The Tragedy of a Bastard by Saule Doszhan


Hertfordshire Press is a well-established publishing house that specializes in the publication of international literature and specifically, work by Eurasian authors in both English and the writers’ and poets’ native languages. For the first time in its existence, Hertfordshire Press has submitted a duology by an eminent Kazakh author to the Man Booker International Prize 2019. It is also one of the few times, if not the first, in the history of the prize, that the judges will be presented with such an intimate insight into the culture of a nation which up until recently, has remained hidden from the West.


Kazakhs have always placed great importance on tradition and even today, everyday life in Kazakhstan continues to be governed, to a lesser or greater extent according to region, by a strong adherence to the cultural norms and standards of a bygone age. To the West and increasingly, amongst members of the country’s new generation, ancestral- related practices, rules and prejudices are often perceived as oppressive. However, whilst the conflict of values between the old and new worlds, and the desire for a more harmonious balance between respecting family honour and individuals’ independence may be universal, its presence in Kazakhstan is nowhere more sensitively explored than in Saule Doszhan’s new novella; “The Tragedy of a Bastard”.


This is a tale of two parts which follows the endeavours of protagonists from two generations to seek an understanding and acceptance of actions which challenge traditional strongholds, and their quest for love.  Despite being highly educated and rising to the post of a surgeon, Nurzhan is rejected by his beloved’s father as a worthy husband for Moldir because through no fault of his own, he lacks a ‘steppe passport’ and is unable to trace his ‘seven fathers’ lineage’. Chillingly, the social prejudices that he faces and threaten a life of loneliness and despair, echo those which shaped his mother’s life and indeed, his very conception. Marziya raised her son to be dutiful to his heritage and to respect his family yet she herself experienced and suffered great difficulty in fulfilling her family’s expectations. On one hand, she was supported and encouraged to attain a career and remain chaste, and on the other, meet, marry and produce children. Torn apart by such pressures and ever-lonely, she had an illegitimate child and at once, found herself stigmatized by her family and local community who prided themselves as adherents of traditional canons.   

Saule Doszhan plans to present the novel “My own strange heart” to the general public, which will include the author’s English-language collection and will tell the story of a surgeon and the first heart transplant in Kazakhstan in a work of fiction. This story is dedicated to the achievements of modern medicine in Kazakhstan and to people in white coats, whose invaluable work saved countless lives and not only hearts. After all, not without reason did famous V. N. Vinogradov say: “The heart can be treated only with the heart.” This story will immerse you in the lives of those who save other human lives every second. This story will allow you to look beyond the operating room. This story has become a kind of author’s gratitude to doctors for everything they do for patients, for the fact that doctors save not just the hearts, but also the souls of their patients.

In early October 2018, at the request of the British publishing house Hertfordshire Press, an English version of the collection of short stories by Saule Doszhan, which includes one of the best short stories by the author “The tragedy of a bastard,” and the story “My own strange heart” was submitted to the Man Booker International 2019 (UK) literary contest.


Saule Doszhan was born on September 2, 1959 near Almaty and after graduating in journalism from the Kazakh State University in 1987, became an Honoured Worker of Kazakhstan and a member of both the Writers’ Union and the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan. She is also a member of the International Women Writing Guild and the Eurasian Creative Guild (ECG) and the winner of international and republican literary competitions, including the Open Eurasian Literature Festival and Book Forum, 2017. A published poet and author, her work focuses strongly on her Motherland and its cultural traditions in tandem with more universal and eternal themes of love and inter-generational relationships.

Yelden Sarybay B.A was born in Almaty in 1989 and studied politics and development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He is a poet-translator, fluent in Kazakh, Russian, English, German, and Turkish, and since 2013, has organised a series of London-based “Creative Evenings of Poems and Short Stories” where poets and writers of all nationalities, can meet and share their work.


Hertfordshire Press contact details: Marat Akhmedjanov, Publisher, Hertfordshire Press, Suite 125, 43 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, W2CE 9HA, UK

E-mail:  Whatsapp: +447411978955

The Man Booker International Prize is an annual award for what is deemed the best work of fiction translated into English. The winner’s prize of £50,000 is divided equally between the author and the translator, as are the  prizes of £2,000 for each of the short-listed entries.

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