Blog-text

Bringing Kazakh literature to a new audience

| 20 December 2018

Not all great literature is written in English. Not all great literature is available in English.

Research shows when it comes to international literature, English readers are the worst-served in the Western world. Only 3% of literature books published annually in the US and the UK are translated from another language; English-speaking audiences are missing out on a vast wealth of important literature, culture, and art.

Cambridge University Press, working in partnership with the National Bureau of Translation, is publishing two anthologies of the finest modern Kazakh writers in English for the first time.

A nation undergoing great change

Kazakhstan is a country undergoing important change, reconnecting with its past and forging its own route to the future. Kazakhstan’s rich history and culture may be best understood through the work of its modern writers.

Kazakhstan is a vast country. The size of Western Europe, with mountain ranges and the vast steppe, summer highs of 30°C and winter lows of -30°C, the early Kazakhs were nomadic tribes. Sharing borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, the ancient Silk Road crossed the country to trade spices and fabrics.

In December 1991, Kazakhstan was the last country to leave the Soviet Union before it collapsed. Since independence Kazakhstan has undergone huge changes, moving from a planned economy to becoming the largest economy in Central Asia.

Redefining national identity

The publishing of two anthologies – one poetry, one prose – are part of President Nazarbayev’s ambitious Rukhani Zangyru programme, designed to prepare the nation for the next step-change in its evolution.

At the heart of the programme lies the importance of national identity. Just 28 years after the declaration of independence, life in Soviet-era Kazakhstan is very much in living memory. The programme intends to reconnect Kazakhs with their pre-Soviet heritage and set out a bold vision for their future in the global marketplace.

But national identity is not just an inward-looking matter for Kazakhs. Working with international publishers, the programme will see the anthologies translated and published in six UN languages and distributed to academic libraries around the world.

Cambridge University Press will publish the two anthologies in 2019 as physical books, ebooks, and full audiobooks. You can keep up to date with work behind the scenes and be the first to know when the books are available by signing up for updates.


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