Memtimin Hoshur is probably the best-known and loved Uyghur writer alive today. I was privileged to meet him recently and speak with him about translating some of his works into English for publication. With his kind agreement, I have started the process of translating some of his short stories for publication. In the near future I hope to have his romantic tragedy This is not a dream published as an e-book. In the meantime, I will be publishing translations of some of his other short stories periodically right here on uyghurche.net
This simple but moving story consists solely of a series of short dialogues between a son and his father, who is taking him from his mother and the traditional rural Uyghur lifestyle to live with a new mother in the strange world of the big city. The emotional and psychological impact on the boy is conveyed through series of questions he asks his father as he attempts to make sense of what is happening. This is a poignant insight into the personal and cultural alienation that can result from family breakdown and urbanization.
The Boy Who Was Taken to the City
by Memtimin Hoshur
Translated by Robert Peace with Ayshemgül Yolwas
– Dad, where were you when I was little?
– I was in a city far away, studying.
– Dad, why are you taking me to the city?
– From now on you will be living with me in the city.
– Why isn’t my mum coming with us?
– I got a divorce from your mother. I need to have one of my children with me, son! But we are not bringing your mother to the city.
– Dad, is the city far away?
– Yes it is. We’re going to go by motor vehicle.
– Am I going to ride in a motor vehicle too?
– Yes, you are going to ride in a motor vehicle too, my son.
– Dad, is this the city?
– Yes, we have arrived in the city.
– Why are there so many people in the streets?
– In the city there are a lot of people.
– Hey, what kind of motor vehicle is that?
– That’s called a “car.”
– Why are those houses so tall?
– Houses in the city are all that tall. The place we are going to live in is just as tall.
– Dad, when you go to work, am I going to be afraid?
– Why would you be afraid? I am going to bring you a beautiful new mother.
– Why do you keep opening the window and looking outside. Haven’t you had enough of looking at the city?
– Dad, why aren’t there any hills to run around and play on here?
– There wouldn’t be any hills in the city.
– Dad, why aren’t there any canals to swim in, or any springs where kids can lie on their tummies to drink the water?
– Silly! What would springs be doing in the city?
– Why aren’t there any cows leading their calves around?
– Cows don’t walk around the streets of city.
– What about sheep with their lambs?
– Sheep don’t walk around here either.
– Dad, why don’t you sleep beside me anymore?
– You are a big boy now, you will sleep separately in this room.
– Dad, why does my new mother rub paint on her lips?
– Don’t ask stupid questions.
– Dad, why does my new mother say I should call her “Aunt?”
– Civilized city kids call their mothers “Aunt.” It would be good if you called me “Uncle” too.
– Dad, why don’t you bring my own mother here?
– When you were away from home my mum would always say to us, “Your father is a good man.” My older brother never stopped talking about how you would pick him up and play with him. Whenever they spoke about you, I would wonder what you were like.
– So, what is your dad like?
– You miss your mother don’t you?
– Yes, I miss her. Every morning when mum would get up and stoke the fire to make breakfast, I would roll over into her place. Her quilt was still warm. I don’t know how many times I thought, “If only my dad was home too, how wonderful it would be to lie between mum and dad, and then roll into mum’s arms and then dad’s arms again and again.” Oh dad, please dad! If you just take me back to my own mother, I will run to her calling out “mum!”, and throw myself into her arms.