I recently had the great privilege of being invited to visit the home of the late Chyngyz Aitmatov, Kyrgyzstan’s most beloved and respected author. Chyngyz Aitmatov wrote with great eloquence about Kyrgyzstan and its nomadic culture, weaving myths and legends into his literature. He was a Kyrgyz and Soviet patriot whose works in both Kyrgyz and Russian have been translated into 150 languages and have won hearts of people all over the world.
As I stepped into the house of this great man, I was first led into an atrium that displayed a timeline of his life along with a portrait of Chyngyz Aitmatov as a young man. He was born in 1928 in a small village called Sheker in the region of Talas to a Kyrgyz father and Tartar mother. His father died when he was just a boy and he was raised by his mother who made sure he had access to Russian literature and poetry. After school Aitmatov studied animal husbandry and agriculture in Bishkek, and graduated with honor. Along with his studies he developed a great attitude towards literature, he started to write short stories, articles, impressions and some of them ade it to public newspapers. After graduation he worked as an animal technician expert, but he maintained strong attachment to writing. In 1956-1958 he studied in Moscow at "High-literature courses" in Gorky Literature University. His first major work that won worldwide acclaim was Jamila in 1958. He continued on to write dozens of works, both in Kyrgyz and in Russian, some of which were made into movies.
My tour continued into a large dining room with walls covered in ornate dishes, a luxurious sitting room complete with piano, and then to a room that housed Chyngyz Aitmatov’s many literary awards, amongst other things. Wandering around the room I saw his name written out in so many different scripts, each depending on which country had gifted him with an award. I knew before I entered his house that he was internationally known, but standing in front of this international buffet of accolades, it took my understanding to a whole new level! We then continued on to a room full of posters and advertisements for his works that have been made into movies. Posters in German, Turkish, Russian – it was fascinating to peruse.
After checking out his many awards, pictures of him with politicians and celebrities from all over the world, and movie paraphernalia, we walked up to the second floor. First of all, let me just say this -the stairs leading up there are filled with some of the most fabulous paintings I’ve ever seen! Alright, when it comes to art, it’s not like I’m that well-versed, but I can tell you that I’ve never wanted to just sit and stare at paintings for so long in my life! Now, I don’t know if these paintings were gifts presented to Chyngyz Aitmatov or if he just enjoyed collecting art, but either way, they were gorgeous!
Next we came to Chyngyz Aitmatov’s study, sectioned off into 2 rooms which housed 2 desks (a smaller desk as well as his primary writing desk), some couches and cases and cases of books! Now, in this part of the world during Soviet times, books were very expensive and hard to come by, especially if you wanted to collect all the volumes in a series. Chyngyz Aitmatov’s collection is amazingly extensive and contains series upon series of old books that would have been difficult to obtain at the time. It was really amazing to me to be able to see his libraryand even cooler, the desk where Chyngyz Aitmatov wrote and worked! On his desk were several pages filled with his handwriting. I could just imagine him sitting there, musing over a beautiful turn of phrase, encapsulating the spirit and beauty of Kyrgyzstan for all the world to read!
As of right now, things have been put in motion to open up this house to the public as a museum. However, it’s not expected that these plans will come to fruition for another 1-2 years.
If you’re interested in reading some of the works of Chyngyz Aitmatov, I will include a list of some of them below. Bishkek residents or those traveling through the city can find copies of some of his books at Raritet (Раритет) bookstore, located at Chuy Ave & Molodaya Gvardia Park, near the History Museum.
Writings of Chyngyz Aitmatov:
The First Teacher, 1962
Tales of the Mountains and Steppes, 1963
Farewell, Gulsary!, 1966
The White Steamboat, 1970
The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, 1980
The Scaffold, 1986
When The Mountains Fall, 2006