Mother Earth Review by Chingiz Aitmatov

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Content Summary

We will examine the novel Mother Earth by Chingiz Aitmatov, one of the most important writers of the Turkish world.

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Who is Chingiz Aitmatov?

Chingiz Aitmatov was born in 1928 in Kyrgyzstan. His father is a high-ranking statesman and his mother is a well-known theater artist. Although he comes from a well-educated family, his youth is spent in trouble. Kyrgyzstan was within the borders of the USSR in those years and Chingiz Aitmatov’s father was arrested and shot in 1938 because of Stalin. They don’t even hand over his body to his family. After his uncle was taken away from the house by the police, he was never seen again. The family is under surveillance. His mother is struggling with serious illness.

Chinghiz Aitmatov's Photograph by 2007

Chinghiz Aitmatov’s Photograph by 2007

Then World War II breaks out. Children have a big responsibility because most of the young and adult men of Kyrgyzstan go to war. Aitmatov starts to work like many Kyrgyz children. In this period, as described in the novel Mother Earth, everyone is holding the edge of a job without saying old or children. Chingiz Aitmatov also started working in an office for counting agricultural machinery at the age of fourteen.

Then he goes to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to receive veterinary eduvation. However, when the story of Journalist Cyudo, written during this period, was translated into Russian and attracted great interest, the doors of the Moscow Faculty of Literature were opened, and in 1956 he transferred to the Maksim Gorky Literature Institute.

He is famous for his short stories and novels. After being accepted as a member of the Union of Soviet Writers in 1957, he also received the Lenin Prize for Literature in 1963.

a Chinghiz Aitmatov Photograph taken at Altınyürek Awards

a Chinghiz Aitmatov Photograph taken at Altınyürek Awards

Cengiz Aytmatov, who strived to preserve his Kyrgyz identity throughout his life, also holds many high-level positions in the USSR. In 2008, he died in Germany, where he went due to kidney failure treatment.

Summary of Mother Earth

Tolgonay and Suvankul, who fell in love with each other while working in the steppes in rural Kyrgyzstan before World War II, got married. They lead a good life until their middle age. They have four children. Time passes and a bride comes to the house. But then war comes like a combine harvester entering the field just as the crops are about to be harvested. They scatter their lives without separating the straw from the chaff.

Losing all the men of the house, Tolgonay is left with a bride. However, he is relentless. In war, it is necessary to both feed the army and prevent the peasants from starving. It works hard.

Mother Earth Book Cover

Mother Earth Book Cover

In the whole process, what happened to his bride, whom he loved like his own child, will be devastated. Thereupon, Tolgonay rushes to the ground, as every person who has lived in the steppe for thousands of years does. He only opens his troubles that he has kept inside for years, his hardened palms to the soil only. To the land where he cherishes his loved ones and earns his bread.

Tolgonay tells all his experiences. He begins to deal with the earth. The novel consists of Tolgonay’s conversation with the soil.

Subject of Mother Earth

The theme of Mother Earth is war. However, in the novel, we cannot see which war this war is or who is right and who is wrong. We see how much helplessness the war confronts even ordinary people who grow their crops in their own fields with all its magnificence.

Chinghiz Aitmatov and Kırgız Abdyldajan

Chinghiz Aitmatov and Kırgız Abdyldajan

On the other hand, we witness the bond that the hardworking people of Kyrgyzstan establish with the land. We are confronted with the fact that these people only seek help from and open their hands to the land. We sense that being human is easy, remaining human is difficult.

Mother Earth Quotes

Throughout the novel, we see the determinations of Tolgonay, who has become as wise as the earth that has stood on earth for hundreds of thousands of years in his short life. As he watches his child, he says the following words:

“Goodness is not something that falls on the road, is collected from the road. It’s not something that happens by chance. One learns goodness only from others.” – Page 55

or while describing the conversation he couldn’t have with his bride, he feels the following:

It was necessary to say every word on time, just as it was necessary to forge the iron in its temper, and to reduce the blows of the hammer without cooling it. When that moment passes, the word becomes cold, hardened, sits in the heart like a stone, and it is not easy to lift this weight. – Page 60

On the other hand, Chingiz Aitmatov’s writer intuition is a rare intuition. It gives goosebumps to read how a death is described in this way.

“The snowflakes that fell on his face did not melt.” – Page 105

In addition, despite his life full of principles, states and politics, not a single ideology or thesis seeps into Aitmatov’s novel. He only tells what he will tell based on human reality. He presents the story of a mother hugging the train tracks at the train station, where she waited for days for her son to pass by, as follows:

“When Aliman came to the place where I had fallen, it was as if he had drowned in his own tears. He bent down and tried to pick me up, but he couldn’t. He was sobbing, his hands were trembling and he couldn’t find the strength to lift me. At that time, the station’s female switchman arrived. He was a Russian. He said to me, just like Aliman, “Mother! Mother!” she says, hugging me and crying with me. Eventually the two of them joined forces and were able to lift me off the tracks.” – Page 48

Humanity emerges in difficult times, dear reader. If a society is experiencing great pain as a whole, people share in that pain. Distinctions disappear. This is how human beings come out of the most terrible situations. He’s been through terrible things, but he remembers being human.

Mother Earth General Evaluation

Mother Earth deals with a woman who is as wise as the earth, dealing with the earth. We witness his life through this conversation. This brings the identity of the narrator to a great point with one of the identities of the main character, and presents a two-layered narrative structure that actually tells the reader what he tells, even if it is ground-based. It tells how the war is devastating, without mentioning who is right and who is wrong, without mentioning which war it is.

Chinghiz Aitmatov Statue at İstanbul, Maltepe (Cnn)

Chinghiz Aitmatov Statue at İstanbul, Maltepe (Cnn)

Chingiz Aitmatov tells only the human reality in Mother Earth, without leaking any ideology or thesis. He talks about the sufferings shared by the entire people, the absence of children sent to war, the separation of newlyweds, and the depressions experienced by the women left behind.

Other Books by Chingiz Aitmatov

Chingiz Aitmatov is a prolific writer. Despite dozens of bureaucratic and important works he has undertaken, he is a person who has produced very successful works without infiltrating any ideology or politics.

The complete list of his books translated into English is as follows:

  • A Difficult Passage
  • Face to Face
  • Jamila
  • The First Teacher
  • Red Scarf 
  • Tales of the Mountains and Steppes
  • Farewell, Gulsary!
  • Lightning Voiced Manaschi
  • The White Ship
  • The Ascent of Mt. Fuji
  • Cranes Fly Early
  • The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years
  • The Place of the Skull
  • Time to Speak, International Publishers
  • Cassandra’s Brand
  • When The Mountains Fall


Mother Earth Review by Chingiz Aitmatov
  • Story
  • Fiction
  • Wording
  • Atmosphere

Briefly My Opinion

A masterpiece that should be read by every person who is passionate about literature.

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