7 October 2007

Chingiz Aïtmatov, Jamilia, 1957

The French poet Louis Aragon described Jamilia as the world’s most beautiful love story. Small and perfectly formed it most certainly is, a sensitively told drama played out on the steppes of Kyrgyzstan and related by the teenage friend of the spirited Jamilia, whose soldier husband is hospitalised while fighting on the front. But when another crippled, silent and shell-shocked soldier returns to their village, Jamilia finds her affections are being slowly and unexpectedly pulled in a different direction. There’s an attractive, can-do decisiveness to Jamilia, and while the narrative places her firmly at the centre of her story it’s the emotional development of the narrator that has a more interesting aspect. Recommended.   PY

  Aïtmatov won the 1963 Lenin Prize.

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