Tuesday, May 22, 2007


One of my students was telling me recently that during the Soviet era, almost no books from other countries were available in Mongolia. The late Russian greats (Dostoevsky, Pushkin, et al.) were represented, but few others. My student mentioned that there were a few books though from America: Did I know "Goodbye to Arsenal"? At first, I did not. Then I realized that was because, while his transliteration was perfect, the novel is better known as Hemingway's 1929 novel, "Farewell to Arms." Another one: "The Little House of Uncle Tom."

In one sense, I was surprised there were any American books in Mongolia then; there are so few now. There is not currently a single real (ie, not used travelers' books) bookstore in Mongolia . Admon, the main publishing house, does have a small bookstore-ish store, but it is mainly textbooks and the like.

Around and on Sukhbaatar Square there are people selling old Mongolian books and a smattering of English texts but, for the most part, there is no way to cultivate a library in Mongolia, in any language. Literacy is high, which suggests that if people had books to read, they might, but poverty and a low population count mean that even if books were available, they'd be too expensive for most, and that Mongolian translations would be rare.

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At 10:16 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Tht is correct. I used to have access to the State University's small book collection at that time. The only English books were Victorian literature, including the novels of Dickens and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. In 1989 I helped change the Pushkin Insitute into Mongolia's first English institute as part of a UNDP project.

At 11:45 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

Hi there! I don't know if you still check your comments on here, but I loved reading your blog. I'm moving to Mongolia for a year and a half in July, and I was wondering if you have any advice for me? Your blog has already been a big help in knowing better what to expect.




At 7:18 PM, Blogger samraat said...



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