Comandante, Djigit…

Дун Кубаялде щвана. Дица Фидель Кастрода тIад ретIана дир магIарул буртина. Гьесда гьеб рекъон ккараб куц! Гьес гьикъана:
— Маргъалал щай гьечIел гьалда?
— Тушман вачIаравго, вачIинахъего гьесул бохдукьеги рехун, ярагъ циндаго къватIибе цIазе санагIат букIине,— ян жаваб кьуна дица.
Фидель гьелдаса разилъана…

I visited Cuba and put my Avar burka* on Fidel Castro. It looked quite good on him. He asked me, “Why aren’t there any buttons on it?”
I answered, “to make it easier to throw off and pull out a weapon if an enemy comes.”
Fidel agreed…

На Кубе я подарил Фиделю Кастро нашу бурку.
– Почему нет пуговиц? – спросил удивленно Фидель.
– Чтобы в случае нужды быстрее сбросить с плеч и схватиться за саблю.
– Настоящая партизанская одежда, – согласился партизан Фидель Кастро.

In Cuba I gave Fidel Castro our traditional burka as a gift.
“Why aren’t there any buttons?” he asked, surprised.
“So that if necessary one could throw it off and pull out one’s sword.”
“Clothing fit for a guerrilla,” agreed guerrilla Fidel.

*Not to be confused with the Afghan women’s garment, the Caucasian burka (Avar буртина) is a square-shouldered sheepskin cloak.


Sounds of the Mountains

In a car heading down from Svaneti (a high mountain region of Georgia, whose inhabitants resemble the Avars in many ways) with two Americans the discussion turned to languages.

“What does Svan sound like”? – “Like the sound of stone striking stone,” I replied.
Mingrelian? – “like the watery sounds of rivers and swamps”
Abkhaz? – “like the wind whistling through the trees, or birdsong.”
“It’s very interesting how languages reflect their environment.”

And the sharp, stony cliffs themselves, shedding their rocks as we drove past, seemed to speak up in agreement.

Are Sounds Of The Caucasus Shaped By The Mountains Themselves?

Murder…Resurrection, and Murder Again

… дица хъван букIана пьеса — «МагIарулай». Гьеб лъуна магIарул гурелги, батIи-батIиял театраз. Пьесаялъул героиня Асият, кигIанго дир ракI гурхIаниги, дие захIмалъаниги, бокьичIониги, гьелда ццин гьалаглъарав дир пьесаялъул герояс чIвана. Гьеб пашманаб ахиргун лъуна дир «МагIарулай» авар театралъ.
Ва амма Дарги театралда гьеб лъолеб мехалъ, гьей гъалалги къотIун тана, цIакъго балагьарал къварид гьариларин абун. Бихьиназ ясазул гъал къотIи — гьеб Дагъистаналда цIакъго захIматаб жолъун рикIкIуна. Амма кин бугониги, магIарулай хвечIо. ЛъарагI театралъ гьей бараб жоялъ бецц гьаюна. Беццлъи балагь буго, амма хвел гуро.
Хадуб чачаназул театралъ щибго зарал ккечIого йорчIизаюна. АнцI-анцI режиссераз анцI-анцI батIайиса лъугIизе гьабуна дир героинаялъул къисмат.
Дида жеги кIвечIо чIварал рахъинаризе. Гьединал дараби дунялалъул тохтирзабазул гьечIо. Режиссераз цо героиня хвасар гьаюлеян кинабго пьеса чIвана.

I had written the play “Highland Girl”, which ran not only in the Avar theater, but in other national (minority-language) theaters of Dagestan as well. As much as it pained me and as much as I didn’t want it, I wrote it so that the male lead character killed the female lead, Asiyat, in a fit of anger. It was with this tragic ending that my play was staged in the Avar theater.
But when they put it on in the Dargin theater, they made it so that her braids were cut off, thinking her death would be too hard on the audience. For a man to cut off a girl’s braids was seen as a difficult enough thing in Dagestan. But in any case, the highland girl did not die. In the Kumyk theater she was blinded. Being blinded is certainly terrible, but it’s not the same as dying.
And then in the Chechen theater they let her survive, unmolested. Dozens of different directors resolved my heroine’s fate in dozens of different ways.
I still haven’t been able to bring the dead back to life. No doctor in the world has come up with such a drug. But in saving its heroine’s life the directors killed the entire play.

