The concept of «Time» in signature worldview of Timur Zulfikarov

Time is one of fundamental ontological categories. As rightly been noted by S.M. Tolstaya in her monograph titled «Semantic Categories of Language and Culture», time is a category «…comparable and commensurable with categories of space, matter (thingness) and motion» [1, 150]. Researchers consider attitude toward time to be a «culture-discriminative feature». «Cultural differences manifest themselves in the following: computation of time, segmentation of time and attitude towards time» [2, 190].

Physicists, philosophers, philologists and cultural experts unanimously agree that man is the subject of time perception. «This very «anthropological» aspect of time (perception and categorization of time, axiology of time, «use» of time by man) is a matter that interests researchers of language and culture above all» [1, 150]. «Philosophers consider time to be another name for life» [3, 80].

The concept of «Time» is described in sufficient detail in the dictionary compiled by Yu.S. Stepanov: «Constants. Dictionary of Russian Culture. Research Experience.» The author of the dictionary addressed the philosophical aspect of the concept, focusing on «superficial interpretation of the concept of «Time» in the culture of the Soviet period», on the official philosophical understanding of time, on time as understood by Newton; on theoretical and empirical concepts of time; on correlation of empirical and theoretical notions of time; on the origin of the idea of time; relativity of the concept of time in ethnic languages; relativization of the concept of «Time» against any description system, against Language in general; on time in history (the concept of «Time» in relation to the concepts of «History» and «Evolution» [4, 171].

The so-called «active layer» of the concept of «Time» is presented in publications by V.G. Gak, G.D. Gachev, V.A. Maslova and others as «a principal relevant attribute familiar to any man of culture and meaningful to the latter» [3, 54]. Based on the following properties of the concept: a unit for processing, storing and transmission of information, changeability of its boundaries, dynamism and variability of its content volume, direct link with human consciousness, and its «layered» structure (according to Yu.S.Stepanov) [4, 21], it is possible to describe the so-called «passive layers» [3, 21], the «quantas» of meaning introduced by native speakers through their personal experience. Firsthand experiences of prosaists and poets provide the most interesting material for observation of the concept content.

As a complicated «mental complex» (according to V.A. Maslova’s terminology), the concept of «Time» consists of panhuman (or universal) and national-cultural components, as well as individual ones created by authors. The panhuman component of the concept under consideration is systematized by Yu.S. Stepanov’s in his «Dictionary» and reflects the following perceptions of time developed in European and Asian historiography: 1) «pulsating time», in classical mythology; 2) «lap time» or «cyclic time», in the ancient Greek and ancient Roman cultures, as well as in medieval Europe; further developed by F. Nietzsche; 3) Newtonian linear time, imagined as an infinite straight line; 4) Christian linear time, presented as a straight line to have a beginning and an end; 5) linear time, moving towards improvement and progress and presented as a straight line directed upward; 6) linear time, moving towards regress and presented as a straight line directed downward; 7) time as a sequence of points in Islamic historiography, as well as in the medieval European culture, interweaving with the Christian concept of linear time; 8) «spiral time» most clearly presented in writings by G. Vico, O. Schpengler and Joze Ortega-y-Gasset; 9) «annalistic time» or «time of annals», or «annalist’s time»; 10) «chronicle time», or «chronicler’s time»; 11) «historical time» proper, or «historian’s time»; 12) «underlying time», or «invisible time» as opposed to the «visible» («datable») time [4, 184-185].

Individual components created by authors are presented in their writings and reflect their subjective perception of the category. Time, as an integral part of the language content, is reflected in units of different levels of language: as the category of tense at the morphological level, as words with temporal meanings at the lexical one, as temporal syntactical structures at the syntactical one.

Further we shall turn to creative work of Timur Zulfikarov who is not less interesting as a wordpainter. He is a poet and prosaist, dramatist and script-writer, thinker-artist and philosopher. T. Zulfikarov is also a winner of prestigious literary and cinematographic prizes, such as «Collets», for the best novel of Europe (England, 1993), «Yassnaya Polyana» for an outstanding piece of Russian literature (Russia, 2004), «The Best Book of the Year» (Russia, 2005), Anton Delwig Prize (Russia, 2008), Hartley Merril Prize (USA, 1991) for the best film script. He is called the most Tajik and most Russian, most religious and most pagan, most earthly and most unearthly, most tragic and most satirical, most ascetic and most erotic, most Christian and most Islamic writer of modern times.

T.K. Zulfikarov’s phantastic-mythological parable, «The Coral Viper» [5], and his poem «A Poet’s Pilgrimage on Earth and in Heaven»[6] plunge the reader into the poet’s spiritual world where time has lost its linear homogeneous nature, where the times of Creation and our present co-exist simultaneously. This is achieved through a skillful combination of fragments referring to different time segments and a set of images and figures of speech, as well as through composition of his writings. The concept of «Time» is represented mostly by events.

