In 1958, Atajan Tagan, a high school graduate, successfully passed the entrance exams and became a student at Turkmen State University. He studied together with the future stars of Turkmen literature – Kurbannazar Ezizov, Hodzhanepes Melyaev, Hudaiberdy Divankuliev, Kovshut Sharmiyev …
Could it have been suggested then by a novice author that his books would later be published in many thousands of copies? However, the young man believed that he had not chosen the path of writing in vain – poems and stories were published at regular intervals in local newspapers and magazines. Then the first-year student decided to create his first major prose work.
… In the dormitory room of the Moscow Literary Institute, where Atadjan had transferred from the second year, he worked on the manuscript of his first novel. Suddenly, the door opened, and the patriarch of Turkmen literature, Berdy Kerbabaev, entered. He looked at the scanty atmosphere – the table, the chairs, the wardrobe, looked attentively at Atajan and suddenly asked if he was writing a historical novel about Say Khan?
A bewildered and numb guy shook his head negatively – the ideology of those years did not welcome essays on the national liberation movement.
Seeing an open notebook on the table, Kerbabaev looked into it. Filled, as is the case with talented artists of the word, edits, it turned out to be more outspoken than a frightened student. Grinning approvingly, the venerable writer advised the student not to quit this job, because the people should know their history …
As a result, the novel was written. True, the manuscript lay in the drawer of the writer’s desk for more than twenty years, and it was only in 1986 that “The Fortress of Serakhs” first saw the light.
The origins of the creation of an epic work lay in the distant childhood, when little Atajan – a rural resident of the Mary region – in the evenings listened to the stories of his grandmother about the heroes who lived in the past on this earth, about their struggle for their independence.
After graduating from a prestigious university, he was invited to the secretariat of the Union of Writers of the USSR, where he was offered some time – 2-3 months – to work as a consultant in Turkmen literature. These months dragged on for many years, and his work consisted in recommending manuscripts of young and not so much writers of Turkmenistan to Moscow publishing houses.
Thanks to his activities, a large audience of readers got acquainted with the works of Kurbannazar Ezizov and Kayum Tangrykuliev, Hydyr Deryayev, Kerim Kurbannepesov, and many other authors whose works now constitute the Golden Fund of Turkmen literature.
In the late eighties of the last century, he decided to write a novel where Gulibef de Blokvil, an artist and topographer who, as an officer of the French army, participated in the Persian military expedition, mapped the Murghab oasis and in 1861 was captured as one of the main characters.
Being among the Turkmen, the Frenchman kept a diary, filling it out later in a book and calling it “14 months prisoner of the Turkmen” (1860 – 1861). After five years of captivity, returning freedom and returning to his homeland, he published his memories and reflections in Paris on his stay with the Turkmen.
And again, as with the search for facts for the novel about Sayshut Khan, Atajan Tagan spent many hours sitting in libraries, making extracts from scientific works of historians and eyewitnesses of those distant events in his notebook. He even went to France to find traces of “his” Frenchman.
In 1989, having a letter of recommendation from a Moscow colleague in his hands, he met with a professor of Russian literature from Paris. It turned out to be a woman (Atajan Tagan remembers only her name – Helen), who speaks good Russian. She promised to help the writer in the search for information.
Thanks to her, a relative of the former prisoner was found – 80-year-old Jacques Blokvil, in whose house Atajan Tagan was holding a copy of the first edition of the diary. He supplied the writer with new facts from the life of his famous ancestor.
Many people call the honored art worker of Turkmenistan, honored cultural worker of the Russian Federation Atajan Tagan a living classic of Turkmen literature. He is the author of short stories and novels published in many countries of the world. His prose became the basis for the scripts of such feature films as The Return of the Musician, Scallywag, Fate, and Son.
Today, the total circulation of his books is 750 thousand copies in different languages of the world. Once in his diary, “A Book Written in Over Forty Years,” he noted: “A talented writer who does not have a thoughtful reader, a clever editor, a sharp and objective critic, remains a nobody.”
We are sure that it is written about someone else …