READ THE WORLD – Tajikistan: The City Where Dreams Come True by Gulsifat Shakhidi

A collection of four short stories from the perspective of three generations provides insight into the impact which Tajikistan’s terrible civil war had on its people and its culture during the early ’90s.

Each of the four stories is from a different family members point of view. This is something I didn’t realise before starting the book and instead picked up as I read it and noticed different characters cropping up or that some events were now being shown from a different perspective. The first is Ali who rescued his teacher’s daughter Nekbaht during the violence and the two of them found their way to his uncle. Then Horosho who is revealed to be Nekbaht’s grandfather and one of her only living relatives. There’s a story from Nekbaht’s perspective which picks up after Ali’s story does so you see how both of their lives turned out. The final story is focused on Shernazar who is Ali’s youngest cousin.

I found the way the stories intertwined and fleshed out the characters or events we’d seen in previous stories really well done and interesting. On their own each story is heartfelt and has themes of loss, injustice and hope, but when read back-to-back these themes are even more prominent and it makes each story more compelling and thoughtful.

I had barely even heard of Tajikistan as a country, never mind the civil war and turmoil its people have faced and I think that The City Where Dreams Come True shows the culture and how the people’s lives were affected by the conflict really well. Ali’s life sounds especially normal and almost idyllic before tragedy strikes. All the characters have their own issues but one thing that they have in common is their strong work ethic. Ali, Nekbaht and Shernazar learn that for them to succeed in life and in order for them to have a chance of a better life, for themselves and their families, they need to get a good education as that’s one of the only things that can lead to opportunities.

The City Where Dreams Come True is a very short collection of short stories, the kind that can easily be read in one sitting. That doesn’t make them any less impactful though and the language used, incorporating Russian, Uzbek and Tajik words for objects or in dialogue helps make these stories feel more real. 4/5.

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