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Carpet ride to Khiva

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A Carpet Ride to Khiva : Seven Years on the Silk Road

This month my debut novel comes out: Alabaster. It seems almost too good to be true; I get to return to Khiva and my other favourite parts of Uzbekistan, and get paid for it! April 1st My stomach roils as if filled with eels. Seven years after I left, I now have a new Uzbek tourist visa in my passport. With me is Andreas, a world-class German violin-maker turned team-mate.


A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road

The British author collected his middle name in Turkey where he was born, his fearlessness from a childhood spent in war-torn Beirut, and his idealism - one has to deduce this, because he's personally reticent - from a can-do brand of Christianity. Meanwhile, he finds himself embarking on a much more quixotic project: to set up a carpet workshop, in which the ancient arts of Khivan dyeing and weaving will be brought back to life. Hand-made carpets did not sit well with Soviet ideology, as the labour-intensive process was predicated on poor producers and rich buyers, so factory ones became the norm. Turning a derelict madrassah into his workshop, and enlisting some of the remaining traditional dyers, Alexander starts to put the clock back. At which point his book changes character, its splashy prose suddenly acquiring such force and focus that one hangs on every word. He tells us everything he sees and thinks, he details every problem and its solution, and offers vignettes of every character in his newly-constituted kingdom. Because he's clear-headed and single-minded, the picture which emerges hangs beautifully together, giving a pungent sense of what life is like for ordinary Uzbeks today.

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