3 must-read books from: the Turkish-Mongolian world

This post is also available in: Italiano

The steppe culture, typical of the Turkish-Mongolian world, was the one that most of all shaped the world as we know it. Here is a selection of 3 truly unmissable books to discover it up close

Small but necessary premise

This is not a ranking but a suggestion for those approaching these countries and areas of the world for the first time and is also linked to the personal taste of the author. Putting only 3 works (thus risking to leave out entire countries) was a very specific choice due to something that is often forgotten: books are not free. Our intent is to provide beginners and experts with 3 truly “indispensable” titles, which can thus allow them to enjoy a good text and / or discover something new, allowing them to only make “good” shopping.

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A final clarification: even if the inhabitants of today’s Mongolia are mostly Buddhists, it would be folly not to consider this people as one of the most influential of all in the Middle East and Islamic world. Do you have different “must-sees”? We are very curious to know them, in the future we will start direct 30 minutes / 1 hour starting from these lists; stay connected to receive news. We leave you to the list, good reads.

“Secret history of the Mongols”

Temüjin, later called Cinggis, was the invincible warrior leader whom we now call Genghis Khan; his nation, which gradually emerged against the tumultuous background of the migrations of the “Peoples of the Moon” who for centuries passed the empty expanses of Central Asia, conquered hegemony over an immense territory in a few years, subjecting nomadic shepherds as the mandarins of China. “The Secret History of the Mongols” is the story of this formidable rise, composed by an anonymous writer in the 13th century: a monument of an era in which Central Asia, as Fosco Maraini writes in his introduction, is an “ocean of lands in which they navigate, almost mysterious sargasso, memories, shadows, mirages of the civilizations that make up their shores: Rome, China, Byzantium, Persia ”. “The Secret History of the Mongols” is the first of the known Mongolian historical and literary monuments. The original has not come down to us, but in the second half of the fourteenth century it was transcribed into ideograms and translated into Chinese. This publication refers to the 1941 translation into Russian by the distinguished Mongolist and sinologist Sergej Kozin (1879-1956), who devoted twenty years of study to the work.

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A fascinating book that allows you to fully immerse yourself in Mongolian culture by discovering many interesting details about the life of Genghis Khan. The text is to be understood almost on a par with a national epic poem, also given and considered the importance of its protagonist. In this book you can breathe the air of the steppes and horses, an arid and impervious environment that could only forge the conqueror of worlds. This work, in particular, is unique in its kind as it is able to provide us with the Mongolian vision of the world, crucial to approaching in the correct way this unique and decisive culture in the history of humanity.

“Le Conquérant du monde. Vie de Gengis-Khan” by René Grousset

The scenario is one of the most contrasted and dazzling in Upper Asia, the story of Temüjin, better known as Genghis Khan. A story that René Grousset reconstructs by going back to his remote mythical sources – the coupling between the Blue-Gray Wolf and the Wild Fawn, founders of what will become the “iron race” of the Mongols – and tells with a fast pace, without leave out any revealing details. Thus we witness the events of Temüjin’s ancestor, Qutula, a sort of Mongolian Heracles whose voice echoes “like thunder in the gorges of the mountains”, and of his father, Yisügei the Courageous, already at war with that Chinese court that treats enemies with exemplary cruelty, impaling them on wooden donkeys. Then at the birth and growth of a child with “fiery eyes”, “his face lit by a mysterious glow”, who does not hesitate to get rid of the young half-brother before joining the beautiful Börte, “warned and authoritative adviser”. Then again to the long theory of victorious clashes against the Merkits and the opposing Mongol princes, up to the conquest of the undisputed hegemony through the “battle in the storm” (against the intriguing blood brother Jamuqa) and that of the “Seventy felt cloaks” ( against the latest Tatars resistances). And finally to the expansion of an almost limitless kingdom that lapped the imperial palace of Beijing and the Silk Road.

Gengis Khan

Halfway between essay and fiction, a perfect book to approach Genghis Khan. Grousset, unlike the aforementioned work, tries to give us a real story of what the life of the great leader could have been, but without neglecting historical notions. Years later it continues to be one of the best texts dealing with the mythical character.

“The Book of Dede Korkut”

The Book of Dede Korkut is a collection of twelve stories set in the heroic age of the Oghuz Turks, a nomadic tribe who had journeyed westwards through Central Asia from the ninth century onwards. The stories are peopled by characters as bizarre as they are unforgettable: Crazy Karchar, whose unpredictability requires an army of fleas to manage it; Kazan, who cheerfully pretends to necrophilia in order to escape from prison; the monster Goggle-eye; and the heroine Chichek, who shoots, races on horseback and wrestles her lover.

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A decisive book to understand the mentality and the past of the Turks, as well as a fascinating book of fairy tales. Unfortunately the text is currently not available in Italian except with our translation from the English version, but if you like Turkey and stories it is truly an unforgettable book. Spread throughout the Turkish world, the events of “The book of Dede Korkut” will make us travel with our minds in a reality made up of nomads and brave warriors, ready to use both strength and cunning to achieve their goals. Text that has entered our hearts and that could return in the future, perhaps as an exclusive for the podcast format.

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