The White Ship (Aitmatov novel)

"The White Ship" ("Белый пароход") is a novella written by Kyrgyz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov. It was first published in 1970 in Novy Mir,[1], accompanied by a film adaptation of the novel titled The White Ship which was released in 1976.

Plot summaryEdit

"The White Ship" is a story of a young boy who grows up with his grandfather, Momun, on the shores of Issyk-Kul Lake. He spends time exploring, listening to legends from his grandfather, and looking out over the lake as white ships sail along. He finds particular interest in the stories that his grandfather tells him about the Horned Mother Deer that is sacred to the Bogo tribe. A series of tragedies occurs at the end of the novella, and a hunting party kills a sacred deer with Momun and the boy as witnesses. This sends the boy into despair. Longing for love and acceptance, he dives into the waters of a stream nearby to "turn into a fish" and swim towards Issyk-Kul in search of his father.

A controversy surrounded the novel after publication due to its graphic and violent depictions of Soviet "heroes" as well as hints of child suicide. [2]

English translation of the story available in printEdit

The White Steamship, translated by Tatyana & George Feifer, Hodder & Stoughton, 1972

The White Ship, translated by Mirra Ginsburg, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1972


  1. ^ Findley, Carter Vaughn (2004). The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press. pp. 213–. ISBN 9780198039396. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  2. ^ Mozur, Joseph (1995). Parables from the Past: The Prose Fiction of Chingiz Aitmatov. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 213–. ISBN 0822937913. Retrieved 22 January 2020.