Thirteen steps of Erika Klaus
The publishing house, Hertfordshire Press, with the support of the American University of Central Asia has held the first national book launch of Kyrgyz writer Kazat Akmatov in Bishkek
The national book launch was held on August 22, in the American University of Central Asia. The presentation aroused great interest, with more than 30 guests attending, among them were representatives of Transparency International Kyrgyzstan, GIZ National Office, Wakan Tanka Publications, Vrijdag Publishers, and of course journalists from local radio and newspapers.
Kazar Akmatov is an internationally acclaimed author and National Writer of Kyrgyzstan. Based on a real incident, which occurred in his country some ten years ago, it also references Akmatov’s own conflict with USSR officials, who accused him of producing anti-Russian and anti-Communist literature and censored much of his early work at the beginning of his career.
The story involves the harrowing experiences of a young and very naïve Norwegian woman who has come to Kyrgyzstan to teach English to schoolchildren as a volunteer in a remote mountain outpost. Governed by the megalomaniac Colonel Bronza, the community barely survives under a cruel and unjust neo-fascist regime. Immersed in the local culture, Erika is initially both enchanted and apprehensive but soon becomes disillusioned as day after day, she is forbidden to teach.
Alongside Erika’s story, are the personal tragedies experienced by former soldier Sovietbek, Stalbek, the local policeman, the Principal of the school and a young man who has married a Kyrgyz refugee from Afghanistan. Each tries in vain, to challenge and change the corrupt political situation in which they are forced to live.
Akmatov is a gifted storyteller, whose writing is imbued with a passion for his homeland and concern over the oppression of his people. Thirteen Steps is flavoured with poetic descriptions of the magnificent landscape, wildlife and traditional customs such as eagle hunting, natural medicines, weddings, herding and horse polo, as well as more brutal references to the trafficking of young women, the exiled existence of Kyrgyz expelled from their country under Soviet rule, the extremity of corruption amongst the new leaders, and the employment of torture and murder as means to an end.
The publishing house, Silk Road Media, expresses its gratitude to the American University of Central Asia for its support in the book launch’s organisation. A limited number of autographed copies of the book are available from the Representative Office of Silk Road Media in Bishkek and London. The book is also available in the “Odyssey” bookstore and online