14 April 2009

The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin

Silent SteppeI read this interesting book by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov last week. Shayakhmetov is an ethnic Kazakh and grew up during the years of collectivization and famine in Kazakhstan, then fought in WWII. I very much enjoyed reading it, especially since most of what I've read about this time period isn't first-hand. It's also valuable for brief glimpses into Kazakh life before collectivization.

However, I can't completely recommend it, because I don't think most people would be interested in this book, and the writing and translation aren't terribly engaging. In fact, the translation seemed a bit odd in places and I would have appreciated a translator's note or intro before the book to know a little more of her philosophy in translating the book.

But if you have any interest in the Soviet Union, or in Central Asia, or in genocide (although that's an exaggeration here, even if some say Shayakhmetov is writing about genocide), then do pick this book up.

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