Born in 1954 in Kyrgyzstan, Hamid Ismailov moved to Uzbekistan as a young man. He writes both in Russian and Uzbek and his novels and poetry have been translated into many European languages, including German, French and Spanish. In 1994 he was forced to flee to the UK because of his ‘unacceptable democratic tendencies’. He now works for the BBC World Service. The Railway was his first novel to be published in English in 2006, followed by A Poet and Bin-Laden in 2012. His work is still banned in Uzbekistan today.
Yerzhan grows up in a remote part of Kazakhstan where the Soviets tests atomic weapons. As a young boy he falls in love with the neighbour’s daughter and one evening, to impress her, he dives into a forbidden lake. The radio-active water changes Yerzhan. He will never grow into a man. While the girl he loves becomes a beautiful woman.
Why Peirene chose to publish this book:
‘Like a Grimm’s Fairy tale, this story transforms an innermost fear into an
outward reality. We witness a prepubescent boy’s secret terror of not growing up
into a man. We also wander in a beautiful, fierce landscape unlike any other we
find in Western Literature. And by the end of Yerzhan’s tale we are awe-struck
by our human resilience in the face of catastrophic, man-made follies.’