Monday, April 03, 2006

A Chechen Author

from Prague Watchdog (my translation):

Musa Akhmadov: "I don’t understand people who are unwilling to master their native language.”

By Tamara Chagayeva

Musa Akhmadov is one of the best known and most productive Chechen authors writing today. Recently he was marking his 50th birthday, and adding up the balance of many years of literary activity.

He began to write in early adolescence. His first reader, first critic and also first literary mentor was Uvays Aliyev, editor of the Shatoysky district newspaper. During his numerous meetings with readers, Musa often mentions Aliyev’s name with appreciation.

Akhmadov’s literary output is very diverse. He works mainly in the genre of fiction. Today he has nine books to his credit. They include the Chechen-language Night In An Empty House (1983, short stories, novellas), At Dawn, When The Stars Go Out (1986, novel, short stories), Trees In The Twillight (1989, novel, novellas, short stories), 100,000 Good Deeds (2002, short stories, play and poems for children). In Russian, there are Don’t Destroy The Anthill (1990), Night In An Empty House (1991), and At Dawn, When The Stars Go Out (1993). A collection of Musa Akhmadov’s works in five volumes is currently being prepared. The first volume, which contains the early novellas and short stories, was published last year.

Musa Akhmadov’s literary appeal is not restricted to fiction. He has also written lyrical poetry, longer poems and a whole series of plays, and the songs written to his verses have for many years been popular hits.

Those who love literature are also familiar with Akhmadov as a dramatist. The Chechen State Theatre has staged two presentations of his plays After The Earthquake (1989) and The Departed Behind The Shroud (1993), and the Chechen Puppet Theatre has staged his Adventures Of A Flea (1988). The writer has also attracted notice at the Ingush State Theatre, where his comedy Wolf Tail (2000) was performed, while the Ingush Puppet Theatre’s production of More Adventures Of Chirdig (2001) is also enjoying success.

The war has brought new, corrective influences to bear on Musa Akhmadov’s creative work. He has long held a firm and irrevocable belief that without their customs and traditions, their native language and national culture, the Chechen people will not survive. The writer has never tired of speaking on this subject, not only in his numerous works, but also in his television series Ochag, which was extremely popular before the war. Life itself, and also the duties of a writer compelled him to take up a form of work to which he was rather unaccustomed – he began to write textbooks. Now not only his readers, but also people in charge at various levels are noting with satisfaction how valuable and extremely in demand his new experiment is.

Three years ago his textbook for the senior classes of secondary schools, Chechen Traditional Culture and Ethics, was published, and this year saw the publication of his book for fourth year students on Chechen traditions, entitled You Came Into This World. Musa Akhmadov has also written systematic textbooks and programs on ethics and Chechen language for schools and institutions of higher education. It’s interesting to note that Chechen Traditional Culture and Ethics is presently being translated into Japanese, and is due to be published in Japan towards the middle of 2006.

Recently another “breakthrough” in the writer’s work took place, this time beyond the borders of Russia. It’s his famous play Berzaloy (The Wolves). Written in the late 1980s, it deals with a very important time in the life of the Chechen people – the period of deportation. It portrays the complex human interrelations, the deprivations suffered by people who were forced to hide in the mountains, the endless years spent in inhuman conditions when their native country was taken away from them and they themselves were hunted down.

The play was first published in the pages of the arts and literature journal Orga. Much later, in 2002, it was translated into French and published as a separate book. It should be observed that The Wolves has enjoyed great popularity in France and has even been reprinted several times. The well-known French director Dominique Dolmieu has staged a presentation of this play: its premiere took place on March 10, 2006 at La Maison d'Europe et d'Orient in Paris.

In his works Musa Akhmadov seeks to portray the life of the Chechen people at different periods of history. The individual people who lived in a different time are described as if from nature. The writer’s upbringing played an important role in helping him to do this. He grew up in a family where Chechen etiquette was rigorously observed, where relations between people were founded on the basis of age-old national traditions, and where everyone honoured Muslim rituals. Hence his conviction that a very fine line exists in the souls of Chechens between religious faith and the other social norms. The norms of Islam have entered everyday life and become so closely interwoven with the adats and customs of the Chechens that it is impossible to break this connection. For this reason, Musa Akhmadov is convinced that Chechen literature can only be created by taking this postulate as its starting point.

As an established literary figure, Musa has his own opinion about the state of contemporary Chechen literature. And where this issue is concerned, he cannot remain an outside observer. He finds it depressing that the writing environment has seen the emergence of people who write works of inferior quality for financial gain, with crudely manufactured scenes of cruelty and amoral behaviour. He himself tries not to yield to such temptations, preserving his reputation unsullied.

He is also worried about the state of the Chechen language, which was not a compulsory subject in the schools. In one of his publications devoted to the problems of the Chechen language, Musa Akhmadov writes: "The system of national moral values in which a Chechen must be included right from childhood is a unique immunity from alien ideas. Unfortunately, the majority of our population has not had this immunity, because it hasn’t received a national education in its own language, and so some people have easily fallen prey to foreign influences which go against the true spirit of our nation, its moral guidelines, its ideas... And this is one of the main reasons for what has happened to our people recently, and what continues to happen."

He also considers that "those for whom the spiritual and national depersonalisation of our children and descendants is not a matter of indifference must clearly realize the danger of cultural death which has hung over us, and do everything possible to revive the language and traditions of our nation." Sometimes he angrily exclaims: "I don’t understand people who are unwilling to master their native language to perfection!”

Musa Akhmadov took over the post of editor-in-chief of the literary and artistic journal Vaynakh at a very difficult period. He had to assemble a creative team that would be able to work together, to sort out the accommodation of the staff, and to solve a number of complicated problems connected with improving the quality of the material published in the journal. And although the quality of the printing still leaves much to be desired, the journal itself has become more interesting. It now covers a variety of genres, and there are many new names among the authors. As he continues to mastermind the journal, Musa Akhmadov doesn’t forget about his creation – the Chechen Cultural Centre.

There are many plans and ideas. Time and energy are needed for their realization. But author Musa Akhmadov is only fifty. He is now in the full bloom of his creative forces, and he will continue to gladden his admirers with works that are new, interesting, and full of wisdom in the true sense. At any rate, that is what we, his readers, sincerely desire.

Tamara Chagayeva is a Chechen translator and journalist.

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