Tschinag, Galsan 1943-

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Tschinag, Galsan 1943-

(Irgit Shynykbioglu Jurukuvá)


Born 1943, in Mongolia; legally changed name to Galsan Tschinag. Education: Attended University of Ulan Bator and the University of Leipzig.




Shaman and poet. Served as a lecturer in German at the Mongolian state university.


Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, 1992, and Heimito von Doderer Literary Prize, 2001, both for poetry.


Der siebzehnte Tag (two stories; title means "The Seventeenth Day"), A1 (Munich, Germany), 1992.

Eine tuwinische Geschichte, und andere Erzählungen (stories; title means "A Tuvan Tale, and Other Stories"), Volk & Welt (Berlin, Germany), 1992.

Das Ende des Liedes (title means "The End of the Song"), A1 Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1993.

Zwanzig und ein Tag (novel; title means "Twenty and One Day"), Suhrkamp (Frankfurt, Germany), 1995.

Eine tuwinische Geschichte und neue Erzählungen (stories; title means "A Tuvan Tale and Other New Stories"), A1 (Munich, Germany), 1995.

Alle Pfade um deine Jurte (poetry; title means "All the Paths around Your Yurt"), Waldgut Verlag (Frauenfeld, Switzerland), 1995.

Nimmer werde ich dich zähmen können (poetry; title means "You Will Always Be Untamable"), Waldgut Verlag (Frauenfeld, Switzerland), 1996.

Die Karawane (title means "The Caravan"), A1 (Munich, Germany), 1997.

Wolkenhunde (poetry; title means "Cloud Dogs"), Waldgut Verlag (Frauenfeld, Switzerland), 1998.

Sonnenrote Orakelsteine (poetry; title means "Oracle Stones As Red As the Sun"), Waldgut Verlag (Frauenfeld, Switzerland), 1999.

Der Wolf und die Hündin (title means "The Wolf and the Bitch"), Waldgut Verlag (Frauenfeld, Switzerland), 1999.

Die graue Erde (novel; title means "The Gray Earth"), Insel (Frankfurt, Germany), 1999.

Der weisse Berg (novel; title means "The White Mountain"), Insel (Franfurt, Germany), 2000.

Dojnaa (fiction), A1 (Munich, Germany), 2001.

Der Steinmensch zu Ak-Hem (poetry; title means "The Stone Man at Ak-Helm"), Waldgut Verlag (Frauenfeld, Switzerland), 2002.

Tau und Gras, Unionsverlag (Zurich, Switzerland), 2002.

Das geraubte Kind (novel; title means "The Stolen Child"), Insel (Frankfurt, Germany), 2004.

The Blue Sky (originally published as Blaue Himmel), translated by Katharina Rout, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.


Galsan Tschinag was born Irgit Shynykbioglu Jurukuvá in a small town in Mongolia. He is a member of the Tuvan tribe that is a minority in that region, and of which he is the rightful chief and shaman. In order to attend school in Mongolia, he was forced to take on a Mongolian name, and so he became Galsan Tschinag to comply with local law. According to family members, prior to Tschinag's birth his mother lost a pair of twins when they were only ten days old. However, the souls of the departed children swore to their parents they would return, and that when that occurred they should keep the new baby that bore their souls hidden. As a result, Tschinag spent the first years of his life swaddled in a pile of fur skins, and he was not referred to by name. However, by the age of five, he began to sing and tell stories, showing signs of a future as a shaman. It was his aunt, who was also a shaman, who began to train him in the creation of verse, giving him his start as a poet.

Tschinag's awareness of words and language became more pronounced when he began school. The native Tuvan language, which has no written form, was forbidden in his school, and so Tschinag was forced to give up not only his name but also his language in favor of Mongolian. Fortunately, he had an aptitude for language and soon learned Kazakh and Russian as well. By the end of high school, he was writing poetry in several languages, and his talent had been recognized on a local level. He continued his education, first at the University of Ulan Bator in Mongolia, and then through a special transfer program that allowed him to go to the University of Leipzig in what was then East Germany. His time abroad made him fluent in German, as well, and he added that language to his poetry. He also met East German writer Erwin Strittmatter, who became his mentor. Eventually, Tschinag returned to Mongolia and became a lecturer in German at the state university. However, he was frequently persecuted for his political beliefs. His position remained tenuous, particularly due to his outspoken writings.

Tschinag writes both poetry and prose, with a number of novels drawing on his life experiences in rural Mongolia. The author typically steeps his fiction in the harsh realities of life in his area of the world. His first work to be translated into English, The Blue Sky, is about life on a yurt. It questions whether the sky above serves as a true and sacred shelter, or as a menace to the people living beneath it. "Tschinag evokes the nurturing warmth of a family within the circular embrace of a yurt," reported Donna Seaman in Booklist, while a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Tschinag offers softly outlined characters more in the oral tradition than that of the novel, and fly-on-the-wall depictions of the Tuvans." In Der weisse Berg, a later novel, Tschinag focuses on identity and the discovery of self through the character of Dshurukuwaa, a teenager growing up in a politically oppressive world. Keith Hitchins, in a review for World Literature Today, remarked that "Dshurukuwaa's experience of life in a single year is sobering."



Booklist, October 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Blue Sky, p. 38.

Publishers Weekly, September 25, 2006, review of The Blue Sky, p. 47.

World Literature Today, summer, 1996, Keith Hitchins, review of Zwanzig und ein Tag, p. 764; summer-autumn, 2001, Keith Hitchins, review of Der weisse Berg, p. 140; July-September, 2003, Elizabeth Powers, review of Tau und Gras, p. 79; September-December, 2005, Keith Hitchins, review of Das geraubte Kind, p. 87.


Brigham Young University Web site,http://webpub.byu.net/ (December 4, 2006), Richard Hacken, brief biography of Galsan Tschinag.

Galsan Tschinag Home Page,http://www.galsan.info (December 4, 2006).