Translations from Central Asia (and more) looking for publishers in English
By Shahzoda Nazarova Samarqandi
Novella (Uzbekistan), est. 38,000 words
Full translation underway, seeking publisher
This haunting novel is a time-twisting reverie on the bond between mothers and daughters. Growing up in late-Soviet-era Uzbekistan, Mahtab feels more at home in the cotton fields – and in the past, as depicted in her mother’s diary – than at school, where the books in the library are rewritten with every new political trend. When a Russian film crew comes to town to make a movie about cotton, starring Mahtab in the role of her hero-worker mother, Mahtab suffers an accident that scrambles her memory. As she struggles to recover, she must untangle her mother’s story from her own, and navigate the hazy contours of memory, love, storytelling, and country to finally find herself. Translated from Tajik to English through Youltan Sadykova’s lyrical Russian version.
By Zira Naurzbayeva and Lilya Kalaus
Children’s adventure (Kazakhstan), est. 60,000 words
Sample translated, seeking publisher or agent
When the Golden Warrior on Batu’s notebook cover comes to life and sends him on a vitally important mission, he has to go, of course – even if it means taking his baby sister along, battling monsters, and fighting off the school bully all at the same time. This book is the first in a series; Book 2 is already published and Book 3 is being written now.
Edited and translated by Zaure Batayeva and Shelley Fairweather-Vega
Short fiction collection, est. 61,000 words
Mostly translated, seeking publisher
Winner of a RusTrans bursary for translation and promotion
From the editors: Kazakhstan is the largest country by landmass to emerge from the breakup of the Soviet Union aside from Russia itself, but it has had an undersized impact on world literature. Its rich oral storytelling tradition has so far gone largely unrecorded outside the Kazakh and Russian languages. This project is meant to be more than a collection of attractive literary gems; because it comes from Kazakhstan, a place where good writing often struggles to be recognized, we feel we have a moral obligation to showcase this work—not as an additional accolade for world-renowned artists, but as an urgent report to the English-speaking world that these authors and their work do, in fact, exist.
The RusTrans research project at University of Exeter is funding the translation of two stories in Amanat as part of its project to study the publication of Russian-language literature in translation.
By Lilya Kalaus
Novel (Kazakhstan), est. 93,000 words
Sample translated, seeking publisher
Asya can handle her abusive stepfather, layoffs at work, and the debauchery of a corporate retreat with her wacky coworkers. She can probably even cope with the homicidal ghost in Room 4. But can she survive a slowly budding romance with a sophisticated stranger from Moscow? Critic Maia Stavitskaya calls Kalaus’s writing “A bewitching word game careening freely through a four- or five-dimensional universe of words and expressions that are paradoxically both thoroughly carnal and extremely meaningful.” The Last Hope Foundation was partly inspired by the author’s experience working for the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan. It was longlisted for the prestigious Russian Prize in 2010.
By Qabdesh Zhumadilov
Novella (Kazakhstan/Xinjiang), est. 32,000 words
First three chapters translated, seeking publisher
One of Kazakhstan’s most celebrated writers, Zhumadilov was born in China and emigrated to the Soviet Union with approximately 200,000 of his countrymen in the spring of 1962. This novella tells a fictionalized version of that remarkable story. In Xinjiang Province, China in the early 1960s, when ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs in China’s western provinces were being herded into prison camps on suspicion of nationalism and espionage, the young Kazakh intellectual Baglan and his uncle Shaiky escape the camp at Tarim and make their way across the border into Soviet Kazakhstan. With the new wave of Uyghur persecution in Xinjiang in recent years, and with ethnic unrest threatening the peace in Kazakhstan, this story feels all the more relevant today. At the same time, it demands comparison with Soviet prison literature, forcing us to compare Chinese and Siberian prison camps from the point of view of a people caught in between two foreign, authoritarian systems.
By Sharif Ahmedov
Essays on literature (Uzbekistan), est. 160 pages
Sample translated, seeking publisher for individual essays or collection
Sharif Ahmedov is the translator of Jorge Luis Borges into Uzbek. Inspired by that experience, Ahmedov wrote this cycle of metamorphoses, exploring the interconnection – and disconnects – between cultures, dreams, masterpieces, and creative genius, not to mention uninvited visitors, illness, and other more mundane misfortunes. Ahmedov presents his thoughts in a smart but accessible way that is sure to charm readers eager to glimpse the view from his unique vantage point at a previously uncharted cultural crossroads.
By Dastan Kadyrzhanov
Novel in free verse (Kazakhstan), 2 volumes in original
Sample translated, seeking publisher and funding
The Soviet system sought to organize and control not just economics and politics, but also its citizens’ moral lives. With the collapse of that system and the official atheism it espoused, what moral system is available to replace it? Kazakh political commentator and journalist Dastan Kadyrzhanov meditates on the post-Soviet crisis in faith through an imaginative retelling of the lives of Jesus’s apostles as they search for belief in an ancient Middle East that features conspicuous and often amusing hints at the political and social crises of today. This long poem references stories and myths from many faith traditions, all told, or perhaps sung, in a form reminiscent of classical Persian oral literature.
By Olga Gromyko and Andrei Ulanov
Comedy space opera (Belarus), est. 150,000 words
Mostly translated, seeking publisher or sponsor for self-publishing
Happily retired space commando Stanislav wakes up from a night of drunken revelry to find he has mortgaged his apartment to buy a spaceship—and as if that’s not enough, he has also signed a contract to transport a crew of space biologists to a very distant planet. What else could possibly go wrong? Cyborgs, runaway robofoxes, and space pirates, for starters.
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