Dshurukuwaa is a young Tuvan shepherd boy in Mongolia. His nomadic family lives in the Altai mountains; there are a few relatives in their remote settlement, but the little boy's world mainly consists of his immediate family, his beloved dog Arsylang, and the flocks of sheep. He is closest to his adopted grandmother, who cares for him, and he has a happy life deeply rooted in Tuvan ways. Through the story he suffers loss after loss, as his older brother and sister are sent to a Soviet boarding school, his grandmother dies, and, most shattering of all, Arsylang is killed by poison meant for marauding wolves.
This is the first of an autobiographical trilogy of novels. The next two are The Gray Earth (which I will be sure to pick up soon) and The White Mountain, which will only be published in English later this fall. Tschinag, having lived the Tuvan life and then forcefully educated as a Soviet, spent years in East Germany and chose German as the language he would use to write about his Mongolian homeland. He is a prolific writer, but few of his books have been available to English-speaking audiences. Tschinag is now a writer and shaman who travels between Mongolia and Europe, working to preserve his Tuvan culture, which was ravaged by Soviet rule.
It's a short novel, simple and profound in its story, and lovely in execution. Really, it was wonderful to read. With all its loss, this is the most pleasant part of the trilogy, as Dshurukuwaa will grow up to be oppressed in a Soviet school and struggle with living in two radically different cultures. I'll definitely be reading the next two books.
And, bonus material: here is Tschinag singing a shamanic song.