25 October 2008

The Dancer from Khiva

The Dancer from Khiva: One Muslim Woman's Quest for FreedomI almost didn't write anything about The Dancer from Khiva by Bibish and translated by Andrew Bromfield because I didn't read the whole thing- I just skimmed it because the writing style drove me nuts. I was also a bit turned off by the subtitle (One Muslim Woman's Quest for Freedom) since it implies that somehow the author's religion made her life miserable. There was a lot more to it than that! You can read summaries of the book elsewhere.

Anyway, I'm assuming this was originally written in Russian since Andrew Bromfield translates from Russian even though Bibish (why no last name? Uzbeks have last names) makes it clear that she learned Russian recently and speaks and writes Uzbek much better. It's hard to know if the translation is weak or if the original writing was weak, and weak it is. One review described the book as shapeless and I couldn't agree more. I felt little connection to Bibish because she seems to feel little connection to what she wrote- it feels like fiction.

I did find Bibish's experiences in Russia as an immigrant to have some glimmers of interest, although I never could quite figure out why they went there in the first place. Major decisions are rarely explained. It was generally chronological, although certainly not entirely, but that was the only organization int he book. Honestly, the detachment ruined the book for me and I do think it could have been so much more.

I would be interested to read an interview with the translator to learn if he knows much about Central Asia, and I'd like to know more about why this particular story has been published. I'm left with a lot more questions that answers about this book. But I do hope this book helps Bibish and her family, and others.

The Moscow Times loved it.

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