We agreed to meet with Anna Ibragimbekova at the Maksud Ibragimbekov Center before the set to discuss suitable images and take a look at the location. Anna khanim, invariably elegant, graceful, with a usual cigarette in her fingers decorated with stylish rings, meets me all in black. "After Magsud left, I bonded with this color", as if the lady of the house answered my thoughts. In a black velvet tuxedo, with a short haircut, aristocratic manners and an unforgotten model posture in front of the camera, Anna khanim is now forever in my personal top ten fashion icons. But, when she talks "about Magsud" and even large dark glasses cannot hide the brilliance of her sparkling eyes in love, Anna khanim appears in the image of the beautiful and faithful muse of the writer and enchants even more. The story of their 33 years long love, started by the sea and ended there. However, this story has no end, and it cannot have one. Because true love doesn't end. Like real literature...
This year is not replete with joyful events, but the 85th anniversary of Magsud Ibragimbekov is a pleasant exception. A nice architectural mansion on a cozy mound in Icheri Sheher, strewn with antique carpets from local shops, hospitably opens the doors for its visitors. Already in the hall, from a huge canvas Magsud greets guests with a mysterious smile to the mustache, as if reminding that the house is not without a master... You bet, the building where the Magsud Ibragimbekov Center is located is the writer's ancestral home.
It was built in 1914 by the famous architect Ziverbek Akhmedbekov for the oil magnate Alekper Meshadibekov, the writer's grandfather. Here the mother of the writer Fatma khanim was born, one of the seven children of Meshadibekov, who was executed in 1924.
The family of the oil magnate was subsequently evicted from the house. Until the 70s, the building remained a residential building with municipal apartments, and during the Great Patriotic War its basement was used as a bomb shelter. In the late 70s, the building was given over to the National Peace Defense Committee.
And the incredible thing happened: Magsud was offered to head this committee and... kindly invited to see the mansion allocated to the organization. "When I was brought to my grandfather's house, where my mother was born, I was startled and could not disagree. So, I headed the Peace Defense Committee", he recalled. The committee was engaged in the popularization of patriotism and charity work, helping children, poor families and war veterans. Since 1993, the mansion housed the Azerbaijan's PEN Club under the chairmanship of Magsud Ibragimbekov. And since 1999 – the Nobility Assembly, renewed by him with the support of President Heydar Aliyev. In 2001, the building was included in the list of historical monuments of the Icheri Sheher architectural reserve. And today it is the Magsud Ibragimbekov Center...
"This house has been Magsud's office for almost 33 years, and therefore I had the idea of a museum. This idea was supported by our President Ilham Aliyev and Vice-President Mehriban khanum Aliyeva. But then, between 2016 and 2017, when a major restoration was going on with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, I hand an idea of an interactive museum, and then Mehriban khanum proposed to open a creative center here. And was a great idea! I really did not want something cold, state-owned, frozen, covered with dust – I wanted life, a pulse, young enthusiasm! That's why now our regulars are students, schoolchildren. There are poetic, musical evenings, lectures, performances... We are open to all creative and talented. For example, during the days of the Nasimi festival, we had an experimental interactive production based on the play Leyla Begim, when the audience followed the actors around the house. Something is constantly happening here, as if we have become the beating cultural heart of the whole Icheri Sheher. We created some kind of magical place, apparently thanks to Magsud: everyone who visits us at least once, wants to come back. People like it here. Now with the war, we have suspended everything, but I am sure that we will win and everything will be great!". We carefully go down into the basement. The walls are decorated with amazing paintings by children with special needs, with which volunteer artists work here as part of the project by Icheri Sheher IstedArt. In this room, literally through the wall from the bomb shelter of the times of the Great Patriotic War, you can't help the feeling of some kind of spirituality of this place... "At first, the children were practicing in different museums, but from there they all came to us. Children with special need, with Down syndrome, deaf and speech-impaired children from boarding schools – they are all happy with us, they run to us and do not want to leave. We love them, we wait for them, arrange different gatherings..."
The exposition of the center includes an impressive library equipped with a catalog, including the works of Magsud Ibragimbekov, published in throughout the years and translated into a total of 36 languages.
"Our main activity is the translation of Magsud's books into Azerbaijani and English. We gave more than five thousand copies to the Ministry of Education for distribution to all schools in Azerbaijan. We also sent a certain share of the edition to the libraries of military units".
Every corner of the house gently holds the memory of the writer. Here's his office with personal belongings and a typewriter. On the second floor there is a portrait by Tahir Salahov, from which the writer looks sagely into the distance in the company of the no less deep-minded pug Marusya.
