By hamid ismailov

The Devil’s Dance

Graphic Novel

translated by Donald Rayfield (prose) & John Farndon (verse). Tilted Axis (2019)

The Devils’ Dance brings to life the extraordinary culture of 19th century Turkestan, a world of lavish poetry recitals, brutal polo matches, and a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse Islam rarely described in western literature. Hamid Ismailov’s virtuosic prose recreates this multilingual milieu in a digressive, intricately structured novel, dense with allusion, studded with quotes and sayings, and threaded through with modern and classical poetry.

Other translations

Letters to Another Room

Throughout their long marriage, the poets Ravil Bukharaev and Lydia Grigorieva have written in separate rooms in their home. In this deeply felt and poetic memoir, Ravil writes to Lydia to explain at last things left unsaid in their great love for each other. With immense honesty and insight, he explores how their journey together has been shaped by his profound Muslim beliefs and his lifelong search for what is authentic and true.


“Ravil Bukharaev carries the flame of the finest Russian prose – of Pushkin, Turgenev, Bunin. His classical clarity, his perfect balance of phrase and thought and the unhurried and magnanimous flow of his narration are wonderfully rendered from Russian by John Farndon’s English translation. ‘Letters to Another Room’ is an everlasting dialogue between the author and his characters, between the writer and his readers, between the narrator and his translator – a broad and true dialogue that bridges cultures and epochs.”

Hamid Ismailov, author of ‘The Railway’ and ‘A Poet and Bin-Laden’

“Ravil Bukharaev is an astonishing writer and, in John Farndon, he has found a translator whose empathy with his subject is so complete that the two become one. The intellectual and moral integrity is profoundly affecting. Letters to Another Room is beautifully written in sentences that sing with originality of thought and clarity of

Jonathan Dimbleby, BBC

“Ravil Bukharaev and his translator, his co-author, his co-creator and co-dramatist John Farndon … two poets coming together, their strong, beautiful voices mingling, fusing and merging in this wonderful book.”

Andrei Ostalski, BBC Russian service and New Statesman

“I was captivated by Ravil Bukharaev’s Letters to Another Room, beautifully translated by John Farndon”

Rachel Polonsky, Observer

The Dead Wander in the Desert

From Kazakhstan’s most celebrated author comes his powerful and timely English-language debut about a fisherman’s struggle to save the Aral Sea, and its way of life, from man-made ecological disaster. Unfolding on the vast grasslands of the steppes of Kazakhstan before its independence from the USSR, this haunting novel limns the struggles of the world through the eyes of Nasyr, a simple fisherman and village elder, and his resolute son, Kakharman. Both father and son confront the terrible future that is coming to the poisoned Aral Sea.


“echoes of Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don…. The Dead Wander in the Desert… is important, but leavens its gravity with the humility of its protagonists… in a very readable translation by John Farndon and Olga Nakston)….”

The Asian Review

Time of the Octupus

by Anatoly Kucharena, translated by John Farndon with Akbota Sultanbekova and Olga Nakston

In Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, fugitive US intelligence officer Joshua Kold is held in limbo, unable to leave the airport’s transit area. He is on the run, after blowing the lid off the terrifying reach of covert American global surveillance operations. Will the Russian authorities grant him asylum, or will they hand him over the clutches of the global octopus eager for revenge for his betrayal?

Anatoly Kucherena is the famous Russian lawyer who took on the case of the American whistleblower Edward Snowden whose revelations about US intelligence operations sent shockwaves around the world in 2013. Time of the Octopus is a fiction, but it is based on Kucherena’s own interviews with Snowden at Sheremetyevo, and provides the basis for Oliver Stone’s major Hollywood movie ‘Snowden’ starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of the movie events of 2016.


“Anatoly has written a ‘grand inquisitor’-style Russian novel weighing the soul of his fictional whistleblower against the gravity of a 1984 tyranny that has achieved global proportions. His meditations on the meaning of totalitarian power in the 21st century make for a chilling, prescient horror story.”

Oliver Stone, film directorr

Soviet Girl

by Tatiana Moskvina, translated by John Farndon with Olga Nakston

Glagoslav (2020)

Tatiana Moskvina’s fictionalized self-portrait is a brutally honest and often affectionate picture of life for a poor but intelligent girl growing up in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s. It is a blazing tale of a baby girl born prematurely, who survives and dares to be intellectual, in defiance of the expectations of women.

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