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Author and alumnus Karl Meyer to speak at UW, book festival

October 23, 2003 By Ronnie Hess

Distinguished journalist and author Karl E. Meyer will visit the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24-25, as a guest of the International Institute and in conjunction with the Wisconsin Book Festival.

As part of the festival, Meyer, author of “The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland,” will speak on “Writing History,” at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25, at the State Historical Society, 30 North Carroll St. Meyer will also give a talk on “Central Asia and the World Today,” Friday, Oct. 24, at 11 a.m., in Room 260 of Bascom Hall, on the UW–Madison campus.

Meyer’s roots are deep in Wisconsin journalism. His grandfather was editor of the German-language daily Milwaukee Germania. His father was a columnist for The Capital Times and The Progressive. Meyer, who was born in Madison, was editor of the Daily Cardinal while earning his 1951 bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison. A longtime member of The New York Times editorial board, he previously was a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and is currently the editor of World Policy Journal. He holds a doctorate from Princeton University and has taught at Princeton, Yale and Tufts universities. He is the author of several books, including “Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia” (with Shareen Blair Brysac), a New York Times Notable Book.

In “The Dust of Empire,” Meyer uses his considerable talents as both journalist and scholar to tell the fascinating story of Central Asia’s encounter with the West, and of the fate of the region’s little known and unstable nations. As much as he travels back in time, Meyer also offers a valuable contemporary perspective, explaining how this poorly understood region has become an area of great security concern to the U.S., and providing context for America’s current war against terrorism. Is there an American empire, Meyer asks, and when a superpower exercises global influence, what means are legitimate?

Meyer’s book has received extensive praise. David Shipler, writing in The Los Angeles Times, said, “As a volume of history about the dangers ahead, in Iraq and elsewhere, ‘The Dust of Empire’ deserves to be read in the White House.” And the New York Times Book Review wrote, “Karl E. Meyer’s new book is not only readable and well informed but timely to an almost painful degree.”

The Wisconsin Book Festival, an initiative of the Wisconsin Humanities Council, is an annual free, public festival that celebrates the written word, writers, reading and books. The second annual festival (Oct. 22-26 in downtown Madison, with statewide events throughout the year) will offer more than 100 free literary events showcasing more than 200 prominent novelists, historians, poets, children’s writers, scholars and other champions of the written word. The ongoing aim of the Wisconsin Book Festival is to encourage book and literacy programs that will help individuals and families statewide discover the pleasures and benefits of reading. Book Festival events, which, like all Wisconsin Humanities Council programs, are free and open to the public.

For more information on “The Dust of Empire,” visit For more on the Wisconsin Book Festival, visit

Tags: arts