LifeAitmatov's parents were civil servants in Sheker. The name Chingiz is the same as the honorary title of Genghis Khan. In early childhood he wandered as a nomad with his family, as the Kyrgyz people did at the time. In 1937 his father was charged with "bourgeois nationalism" in Moscow, arrested and executed.
Aitmatov lived at a time when Kyrgyzstan was being transformed from one of the most remote lands of the Russian Empire to a republic of the USSR. The future author studied at a Soviet school in Sheker. He also worked from an early age. At fourteen he was an assistant to the Secretary at the Village Soviet. He later held jobs as a tax collector, a loader, an engineer's assistant and continued with many other types of work.
In 1946 he began studying at the Animal Husbandry Division of the Kirghiz Agricultural Institute in Frunze, but later switched to literary studies at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow, where he lived from 1956 to 1958. For the next eight years he worked for Pravda. His first two publications appeared in 1952 in Russian: The Newspaper Boy Dziuio and Ašym. His first work published in Kyrgyz was Ak Ğaan (White Rain) in 1954, and his well known work Jamila (Ğamijla; variants: Dzhamila, Jamilya) appeared in 1958. 1980 saw his first novel The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years; his next significant novel, The Scaffold was published in 1988. The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years and other writings were translated into several languages.
Chinghiz Aitmatov belongs to the post-war generation of writers. His output before Jamilya was not significant, a few short stories and a short novel called Face to Face. But it was Jamilya that came to prove the author's work. Louis Aragon described the novellete as the world's most beautiful love story, raising it even above Rudyard Kipling's World's Most Beautiful Love Story. Aitmatov's representative works also include the short novels Farewell, Gulsary!, The White Ship, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, and The Scaffold.
Aitmatov was honoured in 1963 with the Lenin Prize for Jamilya and later he was awarded a State prize for Farewell, Gulsary!. Aitmatov's art was glorified by admirers . Even critics of Aitmatov mentioned high quality of his novels.
Aitmatov's work has some elements that are unique specifically to his creative process. He is very close to mythology, not in the ancient sense of it -- rather, he tries to recreate and synthesize mythology in the context of contemporary life. This is prevalent in his work; in every story he refers to a myth, a legend, or a folktale. In The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years a poetic legend about a young captive turned into a mankurt serves a tragic allegory and becomes a significant symbolic expression of the philosophy of the novel.
A second aspect of Aitmatov's writing is his ultimate closeness to our "little brothers" the animals, for their and our lives are intimately and inseparably connected. The two center characters of Farewell, Gulsary! are a man and his stallion. A camel plays a prominent role in The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years; one of the key turns of the novel which decides the fate of the main character is narrated through the story of the camel's rut and riot. The Scaffold starts off and finishes with the story of a wolf pack and the great wolf-mother Akbara and her cub; human lives enter the narrative but interweave with the lives of the wolves.
In addition to his literary work, Chinghiz Aitmatov is the Kyrgyz ambassador to the European Union, NATO, UNESCO and the Benelux countries. He is also the father of former Kyrgyz foreign minister, Askar Aitmatov.