Category: Epic

Hamid Ismailov: Manaschi

The latest addition to my website is Hamid Ismailov‘s Manaschi. This is another highly colourful book from Hamid Ismailov. The basis of the book is the Kyrgyz national epic Manas. (A manaschi is a reciter of the legend, which is primarily oral.) Baisal, a manaschi, has just died and his his foster-son Bekesh, returns to his village, now on the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border. Bekesh meets his nephew Dapan, who can also recite the Manas and Tumor, Baisal’s eagle. However, there is soon conflict, between the Islamists and those that favour the Manas legend. Things get worse when the Chinese move in to construct a road through the mountains. Some of the events are paralleled in the Manas legend (the Chinese were Manas’ main enemy). Gradually, the curse of the manaschis and the clash between the various sides gets out of hand. Hamid Ismailov is a wonderful story-teller and this book very much confirms that.

Mircea Cărtărescu: Levantul [The Levant]

The latest addition to my website is Mircea Cărtărescu‘s Levantul [The Levant]. This is a mock epic, which, in the original Romanian was written primarily in verse form, but, for the translations (French, Italian, Spanish and Swedish but not English) was primarily converted to prose, with some verse. It tells of the adventures of a band of Romanians and quasi-Romanians in the first half of the nineteenth century who wish to liberate Romania from the Ottoman Empire. As this is a mock epic, it is written in a deliberately flowery language, paying homage to various Romanian writers of the past and present, and involves the usual fantastical creatures and places, great heroes, battles and, of course, treachery. As it is post-modern, Cărtărescu, as author/narrator, makes numerous appearances, chatting both to his characters and to his imaginary (female) reader, before inviting all of his characters to coffee in his present-day Bucharest flat. It is great fun and very cleverly done but sadly not available in English.

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