Spring 2004 (12.1)
Mir Jalal Pashayev
Up in Meetings (1954)
See the book, "Mir
Jalal: Dried Up in Meetings & Other Short Stories",
translated by Hasan Javadi. Azerbaijan International: Los Angeles,
1998. The book includes 12 short stories, plus a memoir by Hafiz
Pashayev, his son, written on the occasion of Mir Jalal's 90th
Jubilee. English, 91 pages, paperback. Available at AI
. All stories can also be accessed in English at AZERI.org. Search
Mir Jalal Ali oghlu Pashayev was born in Ardabil (Southern Azerbaijan,
Iran) on April 26, 1908, and died in Baku on September 28, 1978.
He is recognized as both writer and literary critic. He graduated
from the Philology Faculty of Azerbaijan Pedagogical Institute
in 1935 and received his Doctorate in Philology in1947. He was
Professor of Literature at Baku State University. His honors
include: Honored Art Worker (1969) and Laureate of Azerbaijan
Komsomol Award (1968).
He also co-authored the three-volume, "History of Azerbaijani
Literature" (1957-1960) and wrote more than 50 books. His
most well known books include: "Resurrection Man" (Dirilan
Adam,1936), "Manifest of a Young Man" (Bir Ganjin Manifesti,
1938), "Where Are We Going?" (Yolumuz Hayanadir, 1957),
"People of the Same Age" (Yashidlar, 1984).
Mir Jalal Pashayev is best remembered
for his satirical short stories, which poked fun at Soviet bureaucracy
which had established itself in his country when he was a mere
boy of 12 years old. His glimpses of everyday life are entertaining,
informative and, on occasion, hilariously exaggerated, but they
document the psychological transformation of a society that for
generations was rewarded for denying common sense and for stifling
personal intuition and initiative.
Unfortunately, Mir Jalal did not live to see the collapse of
he Soviet Union (1991). No doubt, he would have been proud that
his pen so accurately pinpointed some of the incongruities and
ironies that resulted in its disintegration. His observations
provide insight today into the struggles that the new independent
Azerbaijan has in ridding itself of the mental baggage that accompanied
the Soviet Regime.
"Dried Up in Meetings"
is one of his most famous works-a spoof- describing how the main
character's obsession with bureaucratic procedures makes him
totally out of touch with the realities of his family life. "Dried
Up in Meetings" was translated by Hasan Javadi and edited
by Betty Blair.
A dried-up fig, apricot or wild
berry-you often see these things, but a man "dried up"
in meetings is rarely identified.
He's the one-dried up, and mummified from meetings-who's lost
his zest for life. You know the type even if you don't know his
name. You know him well and often pass him in front of his office
or on the stairs. He's the thin man, leaning forward, taking
Where is he rushing off to? Another meeting. Under his arm, his
gray worn-out attaché case is full of papers and notes
untidily thrown together.
What are all those papers? Protocols! All his life, immersed
in thought, frowning, head bent down, face clouded, unaware of
the world-that's the way he goes about his business.
Art: Vugar Muradov. Visit AZgallery.org for contacts.
For him, there's no difference between day and night, spring
and fall, hot and cold, heaven and earth. None of them have any
significance. One is amazed to see this sullen-looking man who
is so distant from the sounds of spring, the fragrance of flowers,
the songs of birds, or of music and joy! He doesn't enjoy these
Do you think this man-the incarnation of bureaucracy itself-will
be different in his private family life? Or that when he comes
home and takes off his hat and meets his wife and children, his
personality changes? That a light brightens up on his face and
a smile appears on his lips?
If so, you're mistaken. No, he's a man of principle, steadfastness
and directness. His own family life is like a meeting. He emphatically
believes that all of us have been created for meetings.
Our heads were given to us for making appointments, our fingers
for writing regulations, our voices for making speeches, and
our hands for applauding at meetings.
To him, the whole universe has been created as the result of
an important meeting and everything functions according to a
If you don't believe it, look up at the sky. See how millions
of stars are gathered around the moon, which is chairing the
meeting. For thousands of years such a heated discussion has
been going on in the sky and, occasionally, its thunder-like
sound is heard on earth.
Catch a glimpse of Dried-Up conversing with his wife, Mayransa.
"Comrade Mayransa, it has been suggested that you wash my
socks and hang them up to dry."
When his wife doesn't answer, Dried-Up gets up and taps the blunt
end of his pencil on the table, insisting, "Answer is requested,
His not-so-easy-life that was usually spent in meetings, appointments
and in giving speeches was disrupted several times by his own
family affairs. Let me explain.
