Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia

Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia

by Tom Bissell
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Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell

In 1996, Tom Bissell went to Uzbekistan as a na•ve Peace Corps volunteer. Though he lasted only a few months before illness and personal crisis forced him home, Bissell found himself entranced by this remote land. Five years later he returned to explore the shrinking Aral Sea, destroyed by Soviet irrigation policies. Joining up with an exuberant translator named Rustam, Bissell slips more than once through the clutches of the Uzbek police as he makes his often wild way to the devastated sea.

In Chasing the Sea, Bissell combines the story of his travels with a beguiling chronicle of Uzbekistan’s striking culture and long history of violent subjugation by despots from Jenghiz Khan to Joseph Stalin. Alternately amusing and sobering, this is a gripping portrait of a fascinating place, and the debut of a singularly gifted young writer.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307425249
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Series: Vintage Departures
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 789,856
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Tom Bissell was born in Escanaba, Michigan, in 1974. After his stint in the Peace Corps he worked for several years in book publishing in New York City. His criticism, fiction, and journalism have appeared in publications including Harper's Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly Review, GQ, Granta, McSweeney's, The Boston Review, The Believer, Best American Travel Writing 2003, and other publications. He has been nominated for several awards and not received any of them. He lives in New York City.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The title of the book had so much promise, and yet the actual content was so far from the title. As someone who has read a great deal on Central Asia and her history, I found this book to be very informative and light reading for the average person. Not too many people are familiar with Uzbekistan (or the rest of Central Asia for that matter) and Bissell's prose not only informs but entertains those with such a knowledge gap. I read this book as part of a directed study. The other books, listed in my recommended readings, catered a bit more to the theme of classic writing on Central Asia. I doubt very much Bissell will ever reach the distinction of 'classic' concerning Central Asian literature, though he certainly provides enough information for Central Asia 101.
Prizprincess More than 1 year ago
I found Tom Bissell's book to be the most informative and accurate depiction of modern-day Uzbekistan that I read. His honesty in reporting his personal experiences in the country and his experiences with the local population were mirrored in my travels to Uzbekistan a few months ago. I strongly recommend it to anyone considering visiting this fascinating country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book, but it really didn't tell me a lot about the Aral Sea. In fact, I don't think the author even set eyes on any (current or former) part of the sea until the last fifty pages of the book. I learned a lot about Cental Asian history, I learned some things about some major cities in Uzbekistan, and I learned a whole lot more about the author than I ever, ever wanted to know. I suppose other people will criticize the author for this, but I really enjoyed the parts in which he points-out mistakes other writers (such as Robert Kaplan) have made in writing about Central Asia. The book introduces a lot of characters, then never lets you know what happened to them. Most of these are only important from the author's standpoint, but if he's going to mention them, I'd appreciate his telling us what finally happened to them. I'd have enjoyed the book more if it either filled-in these areas, or stuck to current-day Uzbekistan and the Aral Sea. As the book is written, it's too little about other people, too little about Uzbekistan, and too much about the author.