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Jamilia
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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Start discussion here for Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov.


message 2: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Oct 15, 2016 07:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Summary from Goodreads

Jamilia is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov, published originally in Russian in 1958. The novel is told from the point of view of a fictional Kyrgyz artist, Seit, who tells the story by looking back on his childhood. The story recounts the love between his new sister-in-law Jamilia and a local crippled young man, Daniyar, while Jamilia's husband, Sadyk, is "away at the front" (as a Soviet soldier during World War II).

Based on clues in the story, it takes place in northwestern Kyrgyzstan, presumably Talas Province. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was early in its peak in that period.

Louis Aragon lauded the novelette as the "world's most beautiful love story".

About the Author from The Guardian

Chinghiz Aitmatov was the best-known figure in Kyrgyzstan literature. A bilingual and bicultural writer, Aitmatov wrote his prose and plays in both his native Kyrgyz and in Russian and was translated into more than 150 languages. Described as a "magical socialist-realist" in the Russian press, he was able to combine elements of Kyrgyz folk-tales and epics with formally traditional Russian realism.

Aitmatov's life was itself full of paradoxes of epic proportions: the son of a victim of the Stalinist purges, he became the most decorated of all Soviet writers, gaining three state prizes and a Lenin prize. A beneficiary of the thaw, the cultural liberalisation which took place under Nikita Khrushchev, he became a world-famous author in the 1950s while still writing in Kyrgyz, gradually switching to Russian in the mid-1960s to became one of the most eloquent practitioners of the language. Aitmatov was deeply in love with his native land and lore, but he was also a Soviet patriot and a true internationalist.

A communist true-believer, he never shied away from exploring and exposing in his prose the darkest aspects of Soviet reality, just as he tackled the issue of drug abuse and drug-related crime in his bestselling novel of the perestroika period, The Scaffold (1988).

He was not a political dissenter but possessed an honest heart and melancholy philosophical mind, and tended to attribute the shortcomings of Soviet reality not to the evils of the political system, but to the inherent flaws of human nature, which the system was expected to correct. But until that happy day arrived he tended to show the world as he saw it: full of bigotry, prejudice, cruelty, sexism, patriarchal brutality, and general lack of harmony in the way people treat each other. All this is punctuated by beautiful scenes of human kindness, wisdom, love and devotion, set against the background of the stunning central Asian landscape which he poetically evoked.


message 3: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 230 comments I absolutely loved this novella! Considering how short it is, I thought the sense of time and place it conveyed was stunning - I felt totally transported to the steppe.

Regarding Aragon's quote that this is "the world's most beautiful love story": I do think this is a beautiful love story and what surprised me most was that it wasn't just love in the romantic sense, but also a wider definition of love - a love of landscape, of art, of music, of life itself. It really is a beautiful story, lyrically told. I am so glad I read it!


Missy J (missyj333) | 222 comments I agree with Viv. This is a beautiful love story and not just in a romantic sense.

What touched me the most was Seit's (the narrator's) reaction to Daniyar's and Jamilia's blossoming love. At the beginning of the novel, it becomes clear that there are certain norms underlying the social relationships among the Kirghiz (eg. how the father took a second wife out of obligation, the relationship between sister- and brother-in-law). From a traditional point of view, Seit would have to defend his brother and he easily could've condemned the two lovers. But instead he saw the beauty in their love and empathized with Jamilia's suffering.

I've also read Aitmatov's "The White Steamship" because it was recommended during the nomination process. It's not a love story, but equally impressive. Aitmatov sure knew how to bring the Kirghiz landscape and climate to the reader in just a few pages.


message 5: by Laurie (last edited Oct 23, 2016 08:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laurie | 629 comments I absolutely agree about the beautiful descriptions of love of the landscape, etc. That really struck home with me because I was thinking that Daniyar sounded like me in some ways by going off alone to listen to nature rather than staying by the campfire. It was wonderful that Seit could see the beauty of Daniyar's soul once he heard him sing. They were each artists in their own way, and Seit was blind to Daniyar's true self until he was exposed to Daniyar singing.

My favorite part of this novella was this description of Daniyar by Seit. "I understood why he spent his evenings on the look-out hill and his nights alone on the river bank, why he was constantly listening to sounds inaudible to others, and why his eyes would suddenly sparkle and his usually drawn eyebrows twitch. This was a person who was deeply in love. And I felt that this was not merely love for another person; this was different, it was a tremendous love--of life, of the earth. Yes, he kept this love within himself, in his music--it was his guiding light. An indifferent person could never have sung as he did, no matter how great his voice."

I was clearly much more drawn to the characters of Daniyar and Seit than to Jamila. She seemed like a somewhat moody flirt until the very end. I can see that her life certainly wasn't easy since she had only been married a short while before her husband went off to war. Then she had to live with her strong-willed mother-in-law and work at a physically strenuous man's job. But somehow I didn't like her much.


message 6: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments I read this a few years ago and enjoyed it.


Rosemarie | 3188 comments I read this earlier in the month and was pleasantly surprised. It is a lovely little story with a lyrical atmosphere.


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