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A Poet and Bin-Laden by Hamid Ismailov
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A Poet and Bin-Laden

by Hamid Ismailov

Other authors: Andrew Bromfield (Translator)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I won't provide a summary of the plot, as other reviewers have already done this more than adequately. I, too, had problems with maintaining my interest, despite really wanting to read a book by an Uzbek writer about such topical, interesting, and serious issues. However, the narrative drive is missing; the characters were not given enough space to live fully on the page; there was too much exposition, not enough dialogue. I like experiments in fiction, and appreciate an author's attempt to do something different. Unfortunately, this mixture of fiction and non-fiction styles did not work for me, perhaps because there was not enough art-making and too much journalistic style? Thanks very much to the publisher for the opportunity to read this book, and I will try it again at another time. ( )
  thewordygecko | Feb 7, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I wanted to like this book better than I did. It appears to be two things juxtaposed. It's a fictional account of the poet Belgi's flight from Uzbekistan in the late 1990s; he ends up involved with the Taliban in Tasjikistan. This part on its own I might have read and enjoyed for its portrayal of men caught up in politics and the rise of Islamicism. But it is interspersed with (purported? real?) documents (transcripts, press releases, . . .) and I found the form jarring and confusing. Jarring in that the reader is tossed from narrative to dry reports and back again. And confusing because it's hard to tell what is "real" and what is "fiction."

I know this could give rise to interesting discussions about reliable versus unreliable narrators, but I simply don't have the energy to plow through this one.

For some it will be worth reading for its portrayal of individuals and the wave of Islamicism; anyone who doesn't know the history & culture of Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in particular, will find it confusing without some reference material to set the context.

1.75 stars ( )
  markon | Mar 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I feel duty-bound to write a few words about this novel having received a free copy via Early Readers. However, when my copy arrived and I opened it, my heart sank deeper than my boots as I realised I was unlikely to plough my way through such a profoundly difficult, almost impenetrable read.

I am glad to see, reading other LT reviews, I am not alone in struggling. If I have done the author an injustice, then I hope he will realise it is also my shallowness and bewilderment, (i.e. not entirely his fault) that his book remains largely unread by me. I will try again one day, but I won't promise when that day may be. ( )
  J.Bryan | Dec 29, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
To me this book is a strange mix of non-fiction, including footnotes; some fiction about the book's narrator (which seems to have strong parallels with the author's own experience); incidents in a poet's life and transcripts of various interviews. There is no consistency about time, character or place - these jump around every few pages. I'm just getting lost and this feeling does not entice me to continue reading the book.

As the subject and write up for the ER page did intrigue me I am not sure whether this is just not the right time for me to read this or if it really is a jumbled up mess of incidents. But I'm really sorry to say that I have had to abandon this book. I do hope to return to it someday but, at the moment, I just could not get into whatever the author was trying to do.
  calm | Nov 26, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A Poet and Bin-Laden is a fairly impenetrable book. It's further muddled by the intertwining of fact and fiction when I think that it would have been better served either being a factual account of the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism in the former Soviet Central Asian republics or a fictional piece about Belgi/Yosir. Even reading it with my iPad nearby to look up historical facts or people that were touched upon in the narrative, I was often lost. I pushed through to the end because there is something important here in this book, but it is so wrapped up in the decomposition of fact versus fiction that while I can see there is something hidden in the prose, I just can't get myself there.

Some of the scenes are quite moving - such as the final scene with Belgi, but for the most part, it is just a dry and confusing account of an area of the world that would benefit from having a clearer exposition.

The second part is unnecessary. I'm sure it is an allegory in some way about the first part, but I was not clever enough to figure out exactly how. It is extraneous to the narrative except to demonstrate that Islamic Fundamentalism has always been an issue in Central Asia, but that could be detailed in one sentence; the reader hardly needs forty additional pages to detail that.

Finally, one last go-through by a good editor was probably needed. The book is dotted with odd carriage returns breaking up the middle of paragraphs, small typos, and differences in spelling (for example, in the last section, Dekkan is spelled both as Dekkan and Dekan and occasionally the last a in Dara is left out). ( )
  reluctantm | Nov 20, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
“It is an extraordinary book. I am not sure it is a novel at all – but that barely matters. It is a difficult read and one can get stuck along the way, not least because it is a narrative that keeps putting itself under arrest – as if holding itself up at gunpoint. But it is worth persevering because it takes one deep into Islamic fundamentalism in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan and is frightening, intermittently brilliant and revelatory.”
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hamid Ismailovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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The "reality novel" A Poet and Bin-Laden set in Central Asia at the turn of the 21st century against a swirling backdrop of Islamic fundamentalism in the Ferghana Valley and beyond, gives a first-hand account on the militants and Taliban's internal life.… (more)

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