Mukagali MakataevToday, Mukagali ‘s books are on display on the front shelves of Golden Fund of the Kazakh poetry, but, unfortunately, glory found him long after his death.
Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian poet, once said: “A nation that has in its possession something that it treasures most, is obligated to make it the world’s heritage.” To the full extent these words could be applied to Mukagali Makataev (Feb 9, 1931 – 26 Mar, 1976), the Kazakh lyrical poet of ‘70s.
He was born in a little village of Karasaz, situated at the foothills of the enshrined Khan-Tengri mountain, to become a “shrine” himself. He wrote his first poem at the age of 17, but his first book of poems was published when he was 33 and he had only 12 years to live. He created over 4,000 poems during two months he spent in the hospital due to a serous illness.
Only a fraction of his poems saw the light of the day during his life. The majority of his poems were published after his death. Mukagali Makatev…. the poet, our most loved poet of the age with God’s given talent.
He was officially recognized only after his death. He received the highest state titles, laurels and honours in 2006, thirty years after his departure.
Mukagali died too early. But with his death his second life began. And Mukagali today is a legend, the Truth and the Bible. He is the symbol of the Kazakh poetry.
If you ask a Kazakh: who is the greatest poet of modern times, the answer will be Mukagali. And I keep asking the people… is there any other poet who could be put above him? The answer I get is “No one”.
He is called the Kazakh Pushkin of our times. His colleagues said about him: “He dashed into the literature like a lighting and bedazzled all of us…”. Mukagali is easily recognized by the flow of his poetic lines, by his unique poetic voice. Deep human feelings and emotions he expresses in clear and simple words that reach the hearts of everyone who loves poetry.
From his diary: “The days without poems for me are lifeless. Thank God for giving me this consolation. A poet has his own world, his own society and his own universe. I live for this and fight for this.”
He was also one of the first poets who brilliantly translated into Kazakh the pieces of world classical literature: Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”, Shakespeare’ Sonnets, Dante’ s Divine Comedy and many others.
His life was full of ordeals: tragically died his eldest daughter (Mukagali had 5 children), he had no house and moved from flat to flat, he lost his job, he lost a big folder with his poetic manuscripts, he went through severe Communist censorship, was harassed by fellow poets and expelled from the Writers’ Association of Kazakhstan and was fighting with his incurable illness.
"Requiem to Mozart"
His last poem was called “Requiem to Mozart”. Mukagali was fascinated by Mozart’s music and he was shocked to learn that there were no last rites served for the great musician. Even today Mozart’s burial place is still unknown. Mozart was buried without burial service in the common grave next to poor people. It seems that Mukagali took over this mission and read the last rites for him by writing “Requiem to Mozart”.
So different, they had a lot in common. Unrecognized in their lifetime they went through the hardships and poverty and both died suddenly in the prime of life: Makataev at 45, Mozart at 35.
They both left a swan song – Requiem.
February 9 was Mukagali’s birthday. He would have turned 82…
Dear readers, here are my timid attempts to translate Mukagali into English. I hope you wouldn’t be too strict, but feel the deep lyricism of his poetry and bow your heads to his talent, as I do.
Dialogue of love
- If I suddenly sink into oblivion like a bird?
- I will search for you the eternity all my life.
- If I suddenly burn to ashes in the fire?
- I will mingle in the ashes of that fire.
- If I suddenly disappear like a mirage?
- I will turn into a wind to reach you there.
- If I bring to you the troubles and despair?
- Hush, my darling, I will bear it anywhere.
Three happy things
My biggest happiness in life is you, my people,
And if my people live, it means that I live too.
I give the honey of my poems to my nation
This simple happiness means more than gold to me.
My second happiness is you, my dear native tongue,
The hard stone granite heart I melted with the words,
And all because I always learn from my native tongue,
That taught me all the truth and kindness in the world.
And my third happiness is you, my dear Motherland,
Whoever stands for different things in life, and I will stand for you,
Could an extinguished home fire be lit again?
Come here, my friend and I will share my fire with you.
Three things of happiness lie there on my caring palms,
I am the richest man and no one would deny,
Like bright three suns in the cloudless sky are shining,
And underneath are Atyrau, Alatau and Altai!
(Translated from Kazakh by Zeena Urynbassarova)
February 14 2013, 15:54