REVIEW Å The Dead Lake

CHARACTERS The Dead Lake

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' Meike Ziervogel Peirene Press This is an astonishing novella which at 122 pages is full of lyricism and poetry traditional tales music and the modern day horror of nuclear testing An intro tells the reader that from 1949 to 1989 468 nuclear explosions were tested in a test site in the Kazakh steppes This story tells of Yerzhan a 27 year old man who looks like a 12 year old boy whom the narrator meets on a train selling yoghurt and playing his violin He then tells the story of his and his families exposure to nuclear radiation Part folk tale with magical elements it has a love story within it and a picture of the traditions of the Steppes An excellent read giving a snapshot of a region the size of Europe devastated by nuclear testing Yerzhan is a interesting hero who like Oscar in The Tin Drum is a man in the body of a child who in a chilling scene has bathed in the Dead Lake of the title his love interest Aisulu who lives with the family next to his in two isolated huts on the side of the remote railway is also affected I would recommend this book and given its length I am tempted to read it again before it goes back to the library

READ ↠ eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF Ç Hamid Ismailov

The Dead Lake

A haunting Russian tale about the environmental legacy of the Cold War 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 for A story told during a train journey thorough the vast steppes of Kazakhstan by a violinist who relates his life in a small village near a nuclear test site simply referred to as The Zone that had dramatic conseuences in his life Hamid Ismailov mentions that for forty years during the cold war in that populated region the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site conducted nuclear explosions both atmospheric and underground As a result the twenty seven year old Yerzhan’s growth was affected and he looked like a little boy The novella is centered in the destiny of two families with a similar past tied together by circumstances that we learn as the story unfolds Yerzhan a normal looking boy shows incredible musical talent at an early age His grandfather teaches him to play the lute like dombra and his uncle gives him a violin and encourages him to take lessons They both travel to a neighboring town where Petko a Bulgarian violinist who had studied at the Moscow Conservatory with the legendary David Oistrakh becomes his teacher When uncle Shaken proclaims that his talented nephew will go to the conservatory Yerzhan is terrified Did they want to conserve him? “Like fruit in a jam and cucumbers in brine?” At seven he entered school which meant he had to walk every day eight kilometers from his town and back During a trip with his class they visited The Zone and stopped at The Dead Lake Because of its calm waters the children thought it looked like a fairy tale lake but they were strictly forbidden to drink the water or even touch it Yerzhan took his clothes off and entered the lake to the astonished eyes of his classmates The narrator goes back and forth between Yerzhan’s story and the train ride describing the long grassland when his companion is asleep The trembling earth as an ominous presence leads always to The Zone and the central place it holds in the village its people and Yerzhan’s fate Power And Prosperity of the Cold War Yerzhan grows up in a remote part High Stakes (Vampire Beach, of Kazakhstan where the Soviets tests atomic weapons As a young boy he falls in love with the neighbour's daughter and Half to Death one evening to impress her he dives into a for A story told during a train journey thorough the vast steppes Geronimo of Kazakhstan by a violinist who relates his life in a small village near a nuclear test site simply referred to as The Zone that had dramatic conseuences in his life Hamid Ismailov mentions that for forty years during the cold war in that populated region the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site conducted nuclear explosions both atmospheric and underground As a result the twenty seven year Must Love Breeches (Must Love, old Yerzhan’s growth was affected and he looked like a little boy The novella is centered in the destiny Το καφενείο των τρελλών of two families with a similar past tied together by circumstances that we learn as the story unfolds Yerzhan a normal looking boy shows incredible musical talent at an early age His grandfather teaches him to play the lute like dombra and his uncle gives him a violin and encourages him to take lessons They both travel to a neighboring town where Petko a Bulgarian violinist who had studied at the Moscow Conservatory with the legendary David Oistrakh becomes his teacher When uncle Shaken proclaims that his talented nephew will go to the conservatory Yerzhan is terrified Did they want to conserve him? “Like fruit in a jam and cucumbers in brine?” At seven he entered school which meant he had to walk every day eight kilometers from his town and back During a trip with his class they visited The Zone and stopped at The Dead Lake Because When Science Fails of its calm waters the children thought it looked like a fairy tale lake but they were strictly forbidden to drink the water It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy or even touch it Yerzhan took his clothes EUSKARA ADIBIDEZ 4 LEHEN HEZKUNTZA IKASLIBURUA JAKINTZAREN BIDEAK ARINDU BIZKARRA off and entered the lake to the astonished eyes Studying the Novel of his classmates The narrator goes back and forth between Yerzhan’s story and the train ride describing the long grassland when his companion is asleep The trembling earth as an Quiéreme menos pero quiéreme bien (Volumen independiente) ominous presence leads always to The Zone and the central place it holds in the village its people and Yerzhan’s fate