One evening 18 years ago when Dried-Up returned from a meeting,
he was surprised not to find his wife at home. He wondered what
meeting she could be attending at such a time of night. A short
while later, the neighbor's wife stopped by and congratulated
"Brother Dried-Up, Good news! You have a beautiful daughter.
Mayransa Khanim is in the hospital waiting for you."
Dried-Up didn't answer. His face displayed signs of anger and
fear. It darkened even more when he asked, "Was this necessary?
Who directed this order? What will they say at work?"
Then they brought the baby home all bundled up. Dried-Up did
not leave his world of papers and notes to look at the child.
Mayransa asked her husband to decide upon a good name. Dried-Up
took the matter to the meeting of his club.
Many names were suggested, but he accepted none of them. Instead,
he insisted on his own ideas. He suggested, "Maruza,"
which means "Written Report." People in the meeting
roared with laughter and then they applauded. And that's how
his daughter's name came to be "Maruza."
Maruza grew up. She began to read. And, eventually, that's what
attracted her father's attention. Whenever Maruza needed books
or writing pads, Dried-Up would observe all the formalities.
First, his daughter would be required to write her father a request.
Then the request would have to be sent to school to be approved
by her teacher. After that, Mayransa, his wife, would have to
sign it. Eventually, Dried-Up would get around to buying the
book or the pad from a shop.
After getting his daughter's signature as receipt, he would assign
a date for it, "by the second week of the next month."
He would then send a copy of this record to his office in order
"to keep them informed", and he kept another copy in
his own archives just in case anyone should ask him about it
in the future.
The principal of the school spoke to Maruza several times. "My
child, ask your father to come to school, I have something important
to tell him."
Dried-Up would always send back the reply, "I have a meeting
When the girl grew up, Dried-Up's problems multiplied. He would
give the same answer to all her would-be suitors.
"Fill out a form. I'll look into it." The suitors,
on hearing this, would disappear.
Eventually, Asgar, a taxi driver who was very sincere in his
intentions towards Maruza, refused to give up his pursuit.
And Mayransa was happy about the prospect of having Asgar as
her son-in-law so she tried to influence her husband.
"Dear, they're asking for the hand of Maruza."
"Be more specific. Who wants her? And under what conditions?"
"The driver, Asgar."
"Where is his letter of request?"
"There is no letter."
"Don't be ridiculous. If there is no request, no forms and
no guarantee, why are you wasting my time?"
Mayransa pleaded. "Perhaps, whenever you don't have any
meetings, you could meet this man-he could come and talk with
Dried-Up repeated the name of the man several times and then
shook his head at Mayransa.
"His name is very old fashioned, very old fashioned. Whoever
wants to marry Maruza should have a name worthy of her."
"If you mention it to him, he'll change his name."
"I don't need him. If someone is interested in our daughter,
he should send his résumé and photograph. I could
get familiar with him and then we could start to talk about it."
But Dried-Up only repeated his refusal. "I said he should
send his job description, and then we could talk about it. There
is no need for further discussion."
Mayransa said nothing further. Asgar was told what Dried-Up had
said. He replied, "If he wants my résumé,
let him go get it himself from my office, but I know an easier
way than this so we won't have to bother him needlessly."
That evening Dried-Up was arranging his minutes and official
reports. Mayransa opened the closet door and was putting on some
new clothes. When her husband looked up, he saw his wife in a
rather happy and festive mood, quickly dressing.
"Dear, where are you going?" he asked in surprise.
"Nowhere. There's just a small meeting."
"Where is Maruza?"
"She's at her own meeting and has sent you a note."
Mayransa took a small envelope from under a book on the table
and gave it to her husband. "It seems that the kids have
an appointment. Read and find out."
When he read the letter, he became livid with anger.
We have discussed this extensively. We have thought about it
and talked it over. We didn't want to bother you so we've gone
to the Notary. Tomorrow is our Wedding Day. It will be in the
home of the bridegroom. If you have time after your meetings,
please drop by. Your daughter, Maruza."
Dried-Up dried up even more. He jumped up, saying, "What?
What? They've issued a resolution without consulting me?
Who has certified this?"
Mayransa replied, without losing her calm demeanor, "You
must certify it!"
Dried-Up lost his temper. "But I haven't read his request
or investigated his job. Without having some discussion, how
can I approve such a decision? What kind of insanity is this?"
Mayransa put on her boots and uttered her final words. "Whether
you approve or not is your problem. I will be at Asgar's house
for the wedding. Look after the house. Don't leave the doors
and windows open!"
And with those words, she slammed the door and stormed out.
For Dried Up, it was as if the whole house had begun to spin
around him and a millstone had been tied around his neck.
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