Longlisted, RBC Taylor Prize
The Mongolia you never knew existed. Mongolia beyond Genghis Khan.
In the shadows of the Altai Mountains live the Kazakh nomads of western Mongolia. These hard-living nomads survive on windswept steppes, grazing their herds and keeping an ancient practice alive: hunting not with traps or guns, but on horseback with golden eagles.
The Mongolian Chronicles recounts a story of this untamed world, seen through the eyes of artist, writer, and traveller Allen Smutylo. Smutylo lived with seven eagle hunters and their families for several weeks over two years, affording him rare insight into a disappearing culture. His extraordinary narrative is set within the context of Mongolia's turbulent past — the long shadow cast by the empire of Genghis Khan, the deprivations of early twentieth century warlords-cum-mystics — and its protean present, where ancient customs and shamanistic beliefs exist among an increasingly urbanized people.
Smutylo's vivid prose and powerful artwork portray a Mongolia of contradictions and extremes. Readers will encounter a country with a vast wilderness that nonetheless has one of the most polluted capitals on earth; a modern economy in which tent-dwelling nomads still rely on their animals for survival; a people unchanged for millennia, yet recognizing that their way of life may disappear with their generation.
Allen Smutylo's work as a writer and artist is informed by his experience of travelling and living in some of the most remote places of the world. His first book, Wild Places, Wild Hearts, which recounts his time among the nomads of the Himalayas, won the Best Travel Adventure Book Award at the Banff Mountain Book Festival. His second book, The Memory of Water shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, draws on his travels along the world's waterways, including the Canadian Arctic, the South Pacific, and the Ganges. His most recent book, The Mongolian Chronicles was longlisted for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize.
Smutylo's paintings and etchings have been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions in Canada and abroad and are included in more than 300 public and corporate collections. He lives in Big Bay, Ontario.
RBC Taylor Prize 2020, Long-listed
"The perfect guide for an unforgettable journey into Mongolia's ancient traditions and modern paths. "
— Adrienne Mayor
"In an age of collapsing cultural diversity, Smutylo offers a precious and personal glimpse into the Kazakh nomads of Mongolia's remote Altai region and their absolutely fascinating hunting eagles. "
— Bruce Kirkby
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