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The Gray Earth by Galsan Tschinag
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The Blue Sky - The Gray Earth - and the third (untranslated yet?) is called The White Mountain. At the end of the 1st our boy was alienated from the Blue Sky, and we pick up his story in that state of disenchantment: "Away from the mute and pitiless sky that supposedly knows all, sees all, and hears all, but pretends to be deaf and blind the moment I need to be heard and seen." At the end of this one, he meets that White Mountain, in a fumbling shaman's vision (he's nine) - and we get a glimpse of what that symbol means to him.

'Symbol' is wrong, sorry, since Father Sky and Mother Earth and the shaman-Mountain are holy and real: this holiness, this realness are challenged, slandered, outraged, by the boy himself, by family members who crack under pressure of a hard life and misfortunes, and of course by the Communist authorities. Particularly in this book, where he spends his first year at school. The crux of the novel is when the schoolkids are marched out to do violence to the Gray Earth, to teach them the lesson that the old beliefs are superstitions, that the Earth is a material lump only of use for our exploitation.

The boy, at 8 and 9 years, knows he wants to be a shaman. Shamans are persecuted and liable to be sent to prison, as are lamas - we meet a lama in his age out of prison, to close this book, and he has wise things to say about survival.

Maybe because this is autobiographical fiction, the boy's first-person works tremendously well, I thought, with immediacy and vividness. He's a passionate little boy, storming and screaming (for which he has cause). And standing up for classmates. His shaman's vocation he tentatively explores; and learns commitment in the hardest possible way, when he did not follow his shaman promptings - failed to do his job - and those around him suffer for it. A shaman has a job to do, for other's sake, and must be brave - even when you're nine and heavily indoctrinated. ( )
1 vote Jakujin | Aug 25, 2012 |
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This novel continues the saga of Dshurukawaa, the Tuvan shepherd boy introduced in The Blue Sky. Torn between the onset of visions and pressure from his family to attend a state boarding school, the adolescent attempts to mediate the pull of spirituality and pragmatism, old ways and new. Taken from his ancestral home, he reunites with his siblings at a boarding school, where his brother also serves as principal. Soon he comes to understand that the main purpose of the school is to strip the Tuvans of their language and traditions, and to make them conform to party ideals. When tragedy strikes, Dshurukawaa begins to sense the larger import of his visions, and with it a possible escape."--Excerpt taken from FantasticFiction.com.… (more)

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