T. Zulfikarov’s works are divided into chapters which seem to randomly follow one after another but frequent repetitions, digressions from the key plotline, descriptive inserts, inclusions of parables, including those created by Dervish «Z», help to unwind not a consistent chain of events but an associative bond of thoughts and feelings to create a sophisticated «temporal pattern». Hence the unexpected and organic coexistence in one context, first of all, of recollections of the long-gone history, the «blueeyed» country of Sogdiana, ancestral home of contemporary Tajiks and apocalyptic descriptions of the «Moscoviya-Babylonia» of today. Secondly, there is an association between the history of ancient Persian kings and the chronicle of the kith-on-kin war in Tajikistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thirdly, there are ancient legends revived, biblical events interwoven with modern life. In the fourth place, presence of toponyms and anthroponyms occurring in the sacred text of the Avesta, such as Sogdiana, Zoroaster, alongside with names of Russian saints – John of Cronschtadt, Saint Lazarus, and Christian apostles, Paul and Peter. The combination of time strata into a single flow does not reflect regular linear time and a consistent succession of historical events; it rather covers multidirectional «fanshaped» time. The poet manages to fit a millenium into an instant. Events that in real time took place in different epochs are merged into a single whole. For example, the story of Academician Aminadav Kalontarov’s love for Anna, an Angel with Silver Hair, unwinds against the background of the threemillennium history of the ancient Persian state, the history of pre-Islamic Middle Asia and a millennium-long history of the Christian Russia.

Reviving the history of the ancient Sogdiana, events of the time of Dariy Goushtasp I, a half-legendary king, Zoroaster’s contemporary and patron, having included a «parallel» story of the passionate love of Genghis Khan’s Cuman wife narrated alongside with the love story of Gulssum Hoursand Ashourbanipal, Gulya’s mother, mixing terrible times of Stalin’s repressions with the epoch of perestroika under Gorbachyov and Yeltsyn, the poet achieves the effect of eliminating time boundaries, and, within a single plotline, he brings together different hypostases of time, breaks temporal «partitions» between epochs and historical events, thus converging different historical events, different epochs, different cultures.

T.K. Zulfikarov combines not only events of historical and real times, but also those of real and mythological times. Due to integraton of a myth into the novel structure, in the picture of the world created by Timur Zulfikarov, time is no longer linear, unidirectional and irreversible; it turns into a mythical one in which events are beyond any time. According to V.A. Maslova, the mythical time is beyond folk memory, and «it is difficult to tell which event is prior to another» [3, 82]. In an epic story, events are presented as taking place during a certain real time that could be dated, whereas in a mythological story events appear to be «omnitemporal, panchronistic». When the mythological and epic planes are combined, there occurs a transfer from one system of representation to another which we observe in T. Zulfikarov’s writings.

In myths of different peoples «time is usually associated with either a number, or a circle, or water, or fire» [7, 103]. T.K. Zulfikarov’s mythical time goes back to symbolic mythopoetical images of the river and tree.

The river symbolizes time, and the poet is travelling along its flows (see «A Poet’s Pilgrimage on Earth and in Heaven» where the poet, on stepping into a river, saw his past: his prewar childhood of famine, Russia of the times of Genghiz Khan and Vladimir the Baptizer). The river is an endpoint, a threshold, an edge, a line on crossing which one finds himself in a supertemporal world of a myth, in eternal cycling of existence.

The tree is a vertical going through the whole structure of the universe, a link between times and generations, the tree of life. T.K. Zulfikarov presents the mythological tree as a chenar or sweet cherry. The millennium-old ‘Chenar» harmonizes the chaos of existence, helps to overcome death and oblivion. The Sogdian «Cherry» whose secret is linked with that of the coral viper and the Creation goes back to the biblical image of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Further on, the mythical time turns into the Christian one, and the mythical cherry transforms into the Old Testament Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, the Christian parable of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden is interwoven with the narrative design and brings to another combination of time strata.

The above analysis brings to the conclusion that the mental whole of the concept of «Time» comprises both a panhuman (universal) and ethnic-cultural components, as well as individual, author-created ones. The first two components are described in scientific literature in sufficient detail, but the latter, individual author-created meanings to reflect literary and philosophic interpretation of time by poets and writers, appears to be fragmentary. Some observations of time as understandood by such Russian poets as I. Annensky, A. Block, A. Beliy and V. Khlebnikov can be found in V.P. Grigoriyev’s works [8].

Upon analyzing representation of the concept of «Time» in writing by T.K. Zulfikarov, we could share the following conclusions: the concept un der study is presented through versatile language means, such as lexical units in their direct meanings, metaphorical naming units, comparisons, epithets, a set of figires of speech, figurative associations, and symbolic framings. The concept representation involves also some other phenomena that have not been previously considered in linguistic literature, such as rhythm and paragraph, characterstic of formal structuring of fiction. They are used to slow down the action development, impart the narration with certain meditativeness, and suggest a thought about «viscosity» of time and its dependence on man’s emotional state.

There is another specific way of time representation used by these authors: unraveling plots according to the principle of clipping composition, changes in picturing angles to make time multidimensional and multidirectional. Eventful plots are another way to embody the concept of «Time».

With regard to understanding of time, writing by T.K. Zulfikarov is characterized by a certain ambivalence manifesting itself through intertwinement of historical and mythological times. Time, when converged, becomes instantaneous. In such a way, the conventional conception of events succession is broken. Using time shifts, sudden transfers of scenes from one location to another, word-painter destroy time fences between events. He perceive reality not in local historical segments, but in the scale of epochs following one another, in superpositioning of the above.

A stereoscopic picture of the volatile world is created through the use of artistic conditionality, symbolics, parable principle, enhanced metaphoricalness, deviation from conventional logic in unraveling of plots, mixing different cultural traditions: from the Sufi meditation and antique tragedy up to ancient Russian songs of lamentation and modern language games; all these enable to cover quite a long period of time, from the Creation up to nowdays, in a relatively small piece of fiction.

Through the use of the above stylistic devices, the concept of «Time» is «saturated with» both universal and individual, author-created, contents.

Translation to English by Z.B. Gaysina



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Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2017
City: Almaty
Category: Philology