Hamid Ismailov Ç 8 REVIEW

Bidden lake The radio active water changes Yerzhan He will never grow into a man While the girl he loves becomes a beautiful woman'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 Ominous and timely when you think about our own man who never grew up's plans to destroy our water


10 thoughts on “The Dead Lake

  1. says:

    A story told during a train journey thorough the vast steppes of Kazakhstan by a violinist who relates his life in a small village near a nuclear test site simply referred to as The Zone that had dramatic conseuences in his life Hamid Ismailov mentions that for forty years during the cold war in that populated region the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site conducted nuclear explosions both atmospheric and underground As a result the twenty seven year old Yerzhan’s growth was affected and he looked like a little boy The novella is centered in the destiny of two families with a similar past tied together by circumstances that we learn as the story unfolds Yerzhan a normal looking boy shows incredible musical talent at an early age His grandfather teaches him to play the lute like dombra and his uncle gives him a violin and encourages him to take lessons They both travel to a neighboring town where Petko a Bulgarian violinist who had studied at the Moscow Conservatory with the legendary David Oistrakh becomes his teacher When uncle Shaken proclaims that his talented nephew will go to the conservatory Yerzhan is terrified Did they want to conserve him? “Like fruit in a jam and cucumbers in brine?” At seven he entered school which meant he had to walk every day eight kilometers from his town and back During a trip with his class they visited The Zone and stopped at The Dead Lake Because of its calm waters the children thought it looked like a fairy tale lake but they were strictly forbidden to drink the water or even touch it Yerzhan took his clothes off and entered the lake to the astonished eyes of his classmates The narrator goes back and forth between Yerzhan’s story and the train ride describing the long grassland when his companion is asleep The trembling earth as an ominous presence leads always to The Zone and the central place it holds in the village its people and Yerzhan’s fate


  2. says:

    Whilst on a train journey across Kazakhstan the narrator meets Yerzhan a twenty seven year old itinerant peddler and virtuoso violinist who strangely has the looks and build of a boy of twelve years After overcoming his initial diffidence Yerzhan starts to recount the tale of his childhood He recalls growing up in a two family settlement on a lonely remote railway outpost in the Kazakh steppes close to a top secret “Zone” where Soviet nuclear experiments were carried out He tells of his precocious musical talents on the dombra lute like folk instrument and the violin and his eually precocious love for his neighbour Aisulu Chillingly he recalls a fateful day when during a school outing to the “Zone” he waded into a radioactive lake to impress his classmates Did the poisonous waters stunt his growth or was some other worldly spell cast on him? I suppose Hamid Ismailov’s novella might be regarded as a work of “magical realism” I would prefer to describe it as a modern day fable or myth For what is mythology if not an attempt to describe and explain the world through stories and symbols? In this case Ismailov conjures up images of terrible beauty by means of which he evokes daily life in the Kazakh steppes at the height of the Cold War Andrew Bromfield's sensitive translation from the original Russian retains a poetic feel to it as if the prose were permeated with the strains of Yerzhan’s dombra A haunting coming of age novel about a boy who does not come of age this is my favourite amongst the Peirene Press publications I have had the pleasure to readhttpsendsofthewordblogspotcom20


  3. says:

