Hello, readers! Welcome to another #5OnMyTBR update. The rule is relatively simple. I just have to pick five books from my to-be-read pile that fit the week’s theme.
As there is still no fresh prompt until now, I am taking the liberty to do my own topics. For August, I have decided to embark on a journey across Asia through the works of Asian literature. As such, I have been featuring works of Asian literature I have added to my growing reading list. For this week, I am featuring works of Central Asian literature. Unfortunately, this is part of the literary sphere I don’t think I have ever ventured to. As of now, I think I only have one work of Central Asian literature on my bookshelf, which is kind of a bummer really. Nevertheless, here are works of Central Asian literature I can’t wait to immerse myself in. Happy Monday and happy reading!
5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook where you chose five books from your to-be-read pile that fit that week’s theme. If you’d like more info, head over to the announcement post!
Title: The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years (I dolshe veka dlitsya den)
Author: Chingiz Aitmatov
Translator: John French
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publishing Date: 1988
No. of Pages: 352
Synopsis: “An extraordinary novel set in the vast windswept Central Asian steppes and the infinite reaches of galactic space. From elements of myth, history, realistic narrative, and science fiction, Chingiz Aitmatov has woven a rich tapestry that blends cosmic speculation with the age-old legends of the Asiatic steppes. This powerful tale offers a vivid view of the culture and values of the Soviet Union’s Central Asian peoples.
Chingiz Aitmatov, a leading Soviet writer from Kirghizia, is the author of Plakka (The Executioner’s Block) and the play, The Ascent of Mount Fuji.”
Title: Oʻtgan kunlar (Days Gone By)
Author: Abdulla Qadiri
Synopsis: Otabek, the son of Yusufbek Hajji, is a 19th-century Muslim reformer and trader (and soon to be husband of two wives), who takes us through a Turkistan twenty years before the Russian conquest. From the teeming caravanserais, mosques and chai khanas of Tashkent and Margilan to the inner sanctum of the Qoqan Khanate, our hero bears witness to a world heading into a future of memory and loss, offering reform and resistance as the only hope to save the soul of a people. Not just Otabek, but his friends and enemies alike face a cultural and political landscape of family obligations, ethnic conflict, and a khanate lost to corruption and intrigue. At stake for Otabek and his loved ones is not only the destruction of a way of life – a world cast within the traditions of the Turco-Persian world – but a crisis of faith and identity that have persisted for one hundred and fifty-four years. Published in 1926, the author Abdullah Qodiriy brought his masterpiece to a readership beset with the same concerns as those of the beloved characters of this historical novel. Qodiriy uses the lessons of the past as a warning to his own generation experiencing the politically charged period after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Many describe the novel as a guide to the same issues that Uzbek society contends with today- in what is now seen as the national narrative of modern Uzbekistan, perhaps its origin story.
Title: A Life At Noon
Author: Talasbek Asemuklov
Synopsis: He could not have said exactly what he was hearing. A baby s sweet babbling? A hesitant declaration of love? He does not know. But the sound moves him as if he might discover in it something eternally important, something unlike he has ever known before, something that is, at the same time, hazily familiar. When the kuy is over, his throat hurts for a long time, as if there is a pebble stuck in it that he cannot swallow. He breathes carefully so that nobody can hear him cry. Azhigerei is growing up in Soviet Kazakhstan, learning the ancient art of the kuy from his musician father. But with the music comes knowledge about his country, his family, and the past that is at times difficult to bear. Based on the author s own family history, A Life at Noon provides us a glimpse into a time and place Western literature has rarely seen as the first post-Soviet novel from Kazakhstan to appear in English.
Title: The Devils’ Dance
Author: Hamid Ismailov
Synopsis: On New Year’s Eve 1938, the writer Abdulla Qodiriy is taken from his home by the Soviet secret police and thrown into a Tashkent prison. There, to distract himself from the physical and psychological torment of beatings and mindless interrogations, he attempts to mentally reconstruct the novel he was writing at the time of his arrest – based on the tragic life of the Uzbek poet-queen Oyxon, married to three khans in succession, and living as Abdulla now does, with the threat of execution hanging over her. As he gets to know his cellmates, Abdulla discovers that the Great Game of Oyxon’s time, when English and Russian spies infiltrated the courts of Central Asia, has echoes in the 1930s present, but as his identification with his protagonist increases and past and present overlap it seems that Abdulla’s inability to tell fact from fiction will be his undoing.
The Devils’ Dance – by an author banned in Uzbekistan for twenty-seven years – brings to life the extraordinary culture of 19th century Turkestan, a world of lavish poetry recitals, brutal polo matches, and a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse Islam rarely described in western literature. Hamid Ismailov’s virtuosic prose recreates this multilingual milieu in a digressive, intricately structured novel, dense with allusion, studded with quotes and sayings, and threaded through with modern and classical poetry.
With this poignant, loving resurrection of both a culture and a literary canon brutally suppressed by a dictatorship which continues today, Ismailov demonstrates yet again his masterful marriage of contemporary international fiction and the Central Asian literary traditions, and his deserved position in the pantheon of both.
Title: Stone Dreams
Author: Akram Aylisli
Synopsis: Set during the last years of the Soviet Union, Stone Dreams tells the story of Azerbaijani actor Sadai Sadygly, who lands in a Baku hospital while trying to protect an elderly Armenian man from a gang of young Azerbaijanis. Something of a modern-day Don Quixote, Sadai has long battled the hatred and corruption he observes in contemporary Azerbaijani society. Wandering in and out of consciousness, he revisits his hometown, the ancient village of Aylis, where Christian Armenians and Muslim Azeris once lived peacefully together, and dreams of making a pilgrimage of atonement to Armenia. Stone Dreams is a searing, painful meditation on the ability of art and artists―of individual human beings―to make change in the world.
Title: Night and Day
Author: Abdulhamid Sulaymon o’g’li Cho’lpon
Synopsis: Night and Day (1934), an unfinished dilogy by Uzbek author Abdulhamid Sulaymon o’g’li Cho’lpon, gives readers a glimpse into the everyday struggles of men and women in Russian imperial Turkestan. More than just historical prose, Cho’lpon’s magnum opus reads as poetic elegy and turns on dramatic irony. Though Night, the first and only extant book of the dilogy, depicts the terrible fate of a young girl condemned to marry a sexual glutton, nothing is what it seems. Readers find themselves questioning the nature of Russian colonialism, resistance to it, and even the intentions of the author, whose life and the second book of his dilogy, Day, were lost to Stalinist terror.
I must admit that I am very ignorant about central Asian literature -and Asian literature in general.
These books all sound very interesting, in particular days gone by. But I am a huge fan of (well-researched) historical novel in general.
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Like you, I am ignorant of this part of the literary world as well. But this is the great thing about literature I guess, it makes you want to foray into worlds you wouldn’t expect yourself venturing into.
While writing this post, I learned that several seminal works of Central Asian literature, unfortunately, are not yet translated into English. 😦
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Though Central Asia intrigues me, I have little idea about its culture or literature. Very glad to have come across this post. I have bookmarked it. Thanks.