Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vast old empires and republics

NOW FINISHED: At the Foot of the Blue Mountains: Stories by Tajik Authors
NOW READING: Julian by Gore Vidal

Because I am currently totally interested in all things Tajikistan, that's why! And the book was pretty good, especially for a collection of short stories. I was looking for Tajik literature -- which by the way is hard to find, for reasons I shall discuss -- because I am very much seeking permission from the universe to travel to Tajikistan this August on a volunteer trip. It is hovering on the line between impossible and likely right now. I need to just make it so. But I need that permission.

So one of the problems is that the old Tajik Persian-derived literary heritage was sort of eradicated (I know, how can something be "sort of" eradicated? but you'll see that's my point) during the Soviet era. But it was mostly a language thing. And it wasn't even Farsi and Tajik (which is similar to Farsi) language books but Arabic books that were destroyed/confiscated, because the Tajiks had been invaded by Arabs long before Soviets. The Soviets were trying to get rid of Arabic language to standardize the Cyrillic alphabet. Quite a mess, of course, but then here in the U.S. people also tend to get bitten by the one-official-government-language bug pretty often, now don't they?

However, since there was a lot of oral poetry in said Tajik Persian-derived literary heritage, it is not actually gone and is mentioned a lot in At the Foot of the Blue Mountains. I really like this book. It is quite the good little introduction to many things Tajikistan. It contains a sampling of twentieth century stories and from authors born in various decades, but it was published in the 1980s so it still does not slam anything Russian or Soviet at all. However, a Tajik identity and the lifestyle there totally come through. There were several very interesting stories and only one or two duds.

Anyway, so I read that. And now I am on to 'V' - for Vidal! He is definitely one it is good to finally read after always hearing about him. The book, Julian, is about the 4th-century Roman emperor and his attempts to get rid of that wacky, newfangled religion that was rearing its head everywhere (Christianity). Normally I'm not one for historical fiction -- ugh -- but I had little choice with ol' Gore V. as that seems to be his specialty. Plus this one is a pretty obscure person and definitely snarky about the religious stuff -- fun!

In other literary news, for those of you who were jealous back when I was reading Infinite Jest and swore to yourselves that you, too, would tackle DFW's tome, this summer is your chance!

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