Herold Belger / Free lines

Library DOCA Kazakhstan

Herold Belger / Free lines

Artwork by Perizat Suleimanova

February 7, 2019

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Herold Belger was born in 1934 in the Volga region. He survived the deportation of 1941. He survived in one of those dreadful carriages where thousands and thousands of his fellow countrymen and other companions in misfortune from Stalin’s list of enemies and untrustworthy nations and groups died of hunger, diseases and lack of air.

He spent childhood and adolescence in a Kazakh aul on the shore of Ishim river. Having moved to Alma-Ata, he started his extra-productive and diverse literary and translational practice that would then change and enrich three cultures: Kazakh, German and Russian. His name, his voice, and his words resonated far beyond literature; for his wisdom and integrity, people and the press called Belger The Nation’s Conscience and The Last Kazakh.

On February 7, 2015, at the hospital in Almaty, Herold Belger’s heart stopped.

Below are some of the words and notes that Herold Belger wrote mainly in 2007. Even a dozen years on, they are still just as relevant.

 

Moderation is good for everyday life but not for creative work. Passion is never moderate.

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You have to take another person as he is. Otherwise you may come to hate him.

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I am concerned about the “special path” of Kazakh democracy. It is of the devil. It is self-deception, nonsense. The moment one starts searching for a “special path”, they are in a dead end.

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In our authorities’ opinion, a true patriot is someone who dies a year before his retirement.

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When the lower classes steal, it is more or less tolerable. But when the top brass steal so devotedly, or, as Kazakhs would say, “swallow a camel with wool, and a laden horse”, inevitable headwinds await that society.

A happy slave is the freedom’s worst enemy.

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What we call stability is just plain stagnation.

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Stages of my generation’s existence: first, struggle for physical survival, then, struggle for mental survival, and now, convulsions for just survival.

Kazakh press is not the Fourth Estate but the fourth wife.

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Kok-Zhailau is a heavenly creation that must be preserved. Primarily, it is Kazakhs, our fellow citizens, Almatians who should preserve it and think about it.

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I have lived in Kazakhstan for over 60 years, but I won’t be native even if I live here for as long again. In fact, I just stuck to the rim of the nest. And sometimes I am reminded of that. In order to become a native, I would have to move to Germany, but there, too, I would be a late returnee at best. In brief, wherever I go, I am just an alien.

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Abay could never become a parliamentarian. Because he wouldn’t join the Nur Otan party or even the Kazakhstan’s Writers’ Union for love or money.

Only the strong need freedom. The weak are fine with slavery. When a slave gets liberty, he dies.

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My favorite foods are horse meat, kazy, karta, zhal, zhaya, shyzhuk. I am not a fan of “grass”.

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Unlike my Kazakh friends, I only have one of each: one wife, one daughter, one grandson, one great-granddaughter. 

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I am an atheist by nature, but God is very accepting of me.

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Put your trust in Aruakhs, and keep your powder dry.

Herold Belger at his study, October 28, 2014
Image by Timur Nusimbekov

Translated by Malika Autalipova

Published: February 7, 2019