Modern Kazakh Writers Gain Domestic, Global Popularity

ASTANA – On January 9, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his Almaty residence, awarded presidential and state grants in literature and art to writers and artists.

More than 100 writers and artists have been honoured with a presidential grant for their contributions to the development of national culture.

Among the global challenges facing modern Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev has identified a crisis of ideology and values. So, today, Kazakhstan should focus on developing its culture and strengthening the all-encompassing Kazakhstan values of peace and harmony.

“Kazakhstan’s culture should be an integral part of the global cultural heritage,” the president said.

The artistic legacy of the poets and writers and ambassadors of the Alash political party, repressed in the 1920s, has returned to Kazakh literature over the past twenty years.

The government actively supports national modern artists. The state programme for the publication of socially important literature has come out with a series of new books entitled “Contemporary Literature”, which includes recent works by Kadirbek Segizbayuly, Rakhimzhan Otarbayev, Akim Tarazi, Nurgali Orazov, Jusipbek Korgasbek, Gulnar Salykbay, Ulykbek Esdaulet, Markhabat Baygut, Tolen Abdik, Nesipbek Dautayuly, Serik Aksunkaruly, Kuandyk Tumenbay, Nurlan Maukenuly, Raphael Niyazbekov, Zholtay Almashuly, Esenkul Zhakypbekov, Nesipbek Aytuly, Bauyrzhan Zhakypov and other talented poets and writers of our time.

An international science fiction competition, Baikonur-2011, which was first launched in 2011, has become an annual event. Winners’ works are included in the first three-volume collection of fiction from the competition, “Anthology of Modern Kazakh Science Fiction.”

Since gaining its independence, Kazakhstan and its government have paid a great deal of attention to the development of culture. In 2012, by state order, 1,093,286 tenge was allocated from the national budget for the publication of books. The Ministry of Culture and Information issued and distributed 407 books free of charge to the libraries of the country, with a total circulation of 816,430.

Non-governmental organizations and individuals also contribute to the support of national literature development. The first independent literary prize, Altyn Kalam (“golden pen” in Kazakh) every year helps winners in various categories produce their first publications. Recently, organizers added a foreign literature nomination to the list, which brings in young writers and poets from Russia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

The Altyn Kyran (“golden eagle” in Kazakh) charity fund established by Kazakhstan businessmen to promote the development of national literature has already published “Aytqym Keledі” (“I Want to Say” in Kazakh), a book of poems written by Tanakoz Tolkynkyzy; “Qarga” (“the raven” in Kazakh), a short story collection by Serik Sagyntay; “Boz Zhauyn” (“gray rain” in Kazakh) by Kultoleu Mukash; “Kielі Tunderdіn Dugasy” (“prayer of the holy nights” in Kazakh) by Yerlan Zhunis, “Besіnshі Mausym” (“fifth season” in Kazakh) by Asylzat Arystanbek and “Songy Raushan” (“the last rose” in Kazakh) by Miras Asan.

“The Spitting Image,” a psychological novel written by Leon Kostevich and the fantasy “The War” by Yerzhan Esimkhanov are among the most popular with Kazakh readers.

Famous writer, screenwriter and director Marat Konyr (or Konurov) has again pleased his fans with a new book. His recent novel “The Second Campaign for Glory or Fire, Water, Copper Pipes and Wolf Teeth” plunges readers into the amazing, adventure-filled off-screen world of movies and the author’s life.

Kazakhstan writer Ayan Kudaykulova in the modern book “The Ring with Cornelian” raises the painful problems of polygamy, adultery and female loneliness.

Some authors prefer to publish on the Internet and quickly gain popularity.

Kazakhstan authors, mostly Russian-language authors, have also had recent success in foreign competitions. Aigerim Tazhi is a laureate of the Russian literary contest “Steps” (2003), laureate of international poetry contest “Castello di Duino” under the patronage of Prince Carlo Alessandro (Italy), as well as a winner of numerous other prizes and the recipient of the title award of the Shabyt International Festival of Creative Youth. Her collection of poems, “Bog-o-slov,” (God-on-words) is very popular among Russian readers.

Leon Kostevich won the Russian Award in 2007 for his story “The Countess I Shot in a Duel,” taking second place in the short prose category.

“Legend of the Lake Shaitankol,” “A Singing Bird,” “Our Children Are Islamists” and “The Muslim” by Kazakh writer Dariya Dzhumageldinova were nominated for the People’s Writer Award, national literary award of Russia.

The output of domestic authors in the international arena has drawn more attention to the quality of translations.

“We need to think about strengthening the translation industry so our products can be read by all. The works of domestic authors should be the pride of the people of Kazakhstan,” Nazarbayev instructed the government.

New translations of Abai poetry into Russian, German, Belarusian, and Korean have appeared in the past two years. The Chinese writer of Kazakh origin Akbar Mazhit translated “The Words” by Abai Qunanbayev into Chinese. “The Path of Abai” by Mukhtar Auezov has been translated into Chinese and Arabic, but its most successful version is considered to be the French translation by Louis Aragon.

The British publisher Hertfordshire Press has published an English version of “Under the Wolf’s Nest: A Turkic Rhapsody” by Kairat Zakiryanov. Its launch was held at the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain and the Turkish Cultural Centre in London.

Columbia University has offered to work with the government of Kazakhstan to translate and publish “The Anthology of Modern Kazakh Literature”.

The author of popular works of fiction like “The Fire Birds of Great Steppe”, “Damoka and His Friends” as well as many other books on economics written by Aigul Tulembaevoy were published in China.

The non-profit charity fund Step by Steppe, organized by Shane and Michelle Cook of Astana, also promotes the development and wide dissemination of works of art by the peoples of Central Asia. “Step by Steppe aims to explore the rich literary history of Central Asia. Materials reflecting traditional and contemporary Kazakh and Central Asian thought, belief, and experience, will be translated into the English languages.

Development of the national culture is one of the priorities of the newly announced Strategy Kazakhstan 2050.

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