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The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag

The Blue Sky

by Galsan Tschinag

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Blue Sky Trilogy (1)

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122898,704 (3.92)24
  1. 00
    Silent Steppe: The Memoir of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov (meggyweg)
  2. 00
    Dalai Lama, My Son by Diki Tsering (meggyweg)
  3. 00
    Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Both of these books involve young boys eking out a living in very poor and difficult circumstances in different parts of Asia. One of them is much bleaker than the other.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The author grew up in Mongolia, later was educated in Germany and chose the German language for his writing. This autobiography, the first in a trilogy, details his life until age eight. It has a touching innocence that is captured in the translation and which pairs well with the child's account of nomadic herders in Mongolia. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 8, 2014 |
Galsan Tschinag is a member of the Tuvan tribe, a nomadic people from the High Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia. Tschinag left the region as a young man to study at the University of Leipzig, afterwards choosing to write in German. An author, poet and Shaman, the book cover describes him as chief of all Tuvans, who gathered his people, scattered under Communism, and led them in a large group back to their mountain homelands.

The Blue Sky is the first of a trilogy of autobiographical novels, told in the voice of a young Tuvan child whose early years are filled with both love and loss. As a toddler, he survives severe burns after falling into a cast-iron kettle of simmering milk, yet still grows to be capable of contributing to the family’s daily work, herding lambs and gathering plants and dung. He mourns the death of his beloved, adopted Grandma, is separated from his Sister and Brother who have left to attend a public boarding school, and becomes distraught over the death by accidental poisoning of his faithful dog, Arslang. This last event was foreshadowed to him in a dream, of which he violated a traditional belief that one should never tell anyone about bad dreams. “Tell your dreams to a hole in the ground and spit three times. Don’t share them with anyone.” He ends this period of his childhood in a rage of defiance that renders him unrecognizable to himself, angry with his parents for their ready acceptance of death and denouncing Gok-Deeri, the revered blue sky.

This is a simple but affecting story, the narrative filled with descriptions of the topography, daily life and traditions of the Tuvan sheepherders and their dependence on their sheep, yaks and horses for food, clothing, shelter, fuel and transportation. They cope daily with scarcity, harsh physical demands and unpredictable environmental forces. Yet their outlook blends the practicalities of survival with the magical, founded on reverence for land, sky, natural resources, family and community.

Grandma was human silk. That’s what Father said, and what he said was always right. And she had been sent to me by the sky. That’s what Mother had revealed to me. Some of the things she said were not true of course, but when the sky was involved, we were not allowed to lie.

Sadly, the narrative also hints at the slipping away of an ancient way of life, as the region’s culture and ecology are impacted by the incursion of Stalin’s socialism. Families are separated and communities divided as teachers recruit students to attend distant public schools, drawing youth to new careers, lifestyles and ideologies. The natural resources of the region are depleted and the wealth of vast herds of animals, wildlife and forests are destroyed in exchange for a paper money economy.

I read an Advance Reading copy of this novel, found in a used bookstore. Although lacking the depth and historical perspective that I found myself wanting, I enjoyed it for what it was – an uncomplicated narrative that reveals the essence of traditional Tuvan life as seen through the eyes of a child. The author’s "Words to Accompany My Blue Sky Child" and the "Translator’s Notes" provided added dimension to the significance of preserving the stories of the Tuvan people. I will look for the second volume of the trilogy, The Gray Earth, portraying the young protagonist’s time at boarding school. I believe that the final volume, The White Mountain, has yet to be translated to English.
4 vote Linda92007 | Jan 9, 2013 |
A little tragedy, a child’s tragedy. Act One of three, not on his life but on his youth. He must be under eight in this, since at eight children are sent to school, that is to indoctrination, with which The Gray Earth is concerned. The White Mountain tells how this “double life” cracked him up as an adolescent. In his afterword he says, "Both of the latter books contain stories more tragic than those in The Blue Sky, but since the art of survival is strong among nomads, some primordial serenity hovers above everything. I survived and was preserved for that small, vanishing remainder of my people [Tuvan] for whom each member is vital. By the end of the trilogy I arrived in the wider world…"

I like this that he says later: "I have been one who has hastened with seven-league boots across our planet's racked field of history. One who has been particularly indifferent, even careless, about three things: my career, clothing fashions, and literary trends."

This first is short and events are common, but nomad life in the Altai is richly portrayed and the writing’s rich too, the writing keeps you happy. His family takes in an old woman who has lost her yurt and flock, her means to live. He falls into a vat of boiling milk and they try to heal his skin with 25-year-old bear fat. His uncles and aunts quarrel about whether to go with new trends and officials from town or against them. There is a terrible spring with a desperate struggle to save the animals.

A herder needs to have ‘a heart for his animals’, and after Grandma – the old woman – we see most about the boy’s interaction with animals. I felt there was a note of tragedy in the failures of cross-species communication, and yet the love in spite of that. It might be that the boy is left more alone than normal (in the past), once the officials haul the camp’s children to town school and the family splits up. The adults don’t understand his attachment to his dog. I found the end gut-wrenching, when the events of his short life have piled up and the child, under eight, protests against the way of the world. I think it’s great as a child’s perspective: he’s ignorant but he isn’t naïve, and I recognised several moments. ( )
  Jakujin | Jul 30, 2012 |
This book is written from the point of view of someone very young (just how young I cannot say, but under eight years old) and it's fairly short, which might lead a person to conclude it's a children's book. But it's not the kind of book children would enjoy. It has no plot to speak of; the narrative simply drifts along. Yet, if you don't mind that sort of thing, there is much here to enjoy. The descriptions are spot-on, and I learned a great deal about the life and culture of the nomadic herders in Mongolia. I knew Mongolia was a very poor country, but I was still slightly shocked over how little the narrator and his family had, when they were considered to be a wealthy family.

It says in the back that this book is part of a trilogy. The next book covers the protagonist's later childhood and the third, his adolescence and entry into adulthood. I think the other two books would be worth a read. ( )
1 vote meggyweg | Sep 22, 2010 |
The author describes the book as "...the first part of my autobiographical trilogy. It describes my early childhood...". The autobiography is narrated by a pre-pubescent boy and his childhood in Mongolia as a nomad. The boy suffers a disability early in life, and family politics conspire such that the boy is brought up mainly by his grandmother. The book continues as the boy begins to take more and more responsibilities as a shepherd, as his older siblings are the first in his family to go to school. The hardships of a nomadic Mongolian existence are portrayed touchingly. Ultimately, the troubles of the family and environment plague the boy's ability to overcome one of the most challenging physical existences on Earth. ( )
  shawnd | May 15, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Galsan Tschinagprimary authorall editionscalculated
Petit, DominiqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rout, KatharinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 157131055X, Hardcover)

In the Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia, the nomadic Tuvan people’s ancient way of life is colliding with the pervasive influence of modernity. For the young shepherd boy Dshurukuwaa, the confrontation comes in stages. First his older siblings leave the family yurt to attend a distant boarding school, followed by the death of his beloved grandmother and with it, the connection to the tribe’s traditions and deep relationship to the land. But the greatest tragedy strikes when his dog — “all that was left to me” — dies after ingesting poison set out by the boy’s father to protect the herd from wolves. His despairing questions to the Heavenly Blue Sky are answered only by the silence of the wind.

The first and only member of the Tuvans to use written language to tell stories, Galsan Tschinag chronicles their traditions in this fascinating, bittersweet novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A young Tuvan shepherd witnesses the deterioration of his Mongolian culture as it collides with the modern world, from his older siblings' departure for boarding school, to the death of his beloved grandmother, to the poisoning of his faithful dog.

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