Haaretz Interviews Chingiz Aitmatov

by Nathan Hamm on 12/12/2005 · 6 comments

Haaretz has a nice story on and interview with Chingiz Aitmatov, author of The Day Lasts More Than A Hundred Years and Jamila.

Though he has lived outside of Kyrgyzstan for years, his birthplace and village life still have an important place in his books, in contrast to the industrialized era and its influence on traditional values. His love for his homeland and the geographic expanse from which he came is evident in his writing – for the steppes of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, for the mountains, the vegetation, the desert and the simple life dictated by the natural conditions.

“My childhood and adolescence were spent in the realms of my homeland during the days of World War II,” he says. “When I was 14 years old, I was already working as secretary of the village council. This was the only official clerical post in the area, and I was obliged to visit the homes of families to bring them all kinds of permits and documents.

“Sometimes this was tragic. I would bring people what at that time were called `black papers,’ announcements that some individual had fallen at the front. This document would come to me, and I had to go deliver it. This was a terrible task. All of the horror, the distress in the relatives’ reactions. Therefore, I am also familiar with other sides of life. Thanks to the fact that I spent my life in common surroundings, books like `Jamila’ were written. Everything is taken from there.”

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Amanda December 13, 2005 at 8:45 am

Nice, but it doesn’t seem the reporter actually read _The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years_: “The novel describes the funeral of Kazangap, an elderly railroad worker from a small village in the endless, flat expanses of Kyrgyzstan.” His geography’s off: the novel’s set in Kazakhstan, near Baikonur. He’s right that the plot revolves around an attempt to bury a friend in the proper burial grounds, but one of the significant problems they encounter is that access to the burial grounds are blocked off by the secrecy of the military-space installation.

Nathan December 13, 2005 at 11:30 am

Crap, I missed that… But I’m not too careful a reader at times 🙂

Amanda December 14, 2005 at 6:33 am

I know I shouldn’t be too picky… it’s really nice to see Aitmatov get some press…. it’s just that I figure if people can keep their -lands and -tons straight, they can do the same with place names ending in -stan.

Ben December 14, 2005 at 3:39 pm

I was scheduled to meet Mr Aitmatov in Bishkek last year, but unfortunately, he became sick and had to fly to Istanbul for heart surgery.

However, I had the chance to meet his wife Maria in their private mansion outside of the capital – and to be honest, it was quite weird to see the author of such books living in a luxurious villa with high gates isolating him from the outside world.

jb December 15, 2005 at 4:13 am

also kind of weird, at least for me, not to see the place of the skull not even mentioned. i quite enjoyed it.

bikramjeet singh October 9, 2006 at 11:04 am

hello sir..
m from india n i read ur novels.. n i like them very very much specialy first teacher.. i need ur address plzz if it is possible then please send me ur adress thanx sir

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