Duishen – The First Teacher
Original Title: Первый учитель
Kyrgyzstan (Soviet Union) 1924: All on his own and despite the ridicule he is subjected to, the “first teacher” Duishen goes against the wishes of the villagers and converts an old stable into something that has never existed in this remote area: a school. Despite having no formal education himself, the idealistic young teacher is driven by the purpose and goal of his work, and he encourages his students wherever he can.
Told with a great deal of sensitivity. A thin book with powerful content.
P.S. Aitmatov unobtrusively expresses his sympathy for communist ideas. His main character Duishen idolizes Lenin, though he is serious about not only preaching the communist ideals, but also living them.
Probably not intended by Aitmatov: His story clearly shows why the socialist-communist “paradise on earth” is really just a castle in the air and will remain a utopia: no one else throughout the whole plot of the book is even remotely as socially minded and helpful as Duishen, so constantly concerned with the common good.
A “paradise on earth” needs a lot more selfless, loving people such as Aitmatov’s “first teacher” exemplifies. People are not all the same: some develop their talents, others do not. Some want to work and others try to avoid work.
Human maturity of the people on this earth is too varied; while some want to build a piece of paradise, others build a hell on earth or allow it to be built.