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Accepted Paper:

Kazakh Children’s Literature of the Thaw: the case of Berdibek Soqpaqbaev  
Gabriel McGuire (Nazarbayev University)

Paper abstract:

Berdibek Soqpaqbaev’s 1957 Meniñ Atım—Qoja (My Name is Qoja), a short novel that reads like a Soviet version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is perhaps the most famous work of Kazakh children’s literature. In 1960, Soqpaqbaev followed this novella with his memoir Balalıq Şaqqa Saiaxat (An Excursion to Childhood), an account of his own childhood in the 1930s. Both the novella and the memoir are narratives in which the protagonist’s central task is to fashion themselves not merely into an adult but specifically into an adult who is a citizen of Soviet modernity. As other scholarship on children’s literature in the Soviet Union has emphasized, these tales of talented but mischievous young children are socialist realism in miniature, models of how the Soviet institution of the school brings direction and order to the chaotic and directionless enthusiasms of childhood. Yet the peculiarity of Soqpaqbaev’s work is that his characters are not just Soviet but Kazakh, and in the case of Qoja, not just Kazakh but also a poet. The struggle to fashion the child into a Soviet citizen is consequently entangled with the larger struggle over how (and to what extent) Kazakh culture might be reconciled with Soviet culture. In both Balalıq Şaqqa Sayaxat and Meniñ Atım—Qoja, this paper argues, Soqpaqbayev uses references to pre-Revolutionary Kazakh aqıns (bards) and to oral literary forms as a device by which possible gaps between these identities are smoothed over.

Panel REG05
Visions of Self and Community: tradition, modernity, and the negotiation of national and Soviet by Central Asian poets and writers
  Session 1 Friday 21 October, 2022, -