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Turkic Oral Epics

The MEMO Project

From 1995 until 2008 the research project on 'medieval epic and medieval orality' (MEMO) was linked to my chair of Medieval English Philology at the University of Bonn. Work on this project continues also after my retirement; see Current Research.


My recordings of Turkic oral epic poetry were inspired by the comparative work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on South Slavic oral epics; they began in 1975 with the recording of a Turkish aşık in Ürgüp and have been carried out regularly since 1981 in the Turkic-speaking parts of Central Asia (both in the former Soviet Union and in Xinjiang, China).


For my comparative approach to medieval and Turkic heroic poetry, see my book Singing the Past: Turkic and Medieval Heroic Poetry. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2000. 


A NEW Translation Project


The Kirghiz Centre for Manas Studies in Ürümqi, Xinjiang, China, is planning to publish an English translation of the epic Manas by the most famous living Kirghiz epic singer, Jüsüp Mamay. His version of the Kirghiz epic Manas comprises over 200,000 verse lines. It has eight parts, the first part, "Manas", comprises ca. 50,000 lines.

The first volume of my translation has come out:

Manas. 1. In the Version of Jüsüp Mamay. Translated by Karl Reichl. Xinjiang "Manas" Research Centre Publications 4, "Manas" Translation 3. Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2014. ISBN 978-7-5085-2449-8


The second volume is scheduled for 2016, the third volume for 2017.


Examples of the Performance of Turkic Oral Epic Poetry

  • An extract from the Usbek epic Alpamish: Link
  • An extract from the Karakalpak epic Ashyk Gharip: Link
  • An extract from the Karakalpak epic Edige: Link