to foreigners under Tsar and Soviet rule, Kazakhstan has remained largely hidden from the world, a remarkable feat for a country the size of Western Europe. Few would guess that Kazakhstan—a blank

Overview

A funny and revealing travelogue of Kazakhstan, a country rich with wild tulips, oil, nomads who hunt with golden eagles, and a disappearing landlocked sea.

Closed to foreigners under Tsar and Soviet rule, Kazakhstan has remained largely hidden from the world, a remarkable feat for a country the size of Western Europe. Few would guess that Kazakhstan—a blank in Westerners' collective geography—turns out to be diverse, tolerant, and surprisingly modern, the country that gave the world apples, trousers, and even, perhaps, King Arthur.

Christopher Robbins enjoyed unprecedented access to the Kazakh president while crafting this travelogue, and he relates a story by turns hilarious and grim. He finds Eminem-worship by a shrinking Aral Sea, hears the Kazakh John Lennon play in a dusty desert town, joins nomads hunting eagles, eats boiled sheep's head (a delicacy), and explores some of the most beautiful, unspoiled places on earth. Observant and culturally attuned, Robbins is a master stylist in the tradition of travel writing as literature, a companion to V. S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“[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.”
The Observer [UK]
“A superlative addition to the literature of travel.”
Library Journal

Most people associate Kazakhstan with the character Sacha Baron Cohen popularized in the 2006 film Borat , but Robbins's (The Empress of Ireland ) delightful and masterful travelog reveals that it is in fact a country rich in history, natural beauty, and, perhaps most important, tolerance. On a flight to Moscow, Robbins chances upon a man from Arkansas en route to Kazakhstan to meet his future bride. Intrigued by the man's assertion that apples originated in Kazakhstan, Robbins sets off to see if this is indeed the case. Once there, not only does he discover that it is, but he also learns that Kazakhstan is a country of wild tulips, oil, minerals, 46 principal religions, and a seemingly equal number of ethnic groups. But the picture is not all rosy. Robbins writes about the gulags, the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea, and the scorched earth of nuclear test sites under Soviet rule. Despite these discoveries, however, he manages to make this an overall hopeful book by combining grave topics with less grave ones and adding a good dose of wit. This book will do for Kazakhstan what John Gimlette's At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig did for Paraguay. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Everything you always wanted to know about this vast, sparsely populated former Soviet republic but didn't learn from Borat. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen did not invent Kazakhstan, as one Western woman assumed in a conversation with British journalist Robbins (The Empress of Ireland: A Chronicle of an Unusual Friendship, 2005, etc.). It's the land of the ancient Scythians and Sarmatians, "shrouded in mystery from the beginning of time." Seeking to dispel some of those mysteries, the author conducted research and made visits over several years. Apples are thought to have originated in Kazakhstan, he tells us, and tulips too; today it teems with abundant oil reserves, coal, copper, uranium, platinum and gold. Robbins's travelogue enthusiastically and infectiously blends history, observation and mini biographies. Kazakhstan virtually disappeared from sight when Russia expanded eastward in the 19th century, bringing along tyranny as an unwelcome export. The region's remoteness made it a favorite with both tsars and commissars for disposing of political undesirables: Dostoyevsky did time in Kazakhstan; Stalin exiled Trotsky there in 1928; and Solzhenitsyn was one of countless prisoners who suffered in the Kazakh Gulag. Robbins tells happier stories as well. He met a real-life berkutchy, who hunted with eagles trained from infancy, and the sole surviving member of the "Kazakh Beatles," whose enthusiasm for the Fab Four was "fresh as the day he first heard ‘Please Please Me.' " The author also interviewed Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led his people to independence in 1991, privatized industry, introduced a new currency and valiantly dealt with a leftover nuclear cache and amajor environmental disaster. On his last visit, Robbins learned that Nazarbayev planned to build a giant yurt with indoor gardens, beaches, a concert hall and an underground shopping court, "to provide winter fun for everyone" during Kazakhstan's long months of subzero temperatures. A captivating read notable for off-the-cuff candor and measured, eloquent prose.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781934633939
Publisher:
Atlas
Publication date:
09/13/2010
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.98(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.83(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Robbins is the author of the award-winning The Empress of Ireland. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book before we visited our daughter who lives in Kazakhstan. She teaches English and works with orphans and another facility that serves children at risk. She and her team mates mingle freely with the nationals and have forged some great friendships. This book helped us to understand so much about the things we saw while there. I left the book behind for her and her friends to read. I bought another one when we got home to read again. This book not only provides great insight into Kazakhstan's past, but leads us through its' emergence onto the world stage in the 21st century. Kazakhstan's vast supplies of gas and oil will surely make it a household name in the near future. Whether you're an armchair traveler or an active one, this book is well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A family member spending 2 years in Kazakhstan with an NGO Christian organization recommended "Apples..." as a good book to learn some of the country's political past. She works with children & youth. "Apples..." also tells of the struggle of the original Kazakh people when they were removed from their nomadic way of life. I think we have much to learn from the Kazakh people and their resiliency in hanging on to their life and the future of their country.
PlainJaneVA More than 1 year ago
A nice, light read about Central Asia, sometimes touching on serious aspects of its history and culture.
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