Reviews

Essentially different from the more conformist contributions of the same volume on Persian and other Iranian literatures of Central Asia (see my review of the papers by H. Javadi and others, supra 536), this short synthesis on Turkic literatures in Central Asia begins with a useful clarification on the traditional notion of literature in this part of the world (Arabic and Persian adabiyyat—an art of living based on a corpus of texts providing practical standards of conduct—being opposed to the Russian literatura—a necessary practical skill taught in schools, with strong bureaucratic connotations after Russian colonisation and the Soviet period).  According to a dichotomy non devoid of ethnic essentialism, the paper is divided into two equal chapters devoted respectively to two worlds dialectically opposed: on the first hand, “urban literature”—that of the oasis civilisation (present-day Uzbekistan), allegedly characterised by submission to or revolt against an ominous political power—, and one the other hand “the literature of the steppe and mountains”—namely, present-day Kyrgyzstan: the domain of freedom and intensely close contact with nature (see the author’s eloquent paragraph on Taktogul Satïlganov’s childhood “amid horses, yaks and sheep” [p. 918]).  Beyond the discussable validity of these romantic and highly problematic categories, the paper provides a substantial and vivid insight on the history (in particular on the chronology and significant dates) of modern Turkic literatures in the specific social and political contexts of Russian and Soviet Central Asia.  It remains perhaps to be deplored that, as far as the author has chosen to focus his paper on Uzbek and Kyrgyz literatures (through Aitmatov, a Russian-language novelist, as far as Kyrgyz literature is concerned), other modern and contemporary Turkic languages and literatures (notably Kazakh, Turkmen, and Uighur) are not represented in this volume of the History of Civilizations of Central Asia.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-6.3.A-564