The considerable legacy of Central Asian writer and visionary Chingiz Aitmatov (pictured on horseback) was celebrated at the House of Lords, Westminster (10 December 2015), in an event that marked a coming together of diverse ethnicities in a singular tribute to the late genius.
A Kyrgiz by birth and the scion of a proud family rising from Stalin’s brutal and infamous purges, Aitmatov before his death in 2008 was paradoxically lionised by the Soviet Union before the virtual monolith of the USSR morphed into modern Russia and a constellation of independent former Soviet Republics.
Aitmatov wrote prodigiously and was equally at home in native Kyrgiz and Russian. His literary oeuvre extended from adaptations of his Kyrgiz heritage into a distinct form of magical realism, albeit one coated with a distinct socialist identity.
Thanks to his former colleague and friend, Rahima Abduvalieva, PhD, Aitmatov’s prolific contribution to world culture and literature is now a regular annual feature of London’s cosmopolitan life. This year’s event at the House of Lords, Westminster, was the occasion for the fifth cycle of an International Chingiz Aitmatov Award from The Aitmatov Academy, founded by Dr Abduvalieva in 2010.
The awards are presented to persons with noted contributions to studies related to Aitmatov’s life and work or, by extension, to the culture of Central Asia. The nominees are decided by an international jury of academics and artists from the UK, Germany, Kazakhstan and Russia.
This year’s winners are:
Professor Ludmila Alekseevna Verbitskaya, President of the St Petersburg State University, and President of The International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (MAPRIAL). The professor is credited with many years of work in popularising the Russian language and culture and for her “boundless respect for the memory of the author.” Among his many positions and pursuits, Aitmatov was an honorary professor at St Petersburg State University.
Professor Yerlan Battashevich Sydykov, President of the L N Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Astana, was praised for his many years of work popularising the Kazakh thinker, poet and translator Shakarim Kudaibergenov Шакарим Кудайбердиев in Kazakhstan and abroad, and for his support for the work of the Aitmatov Academy in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Turkish actor Kadir Inanir was honoured for his widely acclaimed portrayal of Ilyas in Aitmatov’s Selvy Boylum, Al Yazmalim, translated in a 1978 film version as The Girl with the Red Scarf. This screen version of Aitmatov’s story remains a bestseller in Turkish cinema.
Chulanda Samaranayake, academic and Sri Lankan translator of Aitmatov’s works, received the award for having translated into the Sinhala the author’s best works, including The White Ship, The Scaffold, The Spotted Dog Running at the Edge of the Sea, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years and Farewell, Gulsary. In 2013 Samaranayake visited Kyrgyzstan and met Aitmatov while participating in the Issyk Kul Forum, which was founded by Aitmatov.
A collection of Greek translations of the works of Chingiz Aitmatov also won an award.