В то время я написал пьесу “Горянка”. Она шла в нескольких театрах Дагестана, и вот что произошло с этой пьесой.
В конце спектакля по ходу дела герой убивает героиню. Мне было жалко мою горянку, моя рука дрожала, когда я писал сцену убийства, и сердце обливалось кровью. Но я ничего не мог изменить. Течение событий само подводило к тому, что горянка должна быть убитой. Аварский театр так и поставил спектакль, и хотя зрители печалились и жалели героиню больше даже, чем я сам, все они понимали, что иначе быть не могло.
В даргинском театре пьесу подредактировали. Вместо того, чтобы девушка была убита, ей отрезали косу. Конечно, это позорно, когда горянке отрезают косу, может быть, даже это хуже смерти, но все-таки и не смерть.
На сцене кумыкского театра решили не убивать и не резать косу, но ослепить. Конечно, это ужасно. Может быть, это ужаснее, чем убить или отрезать косу, но все-таки горянка оставалась жива и с косой, ибо так захотели в кумыкском театре.
Чеченцы в своем театре поступили всех проще. “Зачем убивать, – решили они, – зачем отрезать косу, зачем ослеплять? Пусть героиня остается жива-здорова”.
Так каждый режиссер переделал пьесу по своему образу и подобию. Никто не подсказал им, что, жалея и спасая героиню, они тем самым убивают пьесу и не жалеют зрителей, не говоря уж о драматурге.

At that time I had written my play “Highland Girl”, which ran in several of the national theaters of Dagestan. And this is the story of what happened to it.
At the end of the play the lead male character kills the female lead. I felt sorry for my highland girl and my hand trembled as I wrote the murder scene, and my heart filled with pain. But I couldn’t change it. The course of events led to the inevitable conclusion – the highland girl was murdered. The Avar theater put it on as it was, and though the audience felt sad and pitied her even more than I did, they understood that it couldn’t end any other way.
In the Dargin theater they “edited” it a bit. Instead of her being killed her braids got cut off. Of course it was a great shame for a girl to have her braids cut off, perhaps even worse than being killed, but it’s still not the same as dying.
In the Kumyk theater they decided not to kill her, or cut off her braids, but to blind her. Of course this is a terrible thing, perhaps even worse than being killed or having her braids cut off, but nevertheless she stayed alive and with her braids unmolested, because they wanted it that way in the Kumyk theater.
The Chechen theater made it even easier – “Why kill her,” they decided, “why cut off her braids or blind her? Let her remain alive, safe and sound.”
Thus each director remade the play in his own image. No one told them that in pitying and saving the poor heroine, they were not only killing the play itself, but also showing no pity for the viewers, much less for the playwright.

On translation


Сулейманил асарал гIурус мацIалде руссинарулев Эффенди Капиевасдасан гьесул тушбабаз гIемерал мацIал гьарулаан. Гьез Сулейманида абулаан: дур кучIдул Капиевас хвезе гьарулел ругин гIурус мацIалъ тIаде жубан, тIаса бахъун, гIемерал мухъал данде кколарилан.
— Щай, ХIабиб, дуца дир лъимал рухулел? — ан гьикъун буго Сулейманица Капиевасда.
— Дур кучIдул дур лъимал гуро, гьел мунго вуго, Сулейман-агъа, — абун буго Эффенди Капиевас.
— Гьедин батани, херав дир дагьабги хIурмат гьабизе ккелаан дуца.
— Дица, Сулейман, дур мухъазул рикIкIен цIуниялдаса жигар бахъула, дур кучIдузулъ мунго цIунизе, дур тIагъур, дур чарухъал, дур чагур, дур гьаракь цIунизе. Гьаб дида цебе бугеб чагъиралъул къадаралдаса гьалъул тIагIам цIунизе бокьула дие. Гьеб цIуничIони, гIайиб гьабе диде.
— Гьеб бищунго кIвар бугеб жо буго, — ян разилъун вуго Сулейман.

