Hamid Ismailov was born in Kyrgyzstan to a deeply religious Uzbek family of Mullahs, Sayids, and Khodjas, many of whom had lost their lives during the persecution of the Stalin era. He received an exemplary Soviet education, graduating with distinction from both his secondary school and military college, and attained university degrees in a number of disciplines. He became a dissident writer and poet residing in the West. Critics have compared his books—including The Railway, A Poet and Bin-Laden, and The Dead Lake—to the best of Russian classics, Sufi parables, and Western postmodern works. In 2012, Ismailov represented Uzbekistan at the Poetry Parnassus in London, and until 2014 he acted as the BBC World Service’s first Writer-in-Residence.