PRECIOUS MANUSCRIPT'S

[Ed note: The article which follows is another example of the Soviet school of criticism of
Makhtumkuli, dating from 1958. It appears here in full translated by Richard Govett].


 


The Turkmen nation, like other nations, has produced some remarkable poets whose names could easily stand alongside the names of the world's great artists. But unfortunately, until the Great October Revolution, these works were not studied in depth. The works of our poets were preserved in the memory and heart of the people. They were propagated mainly by two channels: firstly, literary works were copied out by individual literate people and have come to us in the form of handwritten manuscripts; secondly, they were handed down from generation to generation orally by story-tellers and folk-singers. This is very interesting: indeed it is a matter not of the copying of a single book or the committing to memory of individual poems, but of the preservation and propagation of the culture of a whole nation for a period of some centuries.
    The nation carefully preserves its cultural heritage because it loves the works of talented poets and thinkers with all its heart.
    One of the best-loved poets was the great Makhtumkuli, all of whose work is steeped in a warm affection for the people. The works of Makhtumkuli, both in manuscripts and in the memory of folk-singers, have been most widely propagated and have come down to us most completely. The archives of the Institute of Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenia alone contain more than 100 manuscripts of the famous poet including the Maryskaya - 330 pages, the Karakalinskaya - 199 pages, the Tashauzskaya - ~79
pages and a photocopy of a manuscript kept in the British Museum in London - 218 pages. The story of the discovery and acquisition of each of them is worthy of attention.
    Here is the touching and amazing story of the acquisition of one Makhtumkuli manuscript, told by the talented writer Nurmurad Sarykhanov in his short story "The Book", which is based on actual fact.
    "Once Velmurat-aga, on arriving in Arkach to buy wheat, found himself listening to a reading from an interesting book. Velmurat-aga slept badly that night. He kept wondering who had written that remarkable hook and how to obtain it. In the morning he cautiously asked the reader whether the book which had so excited him was for sale. 'Leave your camel and take the hook,' came the reply. Without hesitation Velmurat-aga exchanged his pedigree she-camel for the manuscript and was very satisfied with his acquisition. His wife was stunned and thought the old man must have gone out of his mind. But Velmurat-aga knew the value of his find and wanted to prove to his wife that he had not miscalculated in giving his she-camel for it. He opened the manuscipt but it was silent: Velmurat could not read,
he could not discover the content of the hook written in 'letters of gold.'
    "The poor daykhanin, despite poverty and deprivation, decided to have his son taught to read and write. For years he waited till Murad could come home literate and read this remarkable book. But the ishan had not so much taught the boy to read and write as exploited him as a servant... The wife kept reproaching her husband for his thoughtless act. Velmurat-aga would sometimes leaf through his book wistfully.
    "This went on until Soviet rule came to the auls and nomad encampments. In the village where Velmurat-aga lived a school was opened. Murad went to school. Velmurat-aga's dream came true: his son read the hook and everybody could see for sure that the old man had given his she-camel for no ordinary thing - a manuscript of the poems of the great Makhtumkuli. The manuscript was then published by Soviet scientists and the works of the famous Turkmen poet and thinker became accessible to the masses."
    Thus the works of our famous poets were collected and preserved by the people themselves with the help of scientific institutions over many years. The collation of materials continues to this day. For example, several years ago, scientific worker Kiych Mulliyev gave the Union of Writers of Turkmenia up to 10,000 lines of previously unknown works by Makhtumkuli. This manuscript, according to Mulliyev, was found by his father in one of the ancient buildings of Bukhara. The manuscript had been immured in the wall and accidentally revealed during repairs to the house. Quite recently, S. Kurenov, a postgraduate student of the Institute of Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenia, took down some more unknown poe ins by Makhtuinkuli in Stavropol Kray.
 Now, on the 225th anniversary of the birth of Makhtumkuli, the collection of materials of national literature and works by poets of the past. especially Makhtumkuli. should be extended.
    Without a manuscript, it is impossible to carry out textual studies and without the proper textual studies, it is impossible to make an in-depth study of the poet's work. Therefore the whole population of Turkmenia- should take an active part in collecting the poet's works and in seeking out his manuscripts. Every collective farmer, worker, teacher, scientific worker and student - the whole nation - should report to the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenia everything they know about the great poet.

N. Asbirov
['Turkmenskaya Iskra; 27 September 1958. No 229].