    Hamid Ismailov’s The Dead Lake is the first in Peirene's Coming of Age Towards Identity series It was first published in Russia in 2011 and as with all of the Peirene titles this is its first translation into English Andrew Bromfield has done a marvellous job in this respect and it goes without saying that the book itself is beautifulThe author’s own life is worth mentioning in this review Hamid Ismailov was born in Kyrgyzstan and moved to Uzbekistan when he was a young man In 1994 he was forced to move to the United Kingdom due to his ‘unacceptable democratic tendencies’ Whilst his work has been translated into many European languages – Spanish French and German among them – it is still banned in Uzbekistan to this day The Dead Lake says its blurb is ‘a haunting tale about the environmental legacy of the Cold War’ The novella has received high praise indeed; the Literary Review says that the author ‘has the capacity of Salman Rushdie at his best to show the grotesue realization of history on the ground’ Meike Ziervogel the owner of Peirene Press likens the novella to a Grimm’s fairytale due to the way in which the story ‘transforms an innermost fear into an outward reality’Its premise is absolutely stunning and is at once both clever and creative “Yerzhan grows up in a remote part of Soviet Kazakhstan where atomic weapons are tested 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 radioactive water changes Yerzhan He will never grow into a man” The Dead Lake begins with a note from the narrator which denotes the moment at which he met our protagonist Yerzhan upon a train He tells his tale to the narrator who remains unnamed throughout and who punctuates it with his own feedback recollections and imagined ending ‘The way Yerzhan told me about his life was like this road of ours without any discernible bends or backtracking’The story then centres upon Yerzhan himself beginning with his uncertain birth ‘Yerzhan was born at the Kara Shagan way station of the East Kazakhstan Railway The column for “Father” in his birth certificate had remained blank except for a thick stroke of the pen’ His mother attests that his conception came as a surprise after she ‘ dead than alive’ made her way into the deserted steppe to follow her silk scarf after it had blown away Here she states that she came face to face with ‘a creature who looked like an alien from another planet wearing a spacesuit’ Since a cruel beating from her own father which was sustained after her pregnancy began to show she has not spoken a single wordOnly two families live in the small way station named Kara Shagan and the sense of place and the desolation which Ismailov creates from the outset is strong The use of local words folktales and songs adds to this too and all of the aforementioned elements help to shape both the culture of the characters and their situation in an underpopulated part of their country The setting is presented as a character in itself at times and this is a wonderful tool with which to demonstrate its vital importance to those who live within itAs with all of Peirene’s titles The Dead Lake is filled to the brim with intrigue from the very beginning Yerzhan has been well crafted and his childish delight in particular has been well translated to the page When hearing his violin being played by a Bulgarian maestro of sorts Ismailov describes the way in which ‘the sound was so pure even a blind man would have seen the blue sky the dance of the pure air the clear sunlight the snow white clouds the joyful birds’On a far darker note the overriding fear of atomic bombs and the looming of a third world war gives the story an almost apocalyptic feel ‘We are travellers and the sky above us is full of enemy planes’ The Dead Lake is uite unlike anything which I have read to date Ismailov presents a most interesting glimpse into a culture which is entirely different to ours The novella is absorbing and the entirety is so powerful particularly with regard to its ending


  4. says:

    Ominous and timely when you think about our own man who never grew up's plans to destroy our water


  5. says:

    This was an impressive tale of a young boy and his family living next to the railway station and a nuclear bomb testing areaI was drawn in by the narration trying to solve the mystery of the young man's history and the style of the narration


  6. says:

    Dec 2014 The joy of the steppe the joy of music and the joy of childhood always coexisted in Yerzhan with the anticipation of that inescapable terrible abominable thing that came as a rumbling and a trembling and then a swirling sweeping tornado from the ZoneTwo families still living the ways of ancient Kazakh culture coexist alongside Soviet nuclear testing one son a musical prodigy; I found the themes and the telling enthralling and this is by far the best of the Peirene novellas I've readThe others to one extent or another had that bloodless brittleness of style characteristic of much Eng lang literary fiction and although they are pretty good took many times longer to read than the concept two hour books to be devoured in a single sitting which is one of the press's ad straplines By contrast The Dead Lake feels expansive and relaxed Dissident authors have acuired among some readers a reputation for being dreary Ismailov's work is banned in Uzbekistan; he now works for the BBC World Service but this was like being told a fascinating secret Or rather a traveller's tale from a place few Brits ever go This takes the form of a nested narrative the narrator meeting the violinist Yerzhan as he sells local ayran a yoghurt drink on his train Yerzhan still looks like a twelve year old boy although he is 27 he stopped growing and ageing after he walked into a lake near the nuclear testing facilityBut the book is not only the story of that it is of his life from birth Modernity is always present in a way for he lives with his grandfather who is the guard of a rural railway point but the grandmothers as their predecessors must have done for thousands of years groom children for lice and tell stories of Central Asian folklore such as Gesar Horses are an essential part of every day life Events such as nuclear explosions are framed in a subtly mythological way which gives the feeling of a folkloric explanation yet does not explicitly exclude the scientific nightmares of little silver planes suddenly turning into iron eagles and diving at him as if he were a fox cub running across the steppe unable to find a burrow or any kind of refuge from the rumbling or the darkening sky or the new sun rising in the black sky or the mushroomThe story of Yerzhan's musical genius also addresses in detail a wondering I had mentioned in this review of The Kalevala about how things may have been for those of exceptional talent in both ancient and remote rural communities and modern less developed areas Of his own accord as little than a toddler he picks up his grandfather's dombra and copies what he's heard His talent doesn't preclude his later being a fan of pop stars like 'Red Elvis' Dean Reed whom he only hears about via his violin teacher a dodgy Bulgarian who's been exiled to a building site some miles distantThe account of how cut off from his peers he feels due to his failure to grow was beautifully told and lump in the throat sadThe final chapter includes a metafictional playing with different endings but it never feels forced It is simply the narrator wondering about gaps in Yerzhan's story told like a traditional steppe bard just as you might speculate about an interesting person you'd met briefly There are if you wish allegories evidently to be found here but if you like a folk influenced story that does not spare the grit this is a wonderful book on its own merits


