In the High Peaks

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reading Ismailov's The Dead Lake in Translation

The Dead Lake is a contemporary Russian novel in translation (just 128 pages) by the Kyrgysztani (Central Asian) author, Hamid Ismailov, translated into English by Andrew Bromfield. Ismailov writes in both Russian and Uzbek (as in Uzbekistan), though he is now living in exile in Great Britain because of his supposedly "overly democratic" opinions. I first heard about The Dead Lake on Stu's Winston's Dad blog.

The Dead Lake takes place in a remote area of Kazahkstan, very close to the area that the novel's characters call "The Zone," which is the site where the Soviets test their above-ground and below-ground atomic bombs/nuclear weapons.

The Dead Lake, naturally, is an environmentally disastrous body of water. This is a coming-of-age novel, and Yerzhan, lad of the steppes of Central Asia, beloved by his extended family and a violin prodigy to boot, swims in this lake. And thereby goes the story.

Although I'm only halfway through, I'm affected by how different this novel is in form, structure, tone, and well, everything. An eye-opening read. I'll be wanting to read Ismailov's other novels.

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