In the last several years, there has been a noticeable increase in books from Central Asia published in English translation. In order to take advantage of this literary output, the IAUNRC sponsored and hosted three events featuring novels by Uzbek authors. The events were the brainchild of Marianne Kamp, Associate Professor of Central Eurasian Studies, who also served as moderator for all meetings. These virtual book clubs allowed not only IU affiliates, but also members of the general public from all over the world to meet and discuss three well-known works of Uzbek literature. In addition to facilitating the organization of the book club, the IAUNRC was able to supply free copies of the books to our students to encourage their participation.
The first meeting discussed perhaps the single most famous work of twentieth century Uzbek literature, Bygone Days (O’tkan Kunlar), by Abdullah Qodiriy. Translator Mark Reese joined us for a lively discussion of this classic 1926 novel set before the Russian conquest of Tashkent. A recording of the event is available here.
Approximately one month later, the book club reconvened along with renowned author Hamid Ismailov, to discuss Shelly Fairweather-Vega’s 2020 translation of his novel Gaia, Queen of Ants. Ismailov kindly read several excerpts in the original Uzbek before the group launched into a long discussion of the novel, which follows the lives of three expatriates living in contemporary England, as they navigate a world rife with the memory of political corruption and ethnic conflict. A recording of the event is available here.
The final meeting of the Central Asian book club featured Christopher Fort (American University of Central Asia), the translator of Abdulhamid Sulaymon o’g’li Cho’lpon’s Night and Day. Night and Day is another very well-known Uzbek work that focuses on Central Asia under Russian rule, which depicts the everyday struggles of men and women in Russian imperial Turkestan. The event was wellattended and can be viewed here.
The series of book discussions was generally well-received and we here at the IAUNRC hope to continue to offer similar series of events going forward into the next academic year.