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This report is taken from PN Review 173, Volume 33 Number 3, January - February 2007.

Translation to Kazakhstan Daniel Weissbort

151 May 2006
A few facts, with some of which I was familiar before setting out. Kazakhstan borders on China. It is the size of Western Europe, with a population of only fifteen million. Almaty [Alma-Ata] is the largest city and former capital, set in a mountainous landscape. The country served as a Soviet dumping ground: nearly 900,000 ethnic Germans were deported there; three generations of Kazakhs suffered radiation sickness when bombs were tested in 1949; in 1947, after the defeat of the Communists in the Greek civil war, disillusioned Greek guerrillas were settled in Kazakhstan... Recent involuntary visitors included Joseph Brodsky, who is still remembered and revered there, and Molotov's widow, less revered.

While I was in Almaty, the seventieth anniversary of the poet Olzhas Suleimenov was celebrated. Suleimenov is honoured for his poetry of protest against the nuclear testing; currently he is ambassador to UNESCO. Kazakhstan's strategic importance is enhanced, of course, by its mineral wealth, seen as a God-given reward for its suffering over the centuries. The American presence should be noticeable, but to the unsophisticated eye, the Chinese one is more so. Russian is the common language, and many poets, including Auezkhan Kodar, whom I met (see below), write in Russian. Kodar was not alone in claiming descent from Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes.

The following account is drawn from notes; among which are comments on literary translation. Invited primarily on account of my expertise in this, I felt ...


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