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Ode to the Grand Spirit: A Dialogue
with Chingiz Aitmatov

Ode to the Grand Spirit
Pub. Year



I.B. Tauris
(*Acquired by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2018)



Chingiz Aitmatov (1928-2008) and Daisaku Ikeda describe their work, Ode to the Grand Spirit, as a "fireside dialogue" between two weary travelers who have journeyed from afar over very different paths in life. "Thirst and an intolerable hunger torment" them, acknowledges Aitmatov. "I am talking, not about physical hunger, which is easily appeased, but spiritual hunger—the trials of attempting to comprehend existence."

Thus begins their quest for life's higher truths, taking them from the roots and reasons that led to the demise of the former Soviet Union, to the fruits and flaws of literature, religion and culture. Together, they explore the ageless struggle between good and evil, both in terms of our inhumane treatment of each other as well as our insatiable drive to subjugate nature, and share an extraordinary breadth of insights on truth, happiness, death and divinity.

Ultimately, inexorably, they are drawn inward, to the human spirit. "For modern humanity to discover the meaning of life and the way to live better," asserts Ikeda, "we must delve into the eternal aspects of universal life deep within the phenomena of individual existence."

Drawing on a panoply of anecdotes and thought from the East and West, Aitmatov and Ikeda offer life-enriching perspectives that are as eloquent as they are informative for both the well-read and casual reader.

A celebrated novelist who wrote both in Russian and in his native Kyrgyz, Aitmatov also served as ambassador to the European Union, NATO and UNESCO. He first met Ikeda in 1988 whilst visiting Japan as an ardent advocate and agent for perestroika. "I do not recall how our conversation started," writes Aitmatov, "perhaps it did not start at all but only continued because we had already been talking to each other even before we met."

Ode to the Grand Spirit is also available in Japanese, German and Russian.


Preface by Chingiz Aitmatov
  1. Three Days that Shook the World
    Victory Over the Self: The Supreme Victory
    Hope and Friendship: The Wise Man's Orders of Merit

  2. War, Literature, Youth
    First Books
    Spiritual Support in Troubled Times
    Expectations of Youth
    The Cultural Agora
    Culture in the Country
    Learning is Light; Ignorance, Darkness
    The Highest Responsibility
    Reviving Words
    Lest They be Forever Forgotten

  3. Perspectives on Perestroika
    Standing Up for Human Dignity
    The Role of the People
    Literature Worthy of its High Destiny
    Distrust of Words is Distrust of Humanity
    People Power
    Global Union Through Dialogue
    In the Interest of All Humanity
    Planned History and Sullied Knights

  4. A New Way of Thinking
    All in the Same Basket
    Belief in Bellona
    We Must All Live Together
    All Children of Humanity
    From Isolation to Unity

  5. Literature in Life
    Russian Literature: Tradition and Traits
    The Mutable and Immutable in Religion
    Myths and Folk Tales
    The Bitter Companion of Happiness
    Evolution instead of Revolution
    Two Letters:
    Transcending ‘isms' Non-violently
    From Chingiz Aitmatov to Daisaku Ikeda
    Reviving Spirituality
    From Daisaku Ikeda to Chingiz Aitmatov
    Observations on Non-violence, Daisaku Ikeda
    The Summing Up
    The Truth about Ourselves
    The People
    Their Most Brilliant Attribute
    The Humanity of Children

  6. The Long Journey Inward
    Dostoyevsky's Religious Views
    The Divinity Within
    Restoring Religion on its Rightful Place
    Alienation and its Causes
    Verbally Explicit and Implicit
    Humanity and Non-human Nature
    The Nine Stages of Consciousness
    The Lotus Sutra -- Drama of Life
    A Second Axial Period
A Parable for Mikhail Gorbachev
by Chingiz Aitmatov
by Daisaku Ikeda
The End of One Age, the Beginning of Another

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