O’tkan Kunlar Chapter Descriptions


Volume One:

Chapter One:
Otabek, Son of Yusufbek Hajji

In which the Azan, or call to prayer, introduces us to the hero of the novel Otabek, Son of Yusufbek Hajji at a caravanserai in Margilan in 1845. His faithful slave and spiritual father Hasan Ali welcomes two guests who wish to meet with young Otabek—Rahmat, Son of Ziyo Shohichi and his uncle Hamid. Qodiriy introduces the reader to the tradition of Adab, or the rules surrounding proper comportment in the ecumenical world depicted in the novel and destined for conquest in 1865.

The caravanserai as the initial setting of the novel demonstrates the inextricable link between central Asia’s merchant class, their connection with the outside world, and the reform minded Jadids. Rahmat offers Otabek an invitation to a Gap, or gathering, an offer that Otabek cannot politely refuse.

Chapter Two:
A Young Man Suitable for the Khan’s Daughter

In which our hero Otabek speaks to the enlightened of Margilan about his ideas on the reform of the Qoqan Khanate. We are introduced to Ziyo Shohichi, Mirza Karim Qutidor, and Akram Hajji, local notables largely engaged as traders. Also in attendance are Rahmat and Hamid from the prior chapter. Issues at reform under distance are social reform, especially in regards to marriage, the role of women in society, and the need for political change.

Qodiriy especially focuses on the self-inflicted ills of central Asian society, to include poor governance. Central Asia in the mid-nineteenth century was beset with palace intrigue, corruption, and ethnic conflict. We learn in this chapter that the Hakim of Tashkent, Azizbek, who is of semi-nomadic Qipchaq origins, has rebelled from the Qoqan Khanate largely over issues of taxation. Qodiriy shows us the beginnings of a central theme throughout the novel of ethnic tensions within the Khanate between nomadic and semi-nomadic factions.

Otabek’s view of reform mirrors Abduallah Qodiriy’s who consider his hero’s view to reflect his own. Since the first Volume of O’tkan Kunlar was written in 1924, the period of the delitation of borders, perhaps Qodiriy’s more favorable view of the Russians in this chapter reflects his hopes and dreams for self-rule.

Hamid boi is revealed as a first-class cad and fears that Otabek has also been struck with the great beauty of Margilan. He is doubly alarmed that Mirza Karim Qutidor has offered Otabek an invite to his home—perhaps this beauty so beloved in Margilan is his daughter?

Chapter Three:
Bek in Love
In which we find a short chapter of Hasan Ali discovering Otabek’s illness—the ennui of a young man pining for his beloved.

Chapter Four:
He Does not Like the Weather in Margilan

In which Hasan Ali attempts to test his theory on Otabek’s malady of the heart. Otabek claims it is the foul weather in Margilan and Hasan Ali unburdens his heart.

Chapter Five:
If Only I Had this Kind of Son-in-Law

In which Abdullah Qodiriy speaks directly to the reader as he describes Mirza Karim Qutidor’s home. The reader is introduced to the members of Qutidor’s household: his wife Oftob Oyim, his daughter Kumush bibi, the matriarch Oysha Bibi, and Toibeka, the servant. It is also revealed to the reader that Kumush also suffers from the same malady as Otabek in the previous chapter.
Otabek is hosted by Qutidor in his home as he exclaims the virtues of having such a son-in-law.

Chapter Six:
Bloody Clouds over Tashkent

In which the reader gains insight into the social and political landscape of Turkistan in the mid-nineteenth century. Azizbek, Hakim of Tashkent, rebels against the Khanate of Qoqan over the collection of taxes. The regent of Khudayar Khan, Musulmanqul, tasks the Qipchaq Nur Muhammad Qushbegi with laying siege to Tashkent. Otabek’s father, Yusufbek Hajji makes his appearance as advisor to Azizbek.

Chapter Seven:

In which Nur Muhammad Qushbegi is wounded attempting to retake Tashkent from the rebel Azizbek on behalf of Khudayar Khan. Hasan Ali becomes concerned over Otabek’s mental state and appeals to Ziyo Shohichi for assistance. Qodiriy through Hasan Ali introduces the reader to the evils of the Central Asian Chai Khana and the moral turpitude of Mullahnamos predilection for Bachabozi, or attending dancing boys. This passage is significant because it is one of many tableaus Qodiriy renders to demonstrate the internal decay within the Qoqan Khanate. Ziyo Shohichi receives Hasan Ali who explains Otabek’s circumstances: his Beloved is none other than Kumush, daughter of Qutidor whom we met in Chapter 2. Ziyo aka and Hasan Ali agree to stand as Otabek’s matchmakers, or sovchi.

