Our narration about Azerbaijan of those years starts in usual way, like black gold blowout gushed out in their yard. Wealth, foreign governesses and teachers, best outfits and voyages… Our heroine’s grandfather by the name Asadullayev turned out to be «Allah’s favorite». She was born in 1905, the youngest of the 4 daughters, and her mother died at child birth. Family’s younger children usually get the most spoilt and petulant ones, but this wasn’t the case.
Umma Al Banu Asadullayeva Mirza
The revolution of 1917 broke out. Wealth was lost and even her father was put into prison. By accidence some members of her family left for France prior to beginning of tragic events. She signed her books under the name Banine, which remained during that odd historic time in Baku. She became a citizen of three countries without leaving boundaries of her street: the Russian empire, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and, at last, the Soviet Union. Banine managed settling in Paris only in 1924.
Nationals from Soviet Union had one foot out of the door, because they thought, they would return any day now. Banine didn’t build mirages for herself and started acting. She, who was a former millionaire, who had everything and lost everything, took a job in the French company, got in designer houses, became a model and translated texts. By the way, impeccable education, presented to her in her father’s house, helped her getting quickly back on her feet in her new life.
Her life prior to emigration was brightly described in «Caucasian days» memoirs, which may be found in translation. The book was issued in 1945 and though that wasn’t the first work, coming out of the pen, she woke up well-known after these pages about life of mysterious Muhammedan woman. France always accepted willingly all rare and surprising. France accepted her just as well. Book after book and here she made name for herself and was accepted in high circles – wasn’t that a success?
A German officer, a writer and a thinker noticed her first work published in a very bad time. Their friendship and relations were described by her in her “Meeting with Ernest Junger” book. Whole her life was surprise fate for writing of the next book and definitely fortune was made for it.
Once she saw his photo in a house of her girlfriend, who tried swaying her to the camp of “her migrants”. That person’s face drew her attention. The hostess didn’t put off their acquaintance and he fell madly in love with her at first sight.
A person in question, Ivan Bunin, the Nobel winner, didn’t just live in Paris, he lived close to her. He started searching opportunities to meet her, to visit her, tried to tame “the Shamakha tsarina” (by the way, she was born namely, in Shamakha). They used to chat and argue by hours, however the path to Banine’s heart was closed. They met for 3 months, however all was in vain. He didn’t accept her independence, though she achieved everything herself by means of her mind and talent. Banine could not accept such offer. In contrary, Bunin could not accept her turning him down, not understanding, dictating and offending him. He was an arbiter of his fate in his works, he was a man, who decided turning life paths, however in that case “janym” (he called her in such way) didn’t give him a chance, didn’t understand whole greatness of his Russian broad soul, didn’t accept him, as a writer, as a founder of prose. Not this time. She started publishing lines for him part-by-part in “Time and we” magazine. Lines, which she entitled vociferously: «Ivan Bunin's last duel».
During the Garabagh war, at time of information isolation of Azerbaijan, she frequently sent a great deal of articles about the conflict to magazines and newspapers. She stated «I witnessed everything myself, I was born in 1905». And all doors were open for her.
Banine was a woman of peace. It was not important, where a man was from and what was his experience. For her the apogee of a human image, the most important was an individuality. She was fearless and had guts to interpret in her own way. She had her own opinion on everything and certainly, she had a big talent in literature. Banine left behind a large historical heritage for Azerbaijan to disclose.
Text: Arzu Jaeed