Can you imagine 30 million books? This is the number of books in circulation from the 200 novels written by Azerbaijan’s best-selling author, Chingiz Abdullayev. He is the only Azerbaijani writer who writes psychological and political detective novels, which have been sold around the world.
BY SABINA GULIYEVA
AZERI OBSERVER CONTRIBUTOR
Question: How many books have you written that have been published around the world?
Answer: I wrote more than 200 novels and short stories, and 3,500 books published in different languages, with a total of more than 30 million copies in circulation worldwide. My novels have been translated into 32 languages and published in more than 40 countries. Right behind you there is a 170-volume collection of my books. I doubt that there any other writers in the world who have such a circulation of their books.
Q.: I know that five of your books have recently been published in Turkey in the Turkish language.
A.: One writer said, “Never speak about, just show the book.” All of my books are here on the shelves. Two more books will be published soon. A year and a half ago, I was in Turkey at the Pera Palace Hotel. There was a room there where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express. On the wall of the hotel, there are portraits and names of famous detective writers hanging over black velvet. There were portraits of Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Umberto Eco, Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and other world-famous authors, the last one, the tenth, was mine. It was written that all of these people were outstanding detective novel writers, who had already passed away. I had to disappoint them and tell them that I was still alive (laughs). Of course, they were delighted. By the way, it was not the first time where I was “buried.”
Q.: It is probably difficult to surprise you.
A.: I have not felt surprised for a long time. Immanuel Kant was saying that only two things filled his mind with admiration and awe: the starry heavens above us and the moral laws within us. I can be impressed by two things: human meanness and nobility. They have neither a bottom nor a limit. Unfortunately, people do not change. They are born good or bad, and they continue to live as they are.
Q.: Could you tell our readers about your 200th-anniversary novel.
A.: First of all, this novel was published in the Azerbaijani language, and will soon be published in Russian. I find it quite dangerous because I describe the details of French poker. I am afraid that the people in our country will not understand it. The plot of the novel is developing in Azerbaijan, in the cities of Baku and Gabala. Initially, I wanted to title it “A Very Azerbaijani Murder” because such a murder could not happen in any other country.
Q.: One of your books was recently released as a film.
A.: Yes, the film ‘Dance of Good and Evil,’ which was based on my book ‘Guba Capriccio.’ This is the tenth adaptation of one of my books for the screen. Previously, ‘The Paradise of the Doomed’ and ‘Inverted World’ films, which were both shot in Azerbaijan, as well as two TV series, and five films in other countries. However, the films do not convey the opinions of the writer. I am responsible for the book, and the director is responsible for the film.
Q.: In every novel, you touch upon some important topic. What will be the main topic of your 201st novel?
A.: The title of the novel will be ‘Honor of the Motherland.’ I wanted to touch upon the problems of moral choice and treason.
Q.: Do you single out any of your novels from others?
A.: Of course. The historical novel about the life of Julius Caesar ‘The Conspiracy at the Beginning of the Era.’ I spent fourteen years writing it. Soon, I will release my new five-volume book ‘Breakdown’ about the period during the collapse of the Soviet Union. I believe it is something I had to write.
Q.: Many countries would probably be glad to offer you their passport. Have you ever thought about emigration?
A.: I once said, “Decent people do not change their mother, motherland, or their views.” My children graduated from the London School of Economics. Sometimes I visit them in London, and from time to time, I live in Moscow. However, I have only one passport – Azerbaijani, and I am proud of it.
Q.: Your children are fifth generation lawyers. Did they not want to follow in your footsteps, and start writing books after getting a degree in law?
A.: No, never, it is hard work. There are more than 840 million books in Russian, including books by famous foreign authors such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. Imagine what kind of book you would have to write to make at least one person read your story. It is perhaps the most difficult profession in the world today. Both my son and daughter work as lawyers in prestigious companies. My daughter also paints pictures, which are exhibited in several countries, including Sweden and Denmark.
Q.: Do your children read your books?
A.: Yes, they do, and they even say that they like them (laughs). Many years ago, my daughter, as a child, asked me, “Dad, who is the prototype of your main character?” I explained to her, “Well, think tall, half-bald, always joking, and wearing belts, Bally shoes, and Fahrenheit perfume.” Then she said, “Is it you? But you are not as smart as he is!” Now she laughs when we remember it. I wrote so much about the Bally brand that the president of the company now sends me two pairs of shoes from time to time.
Q.: You have eighteen positions in different organizations. How do you find time for everything?
A.: The Azerbaijani football club “Neftchi,” where I lead the Supervisory Board, “have eaten” half of my books in recent years (laughs). But we won a silver medal at Azerbaijan championship this year. By the way, I do not get any salary from the Writers’ Union [Abdullayev is the Secretary of the Union of Azerbaijani Writers], nor from other organizations. I donate all of the money, which I get for my speeches, and meetings with readers, to orphanages and hospitals.
Q.: How many years have you been writing books?
A.: In fact, not very long. Professionally, I have only been writing for about 25 years. In 1988, my first novel, ‘Blue Angels,’ and a couple of short stories were published. I clearly remember the day that I got my first writer fee on September 7, 1994. It was during a time of troubles. Suddenly, I got a call from a printing house located in the Rostov region of Southern Russia. They asked me to send some story, promising a fee. I reluctantly sent them twenty pages from the novel ‘Better to Be Holy,’ which I had just started. They called back and asked for the next twenty pages. I tried to get rid of them. “In such a period, how can I think about books? Even if you pay a hundred times more, I do not care,” I said to them. But they called again and said, “You said ‘a hundred times more?’ We agree.”
So, I went to a summer house, finished the novel in a month, and then brought the manuscript to Moscow. I remember that I met with the publishers in the city center where they gave me the money, and I shoved it in my pockets. While walking down the street, I came across a Ford car showroom. I entered and saw that the price of one of the cars was equal to my fee. I approached and hugged the car, keeping still for a while. Then, I looked at my hands and tried to process that my hands and head allowed me to earn enough money to buy a car. Upon my return to Baku, I already had orders for new novels from two more publishing houses. From that time, I have started to write eight to ten novels a year. Now, I feel like I blindly type six characters per second, ten pages per hour. Once, it was calculated that it would take eight years to rewrite all of my books. The work of a professional writer is inhuman as you need to be constantly engaged. I have not published a single book, not a single line in all of my life. My books have only been published by publishers. I do not wait for inspiration, I just work, and I love my job.