Hamid Ismailov was forced to flee Uzbekistan because he was regarded as having "unacceptably democratic tendencies". He came to London in 1994 and is now head of the BBC Central Asia Service. His debut novel The Railway, translated from Russian by RSB interviewee Robert Chandler, will be published by Harvill Secker on Thursday 2nd March 2006:

Set between 1900 and 1980, The Railway introduces to us the inhabitants of the small town of Gilas in Uzbekistan. Among those whose stories we hear are Mefody-Jurisprudence, the town’s alcoholic intellectual; Father Ioann, a Russian priest; Kara-Musayev the Younger, the chief of police; and Umarali-Moneybags, the old moneylender. Their colourful lives offer a unique picture of a land populated by outgoing Mullahs, incoming Bolsheviks, and a plethora of Uzbeks, Russians, Persians, Jews, Koreans, Tatars and Gypsies.

On March 8th at 5.30pm there will be a reading, with Robert and Hamid, including snacks and wine! The event is free and will be held at St Benet’s Chapel, Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, E1 4NS (Mile End tube). For more (and please RSVP):

On April 4th at 6.30pm Robert and Hamid will be accompanied by music from Uzbek musicians (presumably, not whilst they read). This event is also free and to be held at Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ (High St. Kensington tube). For more (and essential to RSVP):

Readers Comments

  1. Shusha Guppy reviewed THE RAILWAY in the Independent on March 27. She writes, 'The Railway is a poet's novel, full of memorable descriptive passages and heart-wrenching asides. Robert Chandler's translation admirably renders the exuberance, humour and richness of its language.'

  2. Great to see a poem by Elizabeth Bishop on your site!

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