Chingiz Huseynov: "Gamzatov tormented himself because of the stones he threw at Imam Shamil"
Acting Head of the Republic of Dagestan Sergei Melikov said that Vladimir Putin supported the proposal to declare 2023 the year of Rasul Gamzatov. "There is no place in Russia where the name or work of Rasul Gamzatov is not known," the head of Dagestan said. The 100th anniversary of Gamzatov will be celebrated throughout the country, but Dagestan will be the main centre of the celebrations. On the eve of the poet's jubilee, Vestnik Kavkaza is preparing a cycle of memories of Rasul Gamzatov from people who knew him closely, who met him not only in Moscow, Makhachkala but on his trips around the country and the world. The first in the cycle is an interview with a writer, translator, Doctor of Philology Chingiz Huseynov.
- Chingiz Hasanovich, you knew Rasul Gamzatov well. In your opinion, what was his zest as a great poet and wise man?
- Rasul Gamzatov deserves a year in Russia to be named after him. I remember our meetings. When I was once in Makhachkala, he invited me to visit him. We met with him both in Moscow and in Baku, where he often came. A curious paradox is associated with Rasul Gamzatov. He received all the prizes in the Soviet Union and many awards: Stalin, Lenin, State prizes, the title of Hero of Socialist Labor, the Order of Lenin, the highest award of the Russian Federation, the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. But at the same time, he did not write a single poem in which Soviet reality would be glorified. One way or another, the writers of that era had to serve the ideas of the state in order to receive an award or prize. But Rasul is a phenomenon in poetry, and he received all the awards for truthful, optimistic, but not laudatory creativity.
- He, apparently, was not ashamed of his poems?
- He tormented himself only for one thing. In 1950, a campaign began against Imam Shamil, although before that, even in school textbooks, he was called a hero of the national liberation struggle against the tsarist autocracy. And suddenly Stalin had an idea to declare all national liberation movements hostile to the Russian state and the Russian people. There were party functionaries who branded Shamil, calling him an Anglo-French agent. Many began to throw stones at the imam, and Rasul Gamzatov threw his own - because he was young that time. Then he repented and blamed himself. The words of regret about the fact that he also "threw a stone at Shamil" belong to Rasul.
- Did young Gamzatov condemn Shamil because he did not yet understand the value of his activity or for another reason?
- Despotic power uses young people, who are actively involved in the actions of this power through ignorance and misunderstanding. Gamzatov then studied at the Literary Institute, he believed what the authorities wrote. Those generations grew up believing in publication, taking everything at face value. The most surprising for me today, that having such lessons in our history, we still believe in what we hear and see in the media.
- For some, Gamzatov is a purely Soviet poet, for others, first of all, a national poetaster ...
- He wrote the beautiful lines: "And if tomorrow my language disappears, then I am ready to die today." This is a dialectical view of the problem. Any actions aimed at restricting the language, giving it an optional character, any decree encroachments on it were unacceptable for him. Yes, there are objective processes of assimilation of the people and their language, but this is a different process. On this occasion, I remember the discussion when the term Soviet people appeared in the USSR (Nikita Khrushchev at the XXII Congress of the CPSU proclaimed that we have a new historical community of people of different nationalities with common characteristics - the Soviet people, - Editor’s note) Then the poet Robert Rozhdestvensky wrote: "I am Soviet by nationality." This line from his rather good poem caused a storm of protest from opponents. They said: "I am a Soviet person by ideology, and by nationality, I am Russian, Kazakh, Georgian, etc." Of course, Khrushchev had other aims as well, for example, to build communism by 1980 ... By the way, the all-Union discussion on the national issue began in Dagestan, when a local would-be scientist called on national writers to write only in Russian. He said: "We all know it, so let's contribute to the development of the great and mighty Russian language!"
- And then there would be no great Rasul Gamzatov, who wrote in Avar. But this is a very interesting topic, given some critical statements that translators have worked hard on Gamzatov's poems.
- The thesis that Russian poets wrote instead of national poets was disseminated during the perestroika period. Rasul Gamzatov wrote in Avar. I don't know the Avar language, but I read the interlinear translation of his poems. At my request, the translation was made by an Avar student of the Literary Institute, when I was tutoring there. After reading the interlinear translations, I gasped: there is no at least 50% of figurativeness in Russian translations. The only time when Rasul went to meet the Russian-language poetic tradition was his famous poem "Cranes". (In the original version, it was about horsemen, not about soldiers - Editor’s note) Gamzatov agreed with this change. But in the Avar original "Cranes" is an epic work, so many-sided it is. From this multifaceted poem, only one plot was singled out for translation - and this was the right decision. The poem of Avar Gamzatov has become a phenomenon of Russian-language culture! The Russian people perceive this poem as their own, written about all those who died on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War.
- Based on the thesis of Nikita Khrushchev at the party congress in 1961 and Robert Rozhdestvensky’s words, was Gamzatov primarily a Soviet man?
- In the best sense, in the most positive sense of Rozhdestvensky's phrase. The Soviet people really existed! Although not for long. I am also a child of the Soviet era in the best sense of the term.
- Rasul Gamzatov, as people who knew him well say, was a very cheerful person. Is it true?
- Absolute. He loved feasts, drinks. This state corresponded to his mood and did not indicate his alcohol addiction. He was a cheerful and witty person even without drinking that amplified his character. Indeed, Rasul was very cheerful! And very devoted to his wife Patimat. I did not hear any rumours or gossip about his possible affairs with other women, although I knew a lot about the representatives of the country's national literature. In 1955, I joined the Commission on National Literatures of the USSR Writers' Union, which was formed after the Second Congress of Writers. I was then immersed in the literature of the Soviet peoples, so everything I say comes from my personal knowledge and experience, my personal disposition for good. Truth should be attuned to good, and anyone who considers the truth to be evil hides it in the broadest sense of the word needs to be treated.
(To be continued)