"Ismailov’s second tour de force in this novel is the way he turns language itself into the true main character, a powerful shaman who can cast spells, dance, whirl, and punch the reader with sentence."—Asymptote
"A meditative, globe-trotting novel."—Words Without Borders
"Another wonderful book from Ismailov....a joy to read."—The Modern Novel
"Reading Uzbek author Hamid Ismailov’s latest novel, Gaia, Queen of Ants, translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega, is like falling head first into a cauldron filled with a rich blend of mythology, Sufi fables, politics, various cultures and humour."—The National
"So impressive is the novel that one need not be familiar with other Uzbek works or culture, or even other Central Asian writing, to recognize its high quality. Any patience the novel may demand from the reader is an effort well-rewarded."—Asian Review of Books
"An excellent translation. . . . This is a fascinating novel from a part of the world that remains off the global literary map."—Adeeb Khalid, Carleton College
"Fairweather-Vega’s seamlessly fluid prose in no way interferes with the transmission of the tale, and surpasses a merely competent transcription with its genuine flourishes of English lyricism."—Alexander Cigale, City University of New York, Queens College
"The cast of characters is charming, from the elderly emigrants from the former Soviet now living in Britain, to the artists and holy men of Central Asia. Gaia is deliciously manipulative but her own history as a young woman also evokes some sympathy for her."—Bruce Pannier, senior correspondent, Radio Free Europe
From Uzbek author-in-exile Hamid Ismailov comes a dark new parable of power, corruption, fraud, and deception. Ismailov narrates an intimate clash of civilizations as he follows the lives of three expatriates living in England. Domrul is a young Turk with vague and painful memories of ethnic strife in the Uzbekistan of his childhood. His Irish girlfriend Emer struggles with her own adolescent trauma from growing up in war-torn Bosnia. Domrul is the caretaker for Gaia, the eighty-year-old, powerful wife of a Soviet party boss with a mysterious past.
One of Ismailov’s few novels written in Uzbek, Gaia, Queen of Ants offers a rare portrait of a complex and little-known part of the world. A plot centered on political corruption and ethnic conflict is punctuated with Sufi philosophy and religious gullibility. As Ismailov’s characters grapple with questions of faith, power, sex, and family, Gaia, Queen of Ants presents a moving tale of universal themes set against a Central Asian backdrop in the twenty-first century.
Hamid Ismailov is an Uzbek novelist and poet who lives in exile in London. He is a journalist and project manager with the BBC World Service. A prolific writer of poetry and prose, Ismailov has been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, German, Turkish, English, and other languages. He is the author of many novels, including The Railway and The Underground.
Shelley Fairweather-Vega is a freelance translator in Seattle, Washington. She translates novels, poetry, and short stories for children and adults.
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