It feels like you can hear a noise of friendly gatherings from the perky caricatures of Hasan Akhverdiev... The collection of weapons terrifies and fascinates at the same time. In a room with orders and medals, which the writer was awarded for achievements in the field of literature and socio-political activities, a document on nomination for the Nobel Prize was put up aloof. For 11 years he got letters from the committee, proposals for nomination, but he rarely answered those letters. And in 2012 he was nominated; although he was never awarded the prize, the very fact of the nomination confirms the important place of Magsud Ibragimbekov in world literature.
If Magsud Ibragimbekov's role in the world context has long been defined, today, against the backdrop of political events, the question of his place in the national writing pantheon arises again. Magsud Ibragimbekov, like other writers – sixtiers from the Soviet Union republics, such as Fazil Iskander, Chinghiz Aitmatov, wrote in Russian. How legitimate is it to classify their work as national? "It seems to me that the best possible answer is in the review by the wisest Ramiz Fataliyev for Magsud's novel "There Was Never a Better Brother": Magsud wrote a truly Azerbaijani work about true Azerbaijani relations, true Azerbaijani mentality and in another language. And this fact is only one of the components of this great book". I believe that these words can be attributed to all the work of Magsud, and this about says it all.
I remember the year 95 when Magsud was being actively picked on nationalistic motive. The late Heydar Aliyevich delivered a bilingual speech on Magsud's anniversary, in which he brought examples of Nizami and Fizuli, who wrote mainly in Farsi and Arabic, and emphasized that this fact does not detract from their importance as great Azerbaijani poets...".
No future without a past
It is known, that wishing to restore the historical continuity of generations, Magsud Ibragimbekov, a descendant of two noble families and a representative of the aristocracy, re-established the National Nobility Assembly. "The idea was to revive the elite – the intellectual, creative, scientific elite of Azerbaijan, to unite these people, to give them an incentive. Magsud generally believed that there is only one nation – a nation of intellectuals".
"Therefore, the main and first priority of society is the reconstruction of its own elite. While there is still hope for success, it must be realized. The rate is incredibly high - at stake is conservation, or, if you like, the salvation of the nation and the state. Without proper human material, all efforts in the form of any political and financial actions and reforms, the most profitable international treaties will go to waste. If not today, then tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then in ten years!"
(from the article by M. I. "No future without a past" 17
In the eternal the Artist/Power dyad, as a rule, the Artist is always in the position of the receiver, and the Power in the role of either giver or punisher. But in the documentary shots, where the writer presents the first certificate of the title of nobility to President Heydar Aliyev, we observe an example of equal exchange, dialogue on an equal footing. By the revival of the elite, the writer understood precisely such an exchange, without which neither a nation nor a national culture as such can exist.
"By the way, there was a period when the Baku press called Magsud "the Azerbaijani Solzhenitsyn". Two of his works: "There Was Never a Better Brother" and "On a Beautiful Day" were declared anti-Soviet, and one party ideologist even ordered prohibitive letters to be sent to all theaters and publishing houses... Heydar Aliyev intervened and stopped the harassment. Magsud often remembered this episode...
Generally, Magsud admired Heydar Alievich as a politician, always regretted that he got such a small country, while he could lead an entire Power. How Heydar Aliyevich felt about Magsud's artistic work is unknown to me, but I know that both he and our current president Ilham Heydarovich greatly appreciated his journalism".
"I remember a celebration of Republic Day in "Gulustan". Heydar Aliyevich is passing by, surrounded by his tight entourage, and Magsud and Farhad Khalilov and I stand modestly aside. And Heydar Aliyev noticed us with the corner of his eye – I must say, he always noticed and remembered everything – and, having opened the living chain around him, he approached us and told Magsud: "You write very well. But not much!". Then he turned to me: "And you are not looking after him – he gained weight". He said and left".
The writer could not attend the ceremony of the interstate prize "Commonwealth Star" at the Pashkov House in 2013 for health reasons. The award was received for him by Anna Ibragimbekova.
In a letter that she read on stage, Magsud admitted that he was very glad that his favorite person in the world, his wife, would receive the award for him. If you told about this to the friends of the writer 30 years before, no one would have believed, because Magsud was known as a confirmed bachelor!
"When I first flew to Baku, I saw how the sky behind the porthole got covered with rain clouds, and then the sun came out and an extraordinary, giant rainbow appeared. I thought: probably some unprecedented miracle awaits me..."
Beautiful Anna Gerulaitis, who came to stay in Bilgah by the invitation of Varya and Tahir Salahov, did not yet know that that evening she would meet the love of her life.
"After the first conversation with Magsud, I experienced the happiness that such people generally exist in the world. He was so witty, reactive, without fervor and any stereotypes, internally free, having his own opinion about everything... I think I fell in love right away. And the next morning he appeared with lilac asters. To which Tahir Salahov said: "Annochka, I think, this is very serious. I have never seen Magsud with flowers".
