22 July 2010

Book Review: The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov

I noticed that I haven't had a book review here recently. I think I know what to blame for that. It's because I've been enjoying myself with the music player function of my new phone. Therefore, when I take the bus to and from school, instead of reading, I find myself listening to music instead. Anyway, enough of that. I figured that I prefer reading more than listening to music, so I'll limit my listening to cases in which I want to be occupied and yet I cannot read, such as when I do grocery-shopping, for example.

Anyway, so I finally finished this book, which I got from my mom, who in turn got it from somewhere else, which I believe, when she was on holiday in Istanbul. Yeah, you can imagine the carbon-footprint of this book now. But I don't think I regret reading this one.

This book is about the story of Yedigei, is on a mission to bury his dear friend, Kazangap. It is set in the middle of the steppes of Central Asia, somewhere in between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The whole timeline of the story only takes about a couple of days: it starts from when Yedigei sees his wife running towards him telling him that his dear friend Kazangap has died, and then the family arrives and they mourn, and they depart to this burial ground in a far country until they bury the dead man. What makes the story long however is the frame narrative that this novel employs: this is the style in which there is a main story (in this case the story of the burial of Kazangap) which is a vehicle to introduce several smaller sub-stories, and here, there's many of them. I initially encountered this narrative type when I read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and I very much enjoyed it.

So, there are several sub-stories to this, and all of these are flashbacks to Yedigei while he is busy burying Kazangap. There is the story about the significance of the burial cemetery that he insisted they should go to, there is the story about the mankurt, there is the story about his camel, there is the story about his dog, the story about the aliens in outer space, the story about Abutalip's widow, and so on. And as the reader builds on these stories, it paints a complete picture of what life in Central Asia was like for people like Yedigei and Kazangap.

There is only one thing that I didn't like about this novel, and that is the fact that there is one story that was not resolved, or at least, I never saw the function of it. There is the story about astronauts and cosmonauts and outer space. While Yedigei was doing his daily chores, he notices a rocket that shot into space. It was later revealed that this was part of a multi-national expedition to outer space, and this expedition was meant to contain a possible catastrophe regarding aliens visiting the planet. I never really saw how that was connected to Yedigei, aside from the fact that the rocket was seen by him one night, and that the space launching area somehow cordoned off the burial site. It wasn't related to the main story the way the other sub-stories were related.

But, I still am glad that I picked up this novel. I haven't read a novel from Kyrgyzstan before, and so this was a welcome treat. It added a new aspect to my collection of fiction that I have encountered. 4 out of 5 stars.

See my other book reviews here.

(Shiny Golden Mountain, from my Salineras de Maras Series)

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