Memtimin Hoshur: This is Not a Dream, Part 1

One of Memtimin Hoshur’s longer short stories, This Is Not A Dream (بۇ چۈش ئەمەس), could be described as a romantic tragedy.  The story was turned into a movie by director Shirzat Yaqup, with music by Mexmut Sulayman (currently one of the coaches on the The Voice of the Silk Road).  My translation of This Is Not A Dream will hopefully be published in the near future.  In the meantime, here is the beginning of the story.


This Is Not A Dream

 by Memtimin Hoshur

Translated by Robert Peace


That night everyone saw the fire that suddenly appeared on the hill above the village.  At first, it seemed that the wind was bringing the smell of burning cinders.  After that, spectacular flames rose into the air and lit up the surroundings.  Terrified people came out onto the street, shouting.  Horrified women were screaming.

_ Hey women, what are you screeching about?  It’s not as though your mother is dying.  It’s that Tohtek’s house burning, Tohtek’s house! _ Someone galloped his horse back down from the hill, yelling as he cut straight through the middle of the crowd.

_ Have you heard? Tohti’s house is burning!

_ Tohti’s house!?

_ It was an amazing house eh…!

_ Poor thing, with such hardships he built it too!

_ I wonder how the fire broke out?…


Earlier that day, as evening approached, Gulshen’s three elder brothers had run up to Tohtek’s newly built house.  They stood in the courtyard yelling:

_ Tohtek! Hey Tohtek!…

As soon as Tohti came out onto the landing, all three of them rushed at him and began to give him a severe beating.  Although Tohti was a match for every one of them, he didn’t fight back. Nor did he fall from the blows of their fists which rained down on him. When they had gotten to the point of punching him as though he were not a person at all but a wooden post, insensitive to suffering and pain, for some reason they suddenly stopped. Blood flowing from a split above Tohti’s eye ran down his cheek and dripped onto his shirt.

_ Ptooey! Dog, get away from here!

_ Did you think to yourself that we would give you a girl?

_ Wherever you came from, get a wife from there too!

_ Have you become so cocky from this palace you’ve built? This thing of yours…

But Tohti remained silent.  His eyes were staring off into the distance.  Above the clouds gathered on the dim horizon, the sinking sun’s last reddish rays were flashing; the moon too had appeared in the sky.  But it was a different group of scenes that passed before Tohti’s eyes.

…There, the rocky roads of the south… that bus he sneaked onto… the days he spent wandering hungrily around Aksu bazaar… the kindly cook who took care of him for a few days in Urumchi… How had he ended up stopping in a little village at this edge of such a wide land?  He had been searching for life…, a good living…, happiness…

By the time Tohti had gathered himself again, Gulshen’s brothers were gone.  He could scarcely control the crying which burst from the very depths of his being.  The humiliation tormented him, as though it was lighting a fire in his heart.  Was this anger? Regret? Grief? Or the conscience’s desire for revenge? He himself didn’t know.

Only a few evenings previously Tohti had met secretly with Gulshen.

_ Leave! Leave! _ the girl had said to him, trembling, _ Get as far away as you can… my brothers are in a foul temper, they could even beat you to death. At the very least, stay out of sight for a couple of months…

_ Gulshen, I am not going anywhere without you.  Come, if we’re going to leave, let’s leave together right away.  What is it that we promised each other?  They will force you to marry someone else…

_ I’m scared!  Will I never again come back to this village?  My brothers, my relatives… how would I ever look them in the face…?

From then on, Gulshen’s brothers kept her locked up in their storehouse.  On the door swung a great, rusted-out lock that couldn’t be opened without at least half an hour of fiddling.

Thinking about all this, Tohti became anxious. He returned home and began to pace back and forth…

The faithful girl who had run away blushing after kissing him on the cheek for the very first time… who had given him those furtive looks… who had exchanged whispers with him on moonlit nights…, was nothing like today’s dejected and fearful Gulshen.  Tohti was not afraid of the sky falling down, or of the opposition all those people who had no understanding of the human heart.  It was just those nagging doubts – Will Gulshen weaken her resolve?  Will she go back on her promise? – that were pushing him into despair.

(to be continued)

© Peace Translation 2015

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