Publisher: Hertfordshire Press
The Tragedy of a Bastard’ and ‘My own Strange Heart’ is a communition in which award-winning author Saule Doszhan explores aspects of the radical changes which have taken place in her native Kazakhstan in the post-Soviet era.
For centuries, Kazakhs have placed great importance on tradition and adhered to rules and values set down by their ancestors in a bygone age. Since gaining independence, the country has seen a resurgence of interest in principles and practices which are often perceived as oppressive by the current generation, leading to conflict within families and communities striving for a harmonious balance between the old and the new. In the first story, a naïve, middle-aged and highly educated woman gives birth to a child out of wedlock; an act regarded as both scandalous and selfish and which thirty years on, has a devastating effect on her long-stigmatized, illegitimate son. Doszhan sensitively portrays all sides of the situation, from the perspectives of die-hard nationalists to young, forward-looking professionals, and in so doing, provides a poignant insight into both everyday life and the heritage of her country.
Her second story, inspired by Kazakhstan’s first heart transplant in 2012, marks the stellar advances in medical care recently enjoyed by the country. Part fiction and part fact, it includes astonishing excerpts on the psychological impact of organ transplants and cites examples of recipients taking on the traits and characteristics of their donors.
This inevitably leads to the debate concerning the ethics of transplants and whilst the medics and scientists are concerned only with the health of the donors’ organs, it clearly raises issues regarding ‘mixed blood’ and the importance which Kazakhs have historically placed on maintaining pure lineage through generations.
The significance of the ‘seven fathers’ lineage’ and the ‘steppe passport’ lies at the core of the first tale and by alluding to it again in the second, Doszhan deftly links the two to encourage the reader to contemplate how dynamically different views of the world can co-exist in the present day.
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