Effendi Kapiev (1), who translated Suleiman’s (2) works into Russian, was the target of many rumors thought up by his foes. They would tell Suleiman, “Kapiev is ruining your poems. In the Russian translation he adds things here, removes things there, and many lines do not match up.”
Suleiman went to Kapiev and asked, “Why, my friend, are you beating my children?”
“Your poems are not your children – they are you yourself, Suleiman-agha” (3) replied Kapiev.
“If that is so then you should show at least a little respect to your elder.”
“Suleiman, it’s not the number of lines that I must preserve in your poems, but your spirit. Your hat, your charuqs (4), your chagur (5), your voice. See this wine before us? I want to preserve its taste, not its quantity. If I fail to do this then you may criticize me.”
“Indeed, this is the most important thing,” agreed Suleiman.

1) Effendi Mansurovich Kapiev (1909-1944) – author, literature expert, publicist, poet and translator – wrote in Russian, Lak and Kumyk.
2) Suleiman Stal’sky (1869-1937) Lezgin folk poet-bard and one of the greatest Dagestani poets of the 20th century (even dubbed “the Homer of the 20th century” by Maxim Gorky). Composed in Lezgin and Azerbaijani.
3) a term of respect.
4) Traditional leather shoes (Avar: чарухъал) – these and a large karakul hat were Suleiman’s attributes, which he refused to change for a suit and regular shoes even when accepting an award in Moscow.
5) a stringed folk instrument  and another one of Suleiman Stal’sky’s attributes.


Эффенди Капиев был другом Сулеймана Стальского. Он же переводил его на русский язык. Эта дружба вызывала зависть мелких и никчемных людей. Они старались унизить Капиева в глазах прославленного поэта или даже оклеветать его. Они говорили Сулейману:
– Ты не умеешь читать по-русски, а мы знаем, что Эффенди Капиев, когда переводит, портит твои стихи. Где хочет, он добавляет, где хочет, сокращает, а многие строки переделывает по-своему.
Однажды во время неторопливой беседы Сулейман завел разговор.
– Друг, – сказал он, – я слышал, ты бьешь моих детей.
Эффенди сразу понял, о чем идет речь.
– Твои стихи – не дети твои, Сулейман. Они – это ты сам, Сулейман Стальский.
– В таком случае я, старик, заслуживаю еще большего уважения, чем дети.
– Но что для тебя важнее, Сулейман, количество строк в стихах или стиль и дух? Вот перед нами стоит вино. Если оно выдохнется, то его почти не убудет, но оно не будет уж тем вином, которое мы пьем и которым наслаждаемся. Дело не в количестве вина, но в его аромате, во вкусе и крепости.
– Ты прав, это важнее всего.

Effendi Kapiev was a friend of Suleiman Stal’sky, and the one who translated his works into Russian. This friendship made some small and insignificant people jealous. They tried to humiliate and even slander Effendi. They would tell Suleiman, “You can’t read Russian, but we know that Effendi is ruining your poems when he translates them. He adds things here, removes things there, and reworks many lines according to his whims.”
One day, during an unhurried discussion with Effendi, Suleiman broached the topic.
“My friend,” he said, “I heard that you’re beating my children.”
Effendi immediately understood, and replied:
“Your poems are not your children, Suleiman – they are you yourself.”
“If that is so, then as your elder I deserve even more respect than my children.”
“What is more important to you, Suleiman – the number of lines or their essence? See this wine before us. If it loses its taste, its quantity will remain the same, but it won’t be the same wine that we’re enjoying now. It’s not the quantity that matters but its aroma, its taste, its essence.”
“You’re right – this is the most important thing.”