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2024  N1-2(227-228)
Helga Dorosea Korss Kegel, professor at the University of Granada in Spain visited Ashgabat at the beginning of this century as the head of an international project, where she worked on introducing the methods of teaching Spanish at the National Institute of World Languages named after Dovletmammed Azadi. It was in these years that she got interested in translating the poems of Magtymguly Fraghi. In 2014, Helga Dorosea Korss Kegel and her son, professor at the University of Granada, translator Alejandro Mu~noz Korss, were awarded the Magtymguly Fraghi anniversary medal for their services in the development of Turkmen-Spanish cultural relations and translating Magtymguly Fraghi’s poems into Spanish.
“When I was on a business trip to Turkmenistan, it was for the first time that I was able to thoroughly read the poet’s poems that are popular not only among Turkmens but also the peoples of the world, Helga Dorosea Korss Kegel recalled. I decided that Magtymguly’s poems should be translated into Spanish. In order to translate the poet’s famous poems into Spanish, we first of all paid great attention to collecting and studying various information related to his life. In short, we took to heart the poet’s dreams, his high feelings expressed in his poetic verses. This inspired and helped us improve our translations through hard work, which contributed to the gradual improvement of our translation work.”
This episode is just one of many recent examples of how the magic of Magtymguly’s poems continues attracting attention of literary scholars and researchers of oriental poetry around the world. Translation of the works by the classic of Turkmen poetry into many languages of the world continues.
Three centuries separate us from the time when Magtymguly created his works. It will not be a big discovery to say that the personality of Magtymguly Fraghi, like any other bright individual, his life and work have always been that magical force that like a magnet attracts great attention of numerous researchers, including foreign scientists and writers. From the moment of birth of the poet’s first work, his poetic verses, purity, clarity and beauty of the language, the unique style of writing, the philosophical nature of his thoughts and coverage of events of his time became the very magical force that brought his work from a limited local poetic space to the wide orbit of world poetry.
Historians and researchers of the poet’s heritage believe that a native of the village of Krivichi, Vileika district, Vilna province (now Myadel district of Minsk region of the Republic of Belarus), diplomat, orientalist, poet and professor Alexander Khodzko-Boreyko (1804–1891) was one of the first to introduce foreign readers to poet Magtymguly and his works. Traveling through the territory of present-day Turkmenistan, he recorded the poetic texts by Magtymguly, translated them into English and published them in London in 1842. This marked the beginning of the European readers’ acquaintance with the works by the Turkmen poet.
In the later years, Khodzko-Boreyko was followed by Hungarian orientalist Arminius Vambery, who travelled through Central Asia in the guise of dervish and witnessed the incredible popularity of Magtymguly’s poetry among the people. He noted that the collection of his works was undoubtedly interesting for science simply because it presented the best example of purest Turkmen speech. In 1863, assessing Magtymguly’s role and works, Vambery wrote the following about him. “The highest pleasure for a Turkmen is when some troubadour (Bakhshi) appears and, to the sounds of his two-string dutar, sings the song of Gerogly or almost idolized Magtymguly... He is presented as a miracle man who comprehended all the books, all the sciences of the world. His book will rank first after the Koran for a long time.” In 1871, Vambery took with him to Budapest a handwritten list of Magtymguly’s poems, and after some time he published some of them in Germany.
Among the Russian professional researchers, Vasily Afanasyevich Sboev, professor at the Kazan University, was one of the first to become interested in the culture of Turkmens. His notes about the Turkmens appeared in the Kazan Provincial Gazette in 1851. This is what he wrote at that time. “Turkmens live in the Trans-Caspian region... The most surprising thing is that they have a rich literature, hardly inferior to the literature of European peoples... And Magtymguly is an Eastern Mohican.” Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin also spoke highly of Magtymguly’s works, calling the poet “the Eastern Schiller.”
In 1855, the magazine “Archive of Science and Culture of Russia” published an article titled “Famous Poet” that mentioned Magtymguly and noted that his poems, written in Arabic, were striking in their lyricism and euphony. Russian researcher Fyodor Bakulin, who published several of the poet’s verses in translation, wrote that “poet Magtymguly is especially respected by all Turkmens, without distinction of tribes.” Another famous orientalist, academician Agafangel Krymsky also considered Magtymguly a national poet of all Turkmens, whose personality is surrounded by legends.
