A common language

Kasia Trojanowska | 9 January 2019

Almaty, an old capital city of Kazakhstan, knows its place in the world. Unlike Astana, it doesn’t seem to rush around, but rather moves on at its own pace, measured and established. To an unacquainted visitor, it seemed open and friendly, with tree-lined streets, parks and pedestrianised boardwalks. We were going to spend the next four days there and were curious as to what they would bring.

First, there was another conference, much like the one in Astana, but perhaps with greater numbers of authors in attendance. A lot of authors featured in the anthologies live Almaty, as it is the former capital city. We had meetings and interviews scheduled for the next four days. I was particularly hopeful that I’d get a chance to speak to some of the prose authors and had prepared some questions in advance.

After the main part of the conference, we then commenced the interviews, starting with Mr Smagul Yelubay, author of ‘Gift for the grandson’. He was keen that his, and the other authors’, works be translated with care and flourish, almost becoming stand-alone works that can be read independently of their Kazakh originals. He conversed in fluent English, and we used our translator sparingly. We looked at his text closely, uncovering a few infelicities introduced by an intermediary translator, and were glad for the opportunity to correct them. Time flew and we were surprised when 45 minutes had passed and we needed to conclude our interview.

The next author we had an opportunity to speak with was Mr Dulat Isabekov. We were faced with a man who gave an impression of having lived his life to the full, and he was happy to regal us with his stories, some of which found their way into his work. In turn poignant and humorous, we spent an enlightened 45 minutes in Mr Isabekov’s world.

The day was rounded off with a wonderful dinner of traditional Kazakh cuisine served to the accompaniment of a renowned folk orchestra. Invigorated and excited, we bid some of our colleagues goodbye as that was their last evening in Almaty.

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