Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for the ‘Central Asia’ Category

Open Eurasian Literature Festival

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th November, 2019

JF speaking at Open Eurasia Literature Festival 2019For much of this week I was in Brussels, attending the Open Eurasian Book Forum and Literature Festival, organised by the Eurasian Creative Guild. This annual event is a celebration of writers from Central Asia and Eastern Europe, with a special focus this year on Abai Qunanbaiuly (1845-1904) and Chinghiz Aitmatov (1928-2008), towering figures from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan respectgively. In the impressive surrounds of the Brussels Expo centre I delivered a paper on universal themes in Chinghiz Aitmatov and Oscar Wilde, which I had previously presented at two universities in Kazakhstan as well as in London. In some opening remarks at Expo, as well as on the following day at a lecture hall in central Brussels, I said how fitting is was that all this should be happening in the city that prides itself on being the Capital of Europe, but which should embrace far more than just the current 28 member states of the European Union. I also referred to the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which led to the collapse of Communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union into its constituent republics, many of which were represented at the festival.

Open Eurasian Literature Festival Numerous authors from the Eurasian region were able to showcase their work and there was also an awards ceremony for the winners of the associated cultural competition. Russian is still the lingua franca among the former Soviet republics and much of the event was in Russian, as well as presentations in English. Central Asian literature is still relatively little known in Western Europe, but dedicated enthusiasts are working hard to change that situation, not least the main driver of the whole enterprise, the Uzbekistan-born Marat Akhmedjanov of the Hertfordshire Press.

Link: https://www.hertfordshirepress.com

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Eurasian Culture Week

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 3rd October, 2019

Chinghiz Aitmatov 1Last night I gave a talk about Oscar Wilde and the Central Asian writer Chinghiz Aitmatov, reprising a theme I focussed on in two presentations last December at two universities in Kazakhstan. Aitmatov (1928-2008) is revered in his home country of Kyrgyzstan and managed to assert his literary presence in Moscow during Soviet tomes despite the fact that his father had been purged as an Enemy of the People. He was thus an “outside insider”, just as Oscar Wilde, who came from Ireland, was able to conquer literary and social London before his downfall. Though the two writers were very different in many ways they both had a social mission and wrote about strong women and ambiguous aspects of human relationships, rejecting the white/black good/bad moral compass of both Victorian London and the USSR. Aitmatov’s writings are still not very widely known in Britain — with perhaps the sole exception of his story Jamila — though he was widely recognised in Germany, where he died. There is sure to be a big celebration when his centenary comes round in 2028.

AbaiAt the Eurasian Culture Week where I appeared, held in the Premiere cinema in the Mercury Centre in Romford, the main subject for literary attention was the Kazakh poet Abai Qunanbaiuly, with whom certain parallels have been drawn with the German master Goethe. Goethe himself, of course, was highly influenced by the Persian poet Hafiz, giving rise to his West-Eastern Divan. Such cross-cultural links have long intrigued me. The Eurasian Culture Week, organised by Marat Akhmedjanov and the Eurasian Creative Guild, also featured an exhibition of paintings by artists from Central Asia and displays of books and presentations by authors from the region. Earlier this year there was an Eurasian Film Festival, also at the Premiere cinema, so the cultural significance of the vast steppes is beginning to get its due notice, not just the hydrocarbon riches of the area.

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