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On ancient Central-Asian tracks: brief…

On ancient Central-Asian tracks: brief narrative of three expeditions in… (1932)

by Sir Aurel Stein

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Although this account is of amazing journeys, it seems reserved almost to the point of superficiality. Aurel Stein emphasizes his reliance on, and his emotional connection to, those explorers who preceded him by hundreds of years, as well as the cosmopolitan nature of the art he finds (Asian facial features, Hellenistic robes depicted in the same works), but he gives short shrift to the the actual experiences he and his entourage had on their journeys. It is fascinating that, hundreds of years later, he can discern the physical landmarks as described by previous explorers such as Marco Polo so many years before, but it would have been more satisfying if he had made the connections by more extensive quotes from his predecessors' works. Although some of the extreme physical demands of the journeys are mentioned, they are really not described in any detail. The author praises many of those who journeyed with him, but he does not give us any in depth description of their personalities, or of his relationships with them. The (too few) photographs in the book give a hint of the vastness of the landscape. I am so impressed by the treks themselves, that it seems somehow a bit unfair to quibble that the narrative is disjointed because it does not have coherent organizing principle (it is not chronological, nor, as far as I can tell, thematic). However, the biggest fault of the book was not Aurel Stein's, but the editor/publisher who decided to omit some of the illustrations, and failed to include maps detailed and large enough to show the paths of Aurel Stein's expeditions. ( )
  Banbury | Mar 3, 2013 |
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To the memory of Sir Thomas Arnold: Scholar, "Saint," and Incomparable Friend, whose inspiring sympathy ever followed and brightened my travels, this record of them is inscribed in unceasing affection and gratitude.
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These pages are meant to revive characteristic phases of those explorations which I had the good fortune to carry out under the orders of the Indian Government on three successive expeditions to the innermost portions of Asia.
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