Gone with the Wind

Kuraj, as Silvia di Natale notes in her remarkable first novel of that name, is a Kyrgyz word for a kind of bush that is blown across the Central Asian steppes by winter winds, shedding seeds, leaves and branches as it goes. The English-language equivalent is tumbleweed, which certainly describes the book's tragically displaced heroine, Kaja, and in a sense the work itself.

The talk of the 2000 Frankfurt Book Fair, Kuraj won a yurtful of literary prizes after it first appeared in Italy in the same year. Subsequent translations have charmed critics in France, Germany, Greece, the...

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