Intro to Central Asian Turkic Literature in Translation
The goal of this course is to present an overview of the four major periods of Central Asian Turkic literature: the Pre-Islamic Period 8th-10th centuries; the Islamic Period 10th-20th centuries; the Modern Period starting in 1905 and lasting till 1991. By 1881 all Central Asian Turkic peoples, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Uzbeks, had been under Russian colonial rule, soon to be followed in 1917 by the colonial regime of the Soviets which ended in 1991. From this date on we are dealing with a fourth period, the Period of Post-Colonialism or the Period of Independence. While discussing the major written literary works of each period, presented in English translations, we will also provide background information on the history and culture of the Turkic peoples. Of great importance is their oral literature which influenced the written literature greatly even up to the present times. For the Soviet period (1917-1991) special attention has to be paid to translations of Central Asian Turkic literature into Russian from which subsequently English translations have been made. As will be discussed in the first week, the concept of translation, prevailing already in Tsarist Russia, allowed the translator to translate freely, without being truthful to the original text. The severely restrictive literary policies of the Soviet Union (censorship; doctrine of “Socialist Realism”) will be examined in the context of the influence they had on Turkic writers and intellectuals. We will learn what censorship meant for them and how they coped with the oppressive rule of Soviet colonialism and Stalinism, often having to pay with their lives for their courage and convictions. Among those who challenged the Soviet rules was the Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov (1928-2008) who has been a forceful voice against colonization and its alterations of history, memory and the destruction of the environment. Current issues of national identity formation through oral and written literature will be addressed within the post-colonial literary discourse.