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Kazakh Literature Needs English Translations, Says Kazakhstan PEN Club President

FullSizeRenderWASHINGTON – Bigeldy Gabdullin, president of the PEN Club of Kazakhstan, arrived in the United States recently with a special mission. He says he wants to open the heart and soul of the Kazakh people to the American reader through literature.

To achieve that, Kazakhstan’s PEN Club has launched a series called “We the Kazakh People, ” which envisions English translation and publications of works by the most prominent Kazakh writers. The series will include the poems of Mukagali Makatayev, “My Name is Kozha” by Berdibek Sokpakbayev, “A Lonely Yurt” by Smagul Yelyubayev, “The End of the Legend” by Abish Kekilbayev and “The Code of the Word” by Olzhas Suleimenov.

Kazakhs are proud of their literary tradition, but English-language publishers do not typically come looking for it. Moreover, Gabdullin admits, the translation itself is a great challenge: the natural rhythmic elegance and the unique expressiveness of the Kazakh language, the distinctive ethnic ‘flavour’ as well as the historical context pose significant difficulty for a translator. But the PEN wants to use the hegemonic role English plays in international communication to make the culture and ideas of Kazakh writers available to readers throughout the world.

The works by the selected authors, and, by extension, all of the Kazakh culture, offer an enormous number of intellectual and artistic experiences, which will now be available to English-language readers, Gabdullin told an audience of more than 100 people at a special event hosted by the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington, D.C. on May 21.

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