Much credit in popularization of Magtymguly’s art heritage goes to the St. Petersburg University professor Ilya Berezin, who, in his work “Turkish Reader” released in 1862, published the poet’s verse in the original language. In 1911, a collection of Magtymguly’s works was published in Tashkent, where poems were presented in Arabic transliteration. The publication was prepared by orientalist Nikolai Ostroumov, while academician Alexander Samoilovich compiled an index to Magtymguly’s songs. Almost simultaneously, in 1912–1913, poems and articles about Magtymguly were published in Astrakhan and Orenburg.
However, the most significant are the studies of Magtymguly’s works by two scientists who lived in the poet’s homeland. The first of them is the specialist in Turkic philology, professor, honoured scientist of Turkmenistan Alexander Potseluevsky (1894-1948). The Ashgabat earthquake of 1948 took the life of the remarkable researcher of Magtymguly’s works. Shortly before his death, he published one of his serious studies “Rhyme in Magtymguly’s works.” During the same period, the professor prepared textbooks on general linguistics for students of the correspondence department of the Ashgabat Pedagogical Institute (now the Turkmen State University named after Magtymguly). Fluent in the Turkmen language, he amazed listeners with the depth of his knowledge of Turkmen classical literature and oral folk art. He quoted Magtymguly’s poems from memory and cited entire passages from Destans.
Another scientist, the first director of the Institute of History of Turkmenistan, Georgy Karpov, who lived in Ashgabat in the mid-twentieth century, also could not ignore such personality as Magtymguly in his research. He published his famous work “The Epoch of Magtymguly and Dovlet Mamed (ogly) Fraghi.”
It is impossible to name all those scientists and researchers in the former Soviet republics who were in one way or another attracted by the magic of the works by Turkmen poet Magtymguly. They translated a huge number of the poet’s poems, wrote hundreds of works about the life and work of the great thinker of the East.
Nevertheless, poet Arseny Tarkovsky deserves special mentioning out of the galaxy of the best translators of Magtymguly’s works. According to him, happiness is to live in Ashgabat and translate the poems by the talented Turkmen sage. More than three thousand lines of Magtymguly’s poetry in his translation are believed to be a model of the translator work. Tarkovsky was amazed by the depth of ideas, perfect worldview and the fact that “the philosophical diamonds of the poems were framed with an amazing artistic style.”
The famous translator of the Mahabharata, academician Boris Smirnov, also spoke about the incredible complexity of translating Magtymguly’s poems. He noted that “in Magtymguly’s poems, as in the texts of Mahabharata, the jewel semantic message is conveyed in a special rhythm, enhancing perception, concentrating the power of influence at the level of not only consciousness but also the subconscious.”
Magtymguly’s poems were translated into Russian by such famous personalities as Mark Tarlovsky, Georgy Shengeli, Yulia Neiman, Anisim Krongauz and many others. At one of the gatherings of writers and scientists in Moscow dedicated to the poet’s previous anniversaries, professors at the Institute of Asian and African Countries of the Moscow State University Zinaida Lapina and Kim Shilin noted that Magtymguly’s poetry plays an important role not only in the spiritual history of the Turkmen people. It became an integral part of world culture.
Philosophers and historians, composers and artists, ethnographers and literary scholars constantly turn to the life-giving source of Magtymguly’s immortal poetry. New research and expeditions are under way in search of new materials about the poet. In fact, during a recent business trip to Budapest, young Turkmen researchers found new information about the life and creative work of Magtymguly Fraghi in the library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Of special interest was the collection of documents of the Hungarian Turkic linguist, ethnographer and traveller Arminius Vambery. The scientists brought home about 70 copies of manuscripts on the history, culture and literature of the Turkmen people. Another expedition of researchers from the Institute of Language, Literature and National Manuscripts named after Magtymguly of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan recently visited India in search of new information about the era and literary path of Magtymguly.
The works by the great classic of the Turkmen people have been translated into dozens of languages. His verses bring spiritual and aesthetic pleasure to the peoples of the whole world, since they relate to the universal problems and issues. This is precisely why his beautiful poems that sound like a song and are absorbed by memory as wisdom have that very pulling power that attracts more and more admirers and researchers.

Allaberdy NIYAZOV

©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005