  7. says:

    An astonishing tale tinged with sadnessrecounted by Yerzhan to a stranger on a train journey that is in part imagined by the listenerYerzhan grows up at a railway siding where two families live their lives intertwined than appears on the surface Every so often the ground shakes another sun rises and everything is still Then there is the Zone that area where it is so silent his ears ringYerzhan learns the violin and is bright but the real light in his life is Aisula a light that gradually fades upon his reaching the age of 12 when he walks into the forbidden Dead Lake to impress her and from that day stops growing destined to watch her pass himAnd the thing that loomed over him like a visceral fear could happen in the middle of the sweltering summer when sheep suddenly started bleating as if they were under the knife and went dashing in all directions cows dug their horns into the ground and the donkey suealed and rolled around in the dustAnd a slight rumble would run through the ground Yerzhan's legs would start tremblingand then his whole body and the fear would rise up from his shaking knees to his stomach and freeze there in a heavy ache until the sky cracked over his head and shattered into pieces crushing him completely reducing him to dust to sand to scraps of grass and wool And the black whirlwind hurtled past above him with a wild howlFull review here at Word by Word


  8. says:

    This is an astonishing novella which at 122 pages is full of lyricism and poetry traditional tales music and the modern day horror of nuclear testing An intro tells the reader that from 1949 to 1989 468 nuclear explosions were tested in a test site in the Kazakh steppes This story tells of Yerzhan a 27 year old man who looks like a 12 year old boy whom the narrator meets on a train selling yoghurt and playing his violin He then tells the story of his and his families exposure to nuclear radiation Part folk tale with magical elements it has a love story within it and a picture of the traditions of the Steppes An excellent read giving a snapshot of a region the size of Europe devastated by nuclear testing Yerzhan is a interesting hero who like Oscar in The Tin Drum is a man in the body of a child who in a chilling scene has bathed in the Dead Lake of the title his love interest Aisulu who lives with the family next to his in two isolated huts on the side of the remote railway is also affected I would recommend this book and given its length I am tempted to read it again before it goes back to the library


  9. says:

    Hauntingly beautiful writing even when reporting the horrific


  10. says:

    In a Zweig like framing device the story is told in the course of a train journey through Kazakhstan The story involves a boy growing up in an isolated location close to a Soviet nuclear testing site and the effect this has on him and his family as they nevertheless continue with their lives schooling friendship musical talent farming Tragedy strikes early in the boy's life after a dip in a toxic lake causes him to stop growing; meanwhile by contrast his uncle insists on the Soviet progress in catching up and overtaking the Americans His family unaware of the toxic lake incident each have differing perspectives on the muffled adulterous relations among the two neighbouring families and their own causes and cures for his arrested developmentSounds depressing? Well maybe but the book is so rich in lush language that it is a uite beautiful story It is steeped or steppe d perhaps in the strong oral traditions of Central Asia and local legends are woven in as the characters attempt to make sense of events Although it is far from my experience Andrew Bromfield's translation vividly evokes the wide landscapes wildlife and characters of the region Overall a beautiful little book on the overlooked local lives affected by distant politics a theme which bears examination throughout time


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