Friday, December 12, 2008

Chingis Aitmatov - In Fond Memory of One of my Heroes...
Presented by Risbek
"Chingis Aitmatov and Modernity" Forum
October 25, 2008, Bishkek
Chingis Aitmatov "Hero Writer"Speaking on this topic today is difficult, but I will because Chingis Aitmatov opened the way. He is a writer-hero. Many traits make him a writer-hero. Chingis Aitmatov, like Solzhenitsyn, brilliantly revealed duplicity within the USSR while writing from the inside. He also beautifully introduced the inner world of mountain nomads to me and the outside world. But there is one more heroic deed he accomplished for me and many others – one deed that many people want to forget. Chingis Aitmatov dared to present images from the world’s most quoted and critiqued book – a book forsaken by his own people.

The book Chingis Aitmatov searched is filled with life’s dramas and pains and joy. It has romance, and the world’s most famous love song. The book describes rape, adultery, murder, intrigue and God’s judgment. It describes the rising and falling of khans and their kingdoms; and the destructive hypocrisy of religious leaders, and crashing of world economies like those we see today. This ancient book also shows the nomadic faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with their sacrifices and mazars (holy sites). The holy writings are a collection of Solomon’s wisdom books, the parables of Jesus, the laws of Moses, and the tears of the prophets; all mixed with ancient history and visions of the end times. It is a literary masterpiece which many Kyrgyz are ashamed to read. Fortunately, Chingis Aitmatov stood against social taboos and opened his mind to new perspectives.

In his introduction to Ashim Jakypbek’s book “Tengiri Manas” Chingis Aitmatov openly writes:

кыргыздар «Өңөр алды кызыл тил» деп макалдатса, Библияга тооп кылгандар ар нерсенин башталышы катарында «А дегенде Сљз болгон» деген түшүнүктү дайма туу тутуп келишет.1

the Kyrgyz proverb says “great skill is in the red tongue” – like the Bible’s summarized introduction “In the beginning was the Word;” such phrases lift the banner of understanding.2

Other hero-writers, like Chingis Aitmatov, also dared to lift the banner of understanding. Sagymbai’s version of the Manas Epic mentions a hero-writer – a mullah who definitely was not a “чала” (bad) mullah:

Инжил менен Тоорат
Жазуусун билип төбүрөөк
Ырайдын билип алибин
Окуган экен көбүрөөк.
Азирети Жебирейил
Айтып кабар салыптыр,
Ак байгамбар Мустапа
Айтканынын баарысын
Акылына алыптыр,
Ал сөздүн баарын молдо Осмон
Китеп кылып калыптыр…3

The Gospel and Torah's
Writings he studied well
Irai’s alphabet he knew
And read lots.
The Holy Gabriel
Spoke a message to him,
The white prophet Mustapa
All that was said
To his wisdom he gathered,
Every word Mullah Osmon
Left in the book he wrote…

Like Mullah Osmon from the Manas Epic, Chingis Aitmatov also presented us wisdom which he gleaned from holy sources. In response to his story “Place of the Skull” (плаха” in Russian; “кыямат” in Kyrgyz), containing his portrayal of Jesus, Chingis Aitmatov wrote that no one but Jesus could fulfill the novel’s purpose. Then he added:

Иисус Христос мага азыркы адамдарга кандайдыр бир ыйык нерсени айтыщ үчүн мүмкүнчүлүк берет…

the Jesus Christ figure gave me the opportunity to present that sacred topic (sacrifice and extreme suffering) to modern people… 4

Chingis Aitmatov was brave enough to mention Jesus within his Muslim context, without changing his religion. Look at this list of hero-writers from this part of the world who projected similar wisdom into their own writings or speeches: Mullah Osmon, Solzhenitsyn, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Alisher Navoi, Chingis Aitmatov, and all the future writer-heroes who are brave enough to stand against the society’s duplicity. The men I mentioned did not change their faith or sell their religions; on the contrary, the expanded their religions and their faith, and brought unity where others seek division. They are the hero-writers.


Presented at the Diylog Avrazia's "Chingis Aitmatov and Modernity" Forum on Oct. 25, 2008 in memory of Chingis Aitmatovby Risbek in English with Russian translation by Yevgeniy Akimenko.
Risbek, a post-graduate student at Kyrgzstan’s Arabaev University, published five books including his best known Ak Kalpak and Boz Ui.
1 Aitmatov, Chingis: introduction to Tengiri Manas by Jakypbek, Ashim (Bishkek “Kyrgyzstan” 1995)
2 Loosely translated by the author.
3 Orozbakov, Sagymbai; edited by the Kyrgyz Republic’s Academy of Sciences: Manas, The Kyrgyz National Heroic Epic (Bishkek, Sham, 2006)
4 Aitmatov, Chingis; Chingis Aitmatov, (Bishkek, Sham, 1999), vol. 4, p. 350. Parentheses added by author.

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