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Sadriddin Aini (1878-1954) was one of the reformist intellectuals of Russian-ruled Central Asia (Jadids) who in the early 1920s joined the Bolsheviks to overthrow the Emirate of Bukhara and propagate the revolution in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. As the leading Tajik (Persian-speaker) among predominantly Uzbek (Turkish-speaking) colleagues, he was instrumental in establishing a distinctive Tajik Persian language and literature, written first in Latin characters and, from 1940, in Cyrillic. Aini's voluminous oeuvre (encompassing poetry, fiction, journalism, history and lexicography), while steering safely close to Stalin's party line, helped to preserve a Tajik national consciousness that has survived the collapse of the USSR. Today it is building a post-Soviet identity through closer links with its Iranian culture and fellow Persian-speakers abroad.
The first volume of Aini's unfinished Reminiscences is a first-person account both of a traditional Iranian-Islamic society on the eve of a fateful transition, and of a precocious boy's rites of passage to literary preeminence. The two autobiographical novellas included here, "The Village School" and "Ahmad the Exorcist," detail Sadriddin's chaotic schooldays and his brushes with homemade fireworks, superstition and irrational fear. In his panorama of rural life in Bukhara of a century ago, his parents and neighbors dig themselves out of a choking sandstorm, plan and excavate a new canal, and are decimated by a cholera epidemic. The expected class lines of Marxism are heretically blurred--noble peasants and artisans are offset by cruel and greedy tradesmen, oppressive officials by cultured and generous aristocrats. Lenin is never mentioned, but the Persian poet Sa`di is invoked at several junctures. Aini's mood ranges from humor through satire to pathos, and his critical and didactic ends are served more often in the narrative itself than in overt sermonizing.
An extensive introduction, notes, glossary and bibliography, as well as, two maps and 11 plates complete the work.
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Text: English (translation)
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