Jamilia, by Chingiz Aitmatov

A while ago, I read Aitmatov's novel The Day Lasts Over a Hundred Years.  (It's actually over a year ago, holy cow.)  I also wanted to read Aitmatov's much shorter, and apparently more famous, novella, Jamilia.  The blurbs call it a great love story of the steppes.  It's told from the point of view of a Kyrgyz artist, Seit, looking back on his memories.

Jamilia is the beloved daughter-in-law of the house, a beautiful girl and a hard worker.  Her husband is off at the front, and she spends her days working with her much younger brother-in-law, Seit.  Seit sees her as a perfect older sister and watches as she shrugs off the advances of the men still remaining at the village.  He also sees how hurt she is by her husband's dutiful letters to the whole family, never to her.  When an injured ex-soldier, Daniyar, moves to the village, Seit and Jamilia enjoy his singing talents, and Seit is wholly sympathetic when Jamilia and Daniyar elope just before the husband returns home.

It's so short that I would have liked a little more, but it's wholly evocative of life on the Central Asian steppes under the Soviet Union and would make an excellent selection in a course on Asian or world literature.


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