Reviews

Well-argued by a strong theoretical fundament, this important essay is devoted to the novel Kecha va kunduz (only the first half, Kecha, was published in 1936, the probably unachieved second one being lost—the version used here is the critical edition of part one published by Ozod Sharafiddinov in 1991) by the writer from Andijan ‘Abd al-Hamid Sulayman, alias Chulpan (c. 1897-1938).  The author shows how Chulpan, a polygraph with a strong ‘Jadid’ background, continued to undermine like in his earlier short stories the legitimacy of Soviet power in Central Asia, through a variety of narrative techniques oscillating between lyricism and satire.  Portraying the hypocrisy and collusion of many vernacular reformist (Jadid) intellectuals, of the Islamic religious personnel, and of local Russian officials at the end of the Tsarist period, the novel is typical of the 1930s, a period of strong disillusion and resentment among the intelligentsias of former Russian Turkistan.  According to the author’s analysis, the novel moves towards the devaluation of resistance, through its rejection of a dominant Soviet cultural production coupled with a critique of the discourse of resistance literature. (The illustration provided is a crude exposure of the inner contradictions between Jadid global aspirations for political change, on the one hand, and on the other hand “a residual love for empire and a bourgeois desire for continued masculine privileges and prerogatives.”)  Eloquent paragraphs are devoted to a question central in the Uzbek literature of the 1930s, viz. that of the women’s veil, seen by Chulpan’s heroine as a rampart of female dignity against the violations of colonial order, but appearing at the same time, in a reformist narrative, as an instrument fetishizing the female body.  So doing, Sh. T. Lyons subtly recreates the profound complexity and contradiction of a chef-d’oeuvre of modern Central Asian literature, perfectly suggesting the tragedy in native conformity or resistance.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-6.3.C-591