Called ‘taboo-breaking,’ ‘revolutionary,’ and ‘ahead of [her] time’ by reviewers, the literary works of Shahzoda “Samarqandi” Nazarova are among the most controversial to have emerged from Tajik society in recent years. Winner of the Best Female Author award at the Eurasian Literary Book Festival 2016, Nazarova has been featured in BBC Persia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women.’ Brought to international recognition by her novels, Registan, Stockholm Syndrome and Motherland – ‘one of the highest picks of prose in Tajik literature’ – she is also the founder of Chashme Del, the first television programme in Samarkand to be broadcast in the Tajik language.

Shahzoda Nazarova was born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan in 1975. Upon being employed by the BBC Persian Service, she was forced to flee from her homeland and relocated to Europe. Resident in Holland for the past twelve years, she is currently the editor for the Central Asian region and Afghanistan at Radio Zamaneh, an exiled Persian media organisation. In addition to her novels, Nazarova has also published three collections of poetry, namely Sabre Sang (Patient as Stone), Esyaane Rooh (The Spirit of Rebellion), and Dar Saayae Safar (In the Shadow of Travel). Her novel, Motherland has previously been translated into the Cyrillic and Arabic scripts, and now into English for the first time, edited by an award-winning author.

Nazarova’s work represents the minority Tajik, Persian speaking people of Central Asia, who have been subject to ongoing government suppression since the formation of the Soviet Union. Her focus on women’s issues and sexuality has seen her widely criticised in her native region, where ideas about individuality and personal emotions remain taboo. An avid campaigner against all forms of censorship, Nazarova’s work explores themes of migration, identity, mental imbalance and modern-day slavery, which Uzbek society still labours under the weight of.

A daring book about dreams and desires, Motherland is an exploration of what it means to be both a part of and apart from a culture. It is a commentary on the meaning of home and where this can be found: in a place, a person or in memories. Written in a poetic style that veers between dreamscapes, stream of consciousness and a sharp, forthright language, it is a ruminative, hard-hitting and poignant manuscript. A poetic narrative, Motherland is a reflection on human’s connection with nature and the collective memories of the people of Central Asia. From the hardships of the Soviet-era to the localised systems of control which replaced the apparatus of the USSR, a distinctly political dimension is present throughout Nazarova’s novels, all of which remain banned in Uzbekistan.

 Stephen M. Bland,
writer, UK