ALEC FARMER WRITES – Nature is a brutal place with harsh circumstances that may push anybody to their limits. Regardless of the vastness of its glory, nature will also be a spot of unmatched serene magnificence. This dichotomy of truths is ever-present for many who stay and transfer alongside the Earth. Journalist Li Juan tackles this concept by her writings as this can be a important idea in her second ebook, Winter Pasture: One Woman’s Journey with China’s Kazakh Herders (2021).
All through her profession, Li Juan continued to discover the connection between pure environments and their communities. Li Juan’s first ebook, Distant Sunflower Fields (2021), paperwork her household’s experiences touring by China’s Gobi Desert. Equally, Winter Pasture (2021) follows a nomadic group by harsh terrain. Nevertheless, in Winter Pasture, the atmosphere is a frigid mountain vary, and the cultural neighborhood is that of the Kazakh people.
The Kazakhs are an ethnic group which might be unfold closely all through Central and East Asia. This culturally wealthy neighborhood is the main focus of Li Juan’s novel as a consequence of their continuation of nomadic pastoralism. Li Juan writes that “the six-month-long winter and the infertile land imposed a nomadic “way of life” onto the Kazakh folks’s ancestors. Yr after yr, survival demanded obedience to nature’s rhythm.” Thus, the Kazakh folks’s cultural continuation of transhumance serves because the spine of this superbly rendered literary research.
In describing the Kazakh’s nomadic way of life, Li Juan takes a really intimate strategy as she travels and resides with the Cuma household. Fairly than approaching this custom from the macro, Li Juan enlightens her viewers by the eyes of a single household. All through the ebook, the argument is introduced as much as Li Juan that “somebody such as you who needs to jot down about our winter pastures, can’t simply keep in a single place” as this Kazakh apply is in its very nature migratory. This transhumance always strikes these households a whole bunch of miles throughout Earth’s barren and delightful floor. But, creator Li Juan is unfamiliar with Kazakh tradition on the ebook’s outset. As a substitute of making an attempt to be taught each facet of this apply, the ebook is an intimate portrait of 1 household and their connection to their tradition, one another, and the Earth.
The Cuma household is extremely participating to observe as everybody has such distinctive and charming personalities. When describing Cuma, the daddy determine, Li Juan writes, “Their world was one thing like this—an enormous sky and an enormous earth, by which they dwelt alone and much aside; the place the times have been quiet and uninteresting, life exhausting and lonely, disadvantaged of contact with the skin world; and the place most individuals have been resigned to a lifetime of quiescence. So the presence of a personality like Cuma supplied folks a way of pleasure and reduction.” Every member of this familial unit helps to take away the sensation of isolation from their often-desolate environment. Whether or not it’s the sly feedback made by Cuma, the eagerness for artwork displayed by the nineteen-year-old Kama, or the quiet reassurance and understanding of the household’s mom determine, they collectively create a way of neighborhood. Regardless of residing in harsh and barren circumstances for these winter months, this novel is reassuring as these people and their dynamics seize a sentiment continuously felt although hardly ever appreciated — familial magnificence.
Whereas the main focus is totally on the Cuma household, Li Juan doesn’t stay a passive character in her ebook. She works to earn her maintain inside the familial unit. The extreme bodily labor usually leaves Li Juan fairly exhausted and “In consequence, on the second day, I ended up miserably drained. By the point we reached camp, my legs have been aching and stiff, my buttocks have been too sore to take a seat on a saddle. As for the intractable camels—I dare not put my rage in phrases right here.” Whereas this grueling bodily labor is portrayed as being fairly troublesome, it additionally results in serene moments of introspection whereas in nature. Li Juan explains that “There was one other world throughout from our world, one past the curtain on the world’s edge, a seemingly impenetrable world. But, slowly and silently we crossed into it. In the midst of this expanse, I might totally really feel the roundness of the earth—the earth curved down in all instructions as our workforce of camels inched alongside the crest of the sphere.”
On this novel, Li Juan’s writings are past lovely, regardless that they derive from her guide labor in frigid circumstances. This duality of nature’s magnificence and brutality is central to this ebook and Li Juan’s profession. The demanding nomadic way of life is seen as mundane by the Kazakh folks within the ebook. A few of the herders even ask Li Juan “what’s there to jot down about” in relation to transhumance. Nevertheless, for Li Juan who spent a lot of her grownup life in cities, the hardships that come from a nomadic way of life are fairly revelatory for each the creator and her readers. It’s by a deeply private expertise with nature and neighborhood that Li Juan crafts a ebook that speaks to the problems of residing, not simply on, however with this planet.
A parallel that continuously seems all through the ebook is the connection between nature and the nomadic Kazakh tradition. “Up to now, life within the wilderness will need to have been much more troublesome and remoted. However even in a life like that, magnificence was a necessity. When folks completed their work and located a second to spare, they stripped the damp tree bark and punctiliously smoked their easy leather-based garments. When a determine on horseback would slowly emerge out of a forest—his pink, not the pink of his garments, however the pink of his thoughts … the pink happy the world’s tiniest want for magnificence.” The historical past of this want for magnificence is encapsulated within the visible arts of the native Kazakh folks. People resembling Kama work on embroidery and to seize the feelings that nature and neighborhood can elicit.
The translators of this ebook, Jack Hargreaves and Yan Yan, labored to protect the Kazakh tradition for unaware and curious English readers. Whereas the unique model of Winter Pasture had transient descriptions in Chinese language for Kazakh phrases and phrases, the translators opted to not translate culturally particular iconography and phrases into English however as an alternative write them of their Romanized variations. This romanization permits this stuff and phrases to retain their cultural heritage whereas sustaining that they don’t seem to be misplaced in translation to an English reader. Each the creator Li Juan and the translators usually solely give brief descriptions of those untranslated phrases to immediate the viewers to additional analysis the Kazakh tradition exterior of this ebook.
Winter Pasture is tinged with melancholy because the Cuma household and lots of different Kazakh folks comment on how nomadism is changing into more and more tougher, with fewer households in a position to make these treks yearly. Nevertheless, this apply and its connection to the Earth shouldn’t be forgotten. It must be talked about that the Cuma household and different Kazakh’s who stay inside China’s borders are confronted with the nation’s more and more hostile insurance policies in the direction of ethnic minorities. The long run stays unclear for the Kazakh folks residing in China. Nevertheless, the nomadic Kazakh tradition ought to symbolize a transcendence of geopolitics and borders. The bodily act of transhumance represents the Kazakh tradition’s reverence for nature that must be admired, not demonized, by anybody who lives on this planet.
In direction of the top of Li Juan’s journey with the Cuma household, she remarks that “life was already troublesome sufficient, they didn’t want an outsider chewing their ears off all day lengthy, not solely being of little use but additionally a continuing distraction—I refuse to be that individual. Plus, we had greater than only a day or two collectively, there could be loads of time and alternative—higher that I rely by myself experiences little by little and slowly attempt to be taught.” This ebook is only one alternative for anybody to be taught concerning the lovely, harsh, and transitory way of life of China’s Kazakh herders.
New AMI ebook reviewer, Alec Farmer, just lately graduated from LMU with a level in Movie and TV Manufacturing and a minor in Asian and Pacific Research. He has studied up to date Asian literature and cinema.
*Edited by ebook overview editor-in-chief, Ella Kelleher.