When I returned to Moscow, my friend, the director, immediately noticed that I was acting kind of strange. I said: "I fell in love. And I want to marry him". Although I never noticed such desires before, I was always freedom-loving and not at all obedient. "Oh, with who?" – a friend got up. "With Magsud Ibragimbekov". – "You are out of your mind! He is a misogynist! " – exclaimed the girlfriend.
We met in September and got married in December. I quit my job, quit everything and came here. I just realized that I could devote my whole life to him: to help, to build his life. I wanted to serve him. Because he is a great man, a great writer".
There was never a better friend
"Magsud has been surrounded by pets all his life, since childhood. There was a period when we had 18 dogs at the same time in the country house. And as many bowls – they also had to be fed. I was buying some bones, ripples, tails, cooked it all in some pot with oatmeal, buckwheat... Once I could not get anything, and Magsud brought a whole box of canned food "Lithuanian borsch with sausages". Well, of course, we were all happy! I mixed the canned food with porridge and put it in bowls. But apparently, there were no sign of the sausages. Because when hungry dogs rushed to the bowls, and put muzzles there, they then turned together to Magsud with accusing look: what did you give us?.. "
"We also had an epic story with pink flamingo. Our friend, the director of the zoo Alina, loved Magsud very much and gave him a pink flamingo, a teenager. Magsud was so happy! We dug a pool in the yard for a bird, because the feet of the flamingos should be half in the water, bought a bag of krill... Magsud officially announced our other pets – Newfoundland Khryapa and cat Asparukhov: if they approach the bird, he will tear off their heads, tails, everything!
Morning comes, Magsud is asleep, and my friend and I find that the bird is dead. And we have an emergency meeting - how to bring him this news? His fury was immense, he would rant and rave. For some reason, he decided that it was Asparukhov who killed the bird. And now he and ten-year-old son of Alagyoz Salahova are sitting and discussing how they will drown it in a bag, with a stone around its neck. Of course, I really want to stand up for my beloved cat, but I understand that they can let me go to the bottom with it. And there comes the cat, and Magsud out of anger hit it on the back with a stick. Fifteen minutes later, the cat came back and began to rub against the owner's leg. Magsud immediately repented: "What an animal I am! I hit him so bad, and he forgot everything, came to me to make up, be friends...". Anyway, we buried flamingos, house is mourning, mood is terrible, and the cat got beat up... And at this time, the guard of the neighbor's cottage comes and complains: "Magsud muallim, some cruel man beat up my cat so hard!" And the neighbor cat was very similar to ours, it was it that Magsud hit with a stick. And ours, unsuspecting, Asparukhov came to rub on his foot...". "Our Françoise Sagan, a German shepherd, was howling badly the night before Magsud passed away and died the next day. Also there was a chair in our hall in front of the apartment where Maksud liked to sit and smoke, and there was an aquarium with goldfish, which he fed himself, and they loved to gather in a steak close to where Magsud was and watch him. Magsud died in the evening, and in the morning they all swam with their bellies up... Mystery...".
House by the sea
"For him, Azerbaijan, Baku, the Fatherland... – he simply did not think himself without it! When we went somewhere, we had to bargain with him for every extra day away from our homeland: on the third day he was raring home... Everything that happened in his homeland, he perceived as his personal drama. It's indescribable, it's impossible to convey... When it all began in the 90s, we were in Moscow, and he immediately rushed here to Baku. Of course, I did not leave him and came with him..."
"I constantly think: how would he react to today's events?.. He would probably write political articles, speak, although he did not like to give interviews – he just spoke only when he wanted to say something. The Armenians at that time wanted to eliminate him. He was driving himself at the moment - one time the brakes wouldn’t work, then something else... But they didn't get to him! At the same time, he helped those Armenians who were nearby, for example, our driver, to leave on a ferry".
"In the article "Locust Season", Magsud wrote that in the early 90s, "Armenians attacked Azerbaijan from one side, and the sea from another.
Armenians were rampant. During the advance, they destroyed cities, burned to the ground the villages, did not spare women and children. In order to take possession of a piece of the territory of their neighbors, robbed and killed with unheard of cruelty people who never did anything wrong to them.
At the same time, satisfyingly rumbling, the Caspian Sea slugged houses, roads, power lines, olive groves and vineyards from the surface of the earth. It was impossible to see villainy and treachery in it, because the element, unlike people, is always selfless and blind. Apparently, therefore, the population treated the offensive of the sea outwardly calmly and, knowing that they could not stop the rampant Caspian Sea, weightlessly calculated the daily losses from an unprecedented flood".
Magsud built a house right by the sea, and everyone told him: "Are you not afraid? You will be flooded!". Waves were already smashing against the walls of our cottage, and during the storm it even demolished the fence. And Magsud replied: "What is wrong with you people? You run away from the sea!". He built a dam. The sea retreated".