While reading Words Without Borders this morning I came across this article by Nathalie Handal “The City and the Writer: In Bukhara, Uzbekistan with writer Hamid Ismailov.” The piece transported me back to my visit there twelve years ago while researching my novel, Night Letter, set in Bukhara at the turn of the 20th century.
In this article Ismailov says, “There’s a profound difference between cultures built out of stone and those built out of mud. If the former is about standing tall against the forces of nature, the latter is more about their acceptance and becoming part of it.”
As a fourteen-year-old exploring Ireland decades ago I was introduced to architecture that seemed perfectly compatible with the landscape such as the thatched homes tucked under clefts of hills. And ever since, I find myself drawn to places and cultures that seem to agree with Ismailov’s perspective of a building’s “acceptance of becoming part of it,” or nature, and I am touched by this idea.
Maybe it’s the soft features, the rounded texture of mud structures as they age that exudes peacefulness and welcoming. I’ve experienced this feeling throughout the Middle East and Central Asia as well as exploring ancient Native American dwellings in the desert canyons of Southern Utah.
Hamid Ismailov has three novels available in English that I look forward to reading: The Railway; The Dead Lake; A Poet and Bin-Laden.
The photos in this post were taken in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, in 2005.