Many probably remember the story of King Midas, whose touch turned everything into gold? Writer Chingiz Abdullayev has another peculiarity: everything he touches is doomed to success. Thus, in his youth, brief sessions in the rifle section brought him the title of master of sports. At 25, he publishes his first novel, The Blue Angels (1988), and he immediately becomes a bestseller and has a circulation of more than 100,000 copies. He was not even thirty when he became secretary of the Writers' Union, deputy chairman of the Azerbaijan Peace Foundation, president of the PEN club and an honorary doctor of two universities.
Do you still live in non-stop mode?
Of course I do. Otherwise it just gets boring. Life is the most amazing phenomenon created by God or Nature. And you need to try to use this gift to the maximum. Some get it.
What is the secret of such a stunning performance?
Who wants to have time – has time. Who wants to do – does. And who does not want – looks for excuses not to do. Bad dancers, as you know, always interfere with something...
They say that in your youth, in school, you, a long-haired Beatles fan, cut your hair bald in protest. After this it is difficult to imagine that by the age of thirty you became a candidate member of the Central Committee of the party. Has a revaluation of values occurred?
In fact, the entire class as a sign of protest – fourteen boys cut their hair, only two – me and my classmate Elshad Nasirov (now the vice-president of SOCAR) – did not cut our hair. And God justly punished us: now all the guys are with the remaining hair, and only we are two bald. It's a shame! But no revaluation of values has occurred. I categorically did not accept the idiocy of the Soviet party system, and everyone who worked with me knows that. But at that moment, when everything began to collapse, I found it simply dishonorable to betray the old ideals. Neither my faith in social justice, nor my “left” views have changed since then...
Is ambition a sin or the engine of progress?
The most powerful engine of progress! In my case – not even ambition, but the real vanity. Otherwise, nothing can be achieved. Neither in life nor in creativity.
The most valuable quality of your character?
Industriousness. To be honest, I myself wonder where this quality comes from? I always considered myself lazy. But, apparently, I was wrong...
Do you have any disadvantages?
Of course! The sin of vanity, as I said: I like being read and known all over the world. Sin of gluttony: I adore delicious food and good wine, although I have never abused it – I have never been drunk in my whole life... Probably, it is time to try it! The sin of adultery – I mean, of course, not physical treason, but contemplation and acquaintance with beautiful women. I'm a married man and, having married for love, I have been married for nearly thirty years.
Are you conservative?
I do not think so. The ability to change and adapt is an important trait of my character.
While writing down “Blue Angels”, did you think about the career of a great writer?
In no case! I could not hesitate to argue for a million rubles that I will not become a writer at all, and for a billion – that I will never be “popular”. I am absolutely honest! Great... we often misuse this word. I am just famous and popular.
Do you relate to the “Bakinets” society? Do you consider yourself a “true resident of Baku”?
I am one of the "founding fathers" of this society. And the first prize of ten thousand rubles, which was given by “Bakinets”, was out of my own money. Then it was a big amount. My dad is from Karabakh, my mother is from Baku. I myself was born and raised in Baku. Although I consider myself an Azerbaijani and never divide my fellow citizens on a regional basis, I love my native Baku more than any other city in the world.
You were elected head of the Supervisory Board of the Neftchi football club, although, according to some, you are not a football man. What is your responsibility?
To guide the club. And man, I am very "football-loving"! Both at school and at the university – as many as five years – I was the president of football clubs. In my presence, the law school team won all the competitions and even gambled with other teams, forgive me for such frankness. By the way, we won big money in those days. I really hope that I can do something useful for a legendary club like Neftchi. Already after my arrival at the club two “legends” of our football were taken to this club – Veli Gasimov and Dima Kramarenko. And in our Council – Samed Kurbanov and Mubariz Zeynalov. These are professionals, whose help I really count on...
Is the PEN club, of which you are president, actively working?
Still active! One of our undoubted merits is the release of two young poets in Iran. We were supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told me that even the Iranian leadership appreciated the activity of the Azerbaijani PEN Club. And now we have developed a unique online program to promote Azerbaijani authors. By the way, special thanks for the help to our Minister of Communications.
Since 2002, you have been a member of the executive committee of the International Community of Writers’ Unions. It is gratifying that our national writer represents Azerbaijan at such a high level. Do you have personal friendships with someone from the world literary elite?
I was very friendly with the now deceased Sergey Mikhalkov, Mustai Karim, David Kugultinov. Yevtushenko wrote poems dedicated to my Drongo. If I start listing all those with whom I personally know, there is not enough space... I can say that from the world elite I am personally acquainted with almost all the Nobel laureates of recent years. I have books with inscriptions from José Saramago, Mario Vargas Llosa, Dario Fo, Orhan Pamuk...
You are usually abroad on social events, dinner parties. What, in your opinion, is the strangest dish you have tasted? And what kind of kitchen do you prefer?
Chilled monkey brains, swallows saliva soup, snake venom tinctures, marinated kangaroo paw, crocodile meat pie, even dog meat tried... But from the puffer fish, one drop of poison which can kill a whole platoon refused – foolish to risk life out of idle curiosity. I love French, Italian, South Chinese cuisine. But the most beloved is Baku: dyushpara, khingal... And I can eat kutabs at any time of the day.
Writers are sometimes called seers. Are the predictions come true of your books?
Often. Sometimes events repeat simply mystically, with incredible accuracy. Probably, many writers have some kind of prophetic gift... A textbook example is the wreck of the Titanic, which was described in detail by Morgan Robertson 14 years before the disaster.
The main character of your books – Drongo – is impressive, observant, well-educated, moderately ironic, wears shoes of the same company as its creator, – Bally, and uses Fahrenheit perfume, from which women’s head is spinning. He is also an intelligence officer, in a word, “a real colonel”... What is the difference between Abdullayev and Drongo?
Any writer subconsciously puts into his character some of his features. No wonder. Remember Simenon with his commissioner Maigret, Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, Rex Stout with Nero Wolfe, Agatha Christie and her Miss Marple... If Drongo is liked by millions of people, then you have managed to create a good hero. And the only difference is that he can afford everything, and the author is limited by the scope of his imagination.
What do you not accept in people?
In men, there is a lack of principles: you must at least respect yourself! I forgive women absolutely everything: for me they are a special civilization.
In which country are you most read?
In Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Israel... Although the books are sold in many countries. Now they have begun to diverge well in Azerbaijan. Last year, out of the ten most popular books in Azerbaijani, nine were mine.
Has anything unbelievable happened to you? Meeting with something beyond, alien, inexplicable?
I am very sorry, but I have not met aliens... But there were incredible meetings, and not one: I have met very beautiful and intelligent women. And it is much more interesting than any aliens! This is such a pleasure – to communicate with a woman who is not only beautiful, but also can support the conversation, reads books, loves music, understands politics... Almost impossible set! But in nature there are such incredible combinations...
What does Chingiz Abdullayev dream of?
Nothing. All my dreams God fulfilled in full. Only health and happiness to my loved ones. And yet – the question of Karabakh... I hate pathos and false patriots, but I have my own memories of Shusha and Aghdam. Every summer we went to the grandparents in Agdam. And I want to go back there in my lifetime.
Interview: Marina Mursalova / Photo: Timur Najafov