Thursday, October 28, 2004

I'm in a suitcase mood - chemodannoye nastroyeniye: I'm leaving for Kyiv tonight. It's a 24-hour train, so I bought myself some books a few days ago, but yesterday, instead of getting packed, I read one (loved it) and then a little bit of another (didn't like it), and now I'm not sure what to take with me. It's very important to have something cool to read on this train - because if the book is boring, you're doomed to having conversations with people in your compartment. That sometimes is okay, but now, with the Ukrainian election mess approaching the climax, everyone talks politics, and that gets tiresome after a while, even when you avoid reading or talking with people holding the opposing views, calling Yushchenko a fascist, etc, and the possibility of getting stuck in a train compartment with someone like this, for 24 hours and without a book, is scary.

Anyway, I have to get packed now, I have to call my parents to tell them I'm coming, I have to supply Mishah with something to eat while I'm away, and I have to decide on a train book.

The book I read yesterday - I swallowed it - was amazing. Written by a 40-year-old Uzbek woman from Turkmenistan, it's a story of being an immigrant in your own country, first in the Soviet Union, then in Russia. She was born in a tiny village in Uzbekistan, never learned to speak Russian well, always wanted to escape the village and have a life, ended up in a town four hours away from Moscow, selling stuff at the market, having her sons harrassed at school for being non-Russian - but she also found some pretty wonderful friends there and wrote this book that was long-listed for the Russian National Bestseller prize this year. I'm researching something from it now, so I'll probably have more on it later - but all I can say is that this is a story that an average Muslim woman would be too embarrassed to tell. Actually, it's a story that most village women would prefer to keep to themselves. And most city women wouldn't have the guts to tell a story like this, either.

The author calls herself Bibish, but her real name is Hajjarbibi Siddikova, and the book is called "A Dancer from Khiva, or The Story of a Simple-Minded." Her American friends have promised to translate it and have it published in the States, but that hasn't happened yet, I guess, or I would have found it.

It's an awesome book for someone who's interested in Russia but is stuck in the 19th century with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (I myself prefer Chekhov's short stories). It's an awesome book for most people here - one newspaper guy wrote that the morning after he finished reading it, he saw this Tajik woman surrounded by her kids, begging for money in the street, and he reached into his pocket for the first time that morning, because even though he saw that Tajik woman every morning there, after reading the book, he could no longer ignore her and her kids.

Okay, I really have to start getting packed now. I've been quite sporadic on this blog, and I'm gonna be even more sporadic from now on, I'm afraid. At least for a while. We'll see. Sorry.

Here's a link to the story I wrote in 2003, about my first trip on this 24-hour train, from Kyiv to St. Petersburg - the title is kind of corny and I hardly remember what it was about myself - Belarus, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez' The Autumn of the Patriarch... All I remember is that I loved writing it.


Hope you all have a nice weekend.


  1. Hi Neeka,
    on my weblog ( I just launched an open thread, collecting everything about bloggers from Ukraine who are covering the upcoming elections.

    If you know any more fellow bloggers, please add them to the list:

    For any further questions click the contact link on einsodernull. If this comment disturbs you, feel free to delete it.

    I wish you and Ukraine all the best this sunday.

    Take care, Carsten

  2. Hey,
    I'm wondering if you read Bibish's story in English or in Russian? I'm reading it now, and thinking that if it hasn't been translated it should be, with all the English world's current concerns about the Muslim world...