This week’s country was suggested by Kat – she gave me two options; Poland or Mongolia. I figured why make it easy for myself, and chose Mongolia. I’ll come back to Poland at a later date.
Mongolia’s poetry and literature has been hugely influenced by the nomadic culture that many of people lived (and still live in various cases). This led to heroic epics told as oral poetry, captured by being passed across the centuries (much like Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey until someone decided to write it down!).
The Ancient Mongolia cultural traditions gave way to the Golden Horde and the era of Genghis Khan, although much of the literature from this period no longer survives as much of it was destroyed when the empire collapsed in the mid-1300s. After the restoration of relative political unity, and a more thorough imposition of Buddhism in the sixteenth century, Mongolia had something of a cultural Renaissance, allowing for numerous works of literature, art, linguistic, and legal documents to be created. The post-Renaissance saw a resurgence in the importance of translated Chinese literature, which then influenced the works of writers like Vanchinbalyn Injinash (see below).
In the 20th century, Mongolia was closely aligned with the Soviet Union, causing literature to have a distinctly realistic tone; often dubbed as “socialist realism” and is characterised by glorifying the ideals of communist values. It is most closely associated with art and sculpture, but found a place within literary works and poetry.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an upsurge of more liberal literature coming from Mongolian writers, seeking new ways of expressing themselves after the more rigid framework of “socialist realism”.
Poet: Vanchinbalyn Injinash (1837-1892)
Injinash was a Mongolian poet, novelist and historian from what is now modern-day Liaoning in China. His father Vanchinbal was a taiji which means he was a descendent of Genghis Khan (A/N – although I suspect that this is not overly uncommon, given that Genghis Khan was supposed to have had 1,000s of children! Perhaps it is direct paternal descent?). His work was very much based on the glorious past of the Mongols under the Golden Horde. This was due to varying political pressures from neighbouring countries, including huge population pressure from China.
His key works were The Blue Chronicle and The Chamber of the Red Tears. A poem of his; called ‘White Cloud’ was composed and brush-written by Injinash in childhood. Unfortunately, my brush-written Mongolian is a little rusty; if anyone fancies translating (or finding a translation) of the text below then I’d be grateful.
Poet: Ryenchinii Choinom (1936-1978)
Ryenchinii Choinom was born in Communist Russia, and died before the collapse of the Soviet Union. His poetry was considered to be fearless in their depiction of socialist realism. He was jailed as an adult under the pretext that his poems neglected various “socialist achievemnts” and his works were banned until after his death. His works include Red Notebook, Steppe, A Letter to the Daughter, and Sumetei Budaryn Chuluu.
Typical Mongolian poem:
‘My father likes the soft drizzle of autumn rain
He loves the going birds carrying away his years
He ages but loves me since I’ll stay in this world
I love my father who distances every day
The yellow sun above keeps moving far away
The grass that now was green has suddenly dried up
The distant road is dim just like my father’s gaze
Alas, do you seek something from me, autumn time?
My father who one autumn was as young as me
Through turn of days mundane has been worn down and aged
The yellow autumns that revolve around the world
With each departure left lines on my father’s head’
- Poem by Kh. Chilaajav which would later be adapted into a rock song!
Phew! I’m not going to lie – I found this one a challenge! I could find some examples of Mongolian poets, but actually finding any of their poetry in any form of translation seemed to be a major challenge. If you can find any in-translation poems from the above poets I’d be very interested to read them!
I will reiterate what I said last time: the research for this has been me typing into google ‘famous poets from x country’, and this is where you come in – if you there’s a poet you know about from your country, or from somewhere you know about, that you think I should know about – please tell me! I would love to go and read some of their works and learn a bit more about the rich culture of different countries of the world.
Okay, where should I visit next? I’ve done one European country and one Asian country – so only about another 200 choose from! Any picks?
Read about the poets of Austria here.