Rewriting the Nation in Modern Kazakh Literature. Elites and Narratives
DIANA T. KUDAIBERGENOVA
Rewriting the Nation in Modern Kazakh Literature is a book about cultural transformations and trajectories of national imagination in modern Kazakhstan. The book is a much-needed critical introduction and a comprehensive survey of the Kazakh literary production and cultural discourses on the nation in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. In the absence of viable and open forums for discussion and in the turbulent moments of postcolonial and cultural transformation under the Soviets, the Kazakh writers and intellectuals widely engaged with the national identity, heritage and genealogy construction in literature.
This active process of national canon construction and its constant re-writing throughout the twentieth century will inform the readers of the complex processes of cultural transformations in forms, genres and texts as well as demonstrating the genealogical development of the national narrative. The main focus of this book is on the cultural production of the nation. The focus is on the narratives of historical continuities produced in the literature and cultural discontinuities and inter-elite competition which inform such production.
The development of Kazakh literary production is an extremely interesting yet underrepresented field of study. Since the late nineteenth century it saw a rapid transformation from the traditional oral to print literature. This brought an unprecedented shift in genres and texts production as well as a rapid growth of the ‘writing’ class – urban colonial and first generations of Soviet intelligentsia. Kazakh literary production became the flagman of republic’s rapid cultural modernization and prior to the World War II local publishing industry produced up to 6 million print copies a year. By the 1960s and 1970s – the golden era of Kazakh literature, the most read literary journal Juldyz sold 50,000 copies all over the country. Literature became the mass provider of knowledge about the past, the present and of the future of the country. Because “Kazakh readers were hungry to find out about their pre-Soviet past and its national glory” national writers competed in genres, styles and ways to write out the nation in prose, poems, essays and historical novels.