Summary and book reviews of The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag

The Blue Sky

A Novel

By Galsan Tschinag

The Blue Sky

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Book Summary

The debut of a major voice in contemporary world literature.

In the high Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia, the nomadic Tuvan people’s ancient way of life collides with the pervasive influence of modernity as seen through the eyes of a young shepherd boy. The confrontation comes in stages. First his older siblings leave the family yurt to attend a distant boarding school. Then the boy’s grandmother dies, and with her the boy’s connection to the tribes. But the greatest tragedy strikes when his dog, Arsylang—“all that was left to me”—dies after ingesting poison set out by the boy’s father to protect his herd from wolves. “Why is it so?” he cries out in despair to the Heavenly Blue Sky, but he is answered only by the silence of the wind.

Rooted in the oral traditions of the Tuvan people and their epics, Galsan Tschinag's novel weaves the timeless story of a boy poised on the cusp of manhood with it the tale of a people's vanishing way of life.

Excerpt
The Blue Sky

Then disaster hit our ail, our yurt, me: I fell into the kettle, into the simmering milk.

It happened the evening Grandma rode off to get my future flock and bring it into the hürde for me. Mother had poured the fresh milk into the cast-iron kettle for boiling and, because the fire was burning too high, had taken the kettle off the oshuk and temporarily put it on the three chunks of dung lying next to it.

Then she left the yurt again to tether the calves since the yak herd had just returned from pasture. In the meantime, Father was busy outside with the lambs, along with Brother and Sister. Even though I was not yet changed and prepared for the night, I had, as often before, been overcome by tiredness, had crashed in the middle of playing, and lay now asleep on the low bed. Mother was about to sneak up and catch the last fugitive calf when she heard my screams. She became alarmed but tried to calm herself by reasoning I was ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Galsan Tschinag's autobiographical story of a boy living on the Mongolian steppes (prairies) in the 1950s offers an evocative glimpse into a way of life in which the nomadic people live in harmony with their awesome (in the literal sense) surroundings, worshiping the sky as sacred. It is a record of a time that was already vanishing (but, thanks in part to Tschinag and others, is now being not just preserved but lived once again).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Descriptions of the Altai mountains, remarkable sky, and closeness to the flock are slow but rich. The book is filled with small pleasures.

Library Journal

Tschinag's beautiful descriptions of his stark and remote mountain homeland and the emotion he evokes through details about the family's daily life will make readers eager for the next installments of Tschinag's tale: The Grey Earth and The White Mountain.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

In this pristine and concentrated tale of miraculous survival and anguished loss, Tschinag evokes the nurturing warmth of a family within the circular embrace of a yurt as an ancient way of life lived in harmony with nature becomes endangered.

Reader Reviews
NRL

superb writing!
Galsan has such an unique style of writing. Being able to write in a foreign language, yet to describe the life of nomad people, is incredible! The book makes you realize that you're who you are, especially coming from the part of the world and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

To reach the homeland of the Tsengel Tuvans one has to travel to the furthest western corner of Mongolia, to the High Altai mountains to a province the size of the Netherlands, bordering China. More than 90% of the population of the area are Kazakh Muslims, the remaining 10% are Khalkh, Urinakhai, Khoshuud and Tuvans.

The Tuvans are a Turkic-speaking people (i.e. their spoken language belongs to the Turkic family; other Turkic speaking countries include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and, of course, Turkey). Today, about 4,000 of Mongolia's approx 2.3 million population identify ...

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