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Writing from the Silk Road

September 2012

Three wooden boats float in a foggy green pool of water
Cai Guo-Qiang, Installation view of Endless, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar, 2011 Photo by Hiro Ihara, courtesy Cai Studio

This month we celebrate literature from along the Silk Road in an issue that features work from Central Asia, Georgia, and China. Noted Uzbek writer in exile Hamid Ismailov paints a picture of midday in Samarkand, while from Kyrgyzstan Konstantin Kondratenko describes a visit from an unusual winter guest and Alla Pyatibratova reports from the front row of a revolution. Kazakh writer Ilya Odegov’s protagonist takes some advice too close to heart while his compatriot, Debut Prize finalist Aigerim Tazhi, sketches a city waiting for salvation. Georgian writer Shota Iatashvili describes a staring match with a chess Grandmaster, and Uyghur poet Exmetjan Osman watches the ages pass by in a city park. 

Lovers in Samarkand
By Hamid Ismailov
You breathe in the burning air,
 / your lungs fill with the air of the flute
Translated from Uzbek by Hamid Ismailov & Richard McKane
By Konstantin Kondratenko
It was a winter morning when the Tangerine King rolled into my room.
Translated from Russian by Semyon Akhrameev
My Story of Chess
By Shota Iatashvili
Her hand would travel around the board, creeping up on a piece as she mumbled in a kind of trance: “J’adoube, j’adoube, j’adoube . . .”
Translated from Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway
An Orange Lemon
By Alla Pyatibratova
“Orange is for another country. The color for our revolution is yellow.”
Translated from Russian by Rohan Kamicheril
Old Fazyl’s Advice
By Ilya Odegov
“God’s punishment comes through the hands of the insulted,” said Fazyl, sighing.
Translated from Russian by Rohan Kamicheril
The Nights Passing Endlessly through Scheherazade’s Mouth
By Exmetjan Osman
I was more or less enjoying the daytime / I was watching grass sprout from cracks in the asphalt
Translated from Uyghur by Joshua L. Freeman
From Resurrection to Sunday
By Aigerim Tazhi
we cross off dates on the calendar / waiting for salvation
Translated from Russian by J. Kates