A Man of Many Talents: Kazakh Writer Mukhtar Auezov’s Underrated Contribution to Kazakh Theater

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ASTANA – Kazakhstan celebrates 125 years since the birth of the famous Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov September 28 .

Mukhtar Auezov

Famous for his book, “The Path of Abai”, which tells the story of the eminent poet and thinker Abai and who transformed the way generations view the wisdom of the life of a Influential Kazakh of the 20th centuryAuezov was an extraordinary literary figure – an acclaimed writer and novelist, translator and folklorist, who was also an outstanding playwright.

Although best known for his novels, Auezov was also a prolific playwright, writing about twenty plays, including the love tragedy “Enlik-Kebek”, the liberation struggle of two sisters in “Aiman-Sholpan”, and the formation of a poet. in “Abai” which laid the foundations of Kazakh theater. His works are considered to mark the beginning of the Kazakh theater era.

In 1917, at the age of 20, Auezov staged his first play, “Enlik-Kebek”, based on a story of the folk legend about the tragic fate of two young lovers, which it took him only seven days to write on the occasion of the wedding of Abai’s granddaughter, Akkysh.

Theater play “Enlik-Kebek”. The character of Enlik is played by Biken Rimova and Kebek is played by Nurmakhan Zhanturin. Photo credit: anatili.kazgazeta.kz

Kazakh writer Anuar Alimzhanov wrote of the play “…in the fall of 1917, when workers from St. Petersburg went to storm the Winter Palace, in the remote steppe behind Semipalatinsk, in In the village of Oikuduk, an event happened that cannot be forgotten today: 20-year-old Mukhtar Auezov created a unique theater in the steppe.

The play was staged by villagers and relatives of Abai and since then the story of Kazakh Romeo and Juliet has remained one of the central plays to be performed in the biggest Kazakh theaters for more than a year. century now.

“The history of Kazakh theatrical art begins with this play, which is performed in theaters to this day,” Alimzhanov wrote.

A love at first sight story, the play reflects the author’s resentment against the feudal system and rigid customs. Through the character of Kengirbay – a local authority who orders Enlik and Kebek to be executed under torture, Auezov exposes the theme of inhumanity behind the blind observance of ancestral customs and religious dogmas that justify any crime if the appropriate bribe is given. .

The play was revised by the author several times in 1922, 1943 and in 1956. It was first staged in a professional theater in 1926 in the then capital, Kyzylorda.

The legend of Enlik and Kebek’s love was turned into an opera in 1975 with music composed by Gaziza Zhubanova and libretto by poet Sagi Zhienbayev.

“Khan Kene” play staged at the Kazakh Academic Drama Theater named after Mukhtar Auezov. Photo credit: kstnews.kz

His plays later expanded into other areas, especially historical figures and dramas. He examined the national liberation struggle in the “Khan Kene”, a play about the uprising against the Russian Empire under the leadership of the last Kazakh khan (leader) Kenesary Kasymov. In the play, Auezov considered, among other topics, his interest in history, the growth of national consciousness, patriotic feelings, and concern for the future fate of the nation.

The staging of “Khan Kene” marked a turning point in the development of Kazakh theater. Being the first historical heroic tragedy, it addressed socially important issues such as the role of the individual in history, the march of historical progress, and the formation of national character.

“Before writing the play, I collected a lot of material, and I can say with more or less confidence that I know the history of the Kene Khan movement… Everyone has the right to approach every historical fact at his own way, but no author has the right to write on a historical subject unless he has his own concept,” Auezov wrote in an article published in the Abai newspaper in 1934, the year of the creation of the room.

Shortly after the premiere, the play had to be pulled from the theater stages, as Auezov was accused of “glorifying the personality of Kenesary” and misinterpreting the historical past. It was only after independence in the early 1990s that the play found its audience on the stage of Kazakh theaters.

With genres ranging from drama and tragedy to musical pieces, Auezov’s plays have been widely praised for their relevance and bold use of true imagery of Kazakh people in different time periods. The plays were also a reflection of the problems of contemporary reality. Auezov devoted his plays “The Struggle” (1934), “The Stone Plumage” (1935), “In the Apple Garden” (1937) and “On the Border” (1937) to this topic.

Auezov has also translated several works of world and Russian theater classics into Kazakh, such as Nikolay Gogol’s “Inspector General”, Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “The Taming of the Shrew”, and Nicolay Pogodin’s “The Aristocrats”, among others. works.

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