Aqyn Agha? Abai Zholy as socialist realism and as literary history

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In Mukhtar Auezov’s 1942 novel Abai Zholy, socialism is an end anticipated not just by history but more specifically by Kazakh literary history. In his earlier scholarly writings, Auezov had presented Abai as a transformational figure in the emergence of written Kazakh literature. In the novel, Abai becomes not only a literary innovator but also a political reformist: Auezov’s Abai is horrified by the harsh and feudalistic behaviour of his father Qunanbai, a wealthy local leader, but finds companionship and inspiration in his encounters with a series of famous 19th century Kazakh aqyns (bards). Auezov thus used Abai Zholy to argue that Kazakh folk literature had always been animated by a spirit of social critique which, in its laments and desires, had anticipated the Soviet world. This paper compares these aqyn’s depiction in the novel first with Auezov’s earlier scholarship on the 19th century and second with the content of the aqyns’ own surviving works. These ideas reflected both contemporaneous shifts in Soviet nationalities policy and the influence of socialist realist literary models, which commonly staged both literary history and generational conflicts as allegories of political change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-11
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Eurasian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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