Chapter Eight:

In which after some akward moments of discussion Qutidor agrees to the marriage of Kumush and Otabek. Qutidor approaches his wife Oftob Oyim with the news that he has made a decision on behalf the family for his daughter’s betrothal. We are introduced to an important aspect of 19th Central Asian identity: Oftob Oyim, a Margilani, considers Otabek, of Tashkent, a mussafir, or foreigner. A common national identity had yet been formed in Turkistan with cities, even Mahallas, or neighborhoods, forming the most common node of identity. Thus, Qutidor agree to never allow Kumush to leave Margilan for Tashkent.

Chapter Nine:

In which Hasan Ali dreams of becoming a grandfather figure to Otabek’s and Kumush’s children. Otabek and Kumush both wake from their beds to find the unwelcome news of their betrothal—they are unware that in fact they are intended for their true Beloved. Tears follow…

Chapter Ten:
Toi, Kizlar Majlisi

In which Qodiriy gifts us an iconic chapter of the Kizlar Majlisi, or bridal shower that takes place before the Toi, or wedding. The attendees perform songs that become the mainstays of the development of Uzbek music, performed even today. Kumush still pines for the man, her Beloved, she glimpsed across the mystical stream.

Chapter Eleven:
An Unexpected Happiness

In which Qodiriy presents a thorough description of an Uzbek toi and deep insight into Central Asian culture. We see a nuanced depiction of the process of betrothal, Mahr, or bride price, the role and variations of Islam, and the social importance of weddings among those communities. The jadids themselves were particularly critical of large life-cycle rituals—and they have even played into present-day politics especially in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan—so it seems this wedding, although rich, is well-maintained but modest.

Qodiriy introduces us to the tradition of the Yanga—aunts of the bride who witness the consummation of the marriage. The two Beloved meet unexpectedly encounter each other alone and find an unexpected happiness.

Chapter Twelve:

In which Otabek’s true enemy and rival reveals himself as Hamid boi, who we met in the opening scene of the novel. Hamid boi approaches the Qorboshi of Margilan and convincing him that Otabek and Qutidor are involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Khudayar Khan. Unfortunately for Otabek his father is Yusufbek Hajji, advisor to Azizbek, thus lending credence the accusation. Qorboshi is not totally convinced though but his skepticism is assuaged through a bribe from Hamid.
Qodiriy provides a concrete example of the endemic corruption that persisted in Turkistan in the 19th century and as a result weakened the Khanate to Russian conquest two decades later. Qodiriy also lays the groundwork for a literary precedence for Human Rights in Uzbek culture and brings the message of the novel closer to the lives of the current citizens of Uzbekistan. Slander of individuals implicating them in plots to overthrow the leadership of Turkistan, manipulating ethnic and factional tensions, offering bribes that could lead to the death of rivals, and instigating arbitrary arrest are all themes that speak to the universal message of Human Rights, whether he was conscious of that term or not, that Qodiriy attempts to convey through his novels. The chapter Slander is the first step in depicting that message through a literary medium.

Chapter Thirteen:

In which Qorboshi convinces Uttaboi Qushbegi of Margilan the importance of arresting the conspirators. Qodiriy, as is his custom, addresses the reader at the beginning of the chapter with a vivid description of the Orda that houses Margilan’s center of power. One wonders what became of that structure in Qodiriy’s period and whether he is providing a landscape of memory, reminding the reader of their loss of culture and history. Inevitably Uttaboi is duped and orders the arrest of the supposed conspirators.
Chapter Fourteen:
Seeking Help from Tashkent

In which Hasan Ali rides to Tashkent as a desperate attempt to find assistance from Tashkent. Hasan Ali managed to escape arrest and represents the only male figure available to aid Kumush and Oftob Oyim.
Chapter Fifteen:
Tashkent under Siege

In which the Army of Qoqan is defeated as they attempt to storm Tashkent. The head of that Army Nur Muhammad Qushbegi is wounded. We see a depiction of an actual historical event and an escalation of tensions between factions within the Khanate.

Chapter Sixteen:

In which Qodiriy provides us with a description of rebel Hakim Azizbek who has revolted over taxes imposed by the Khanate. The commander of the fortress provides details of the battle that repulsed Khudayar Khan’s forces. Azizbek addresses his troops gifting noteworthy heroes with cholpans and gold embroidered robes. Hasan Ali arrives at the gates much to the consternation of those within the fortress.

Chapter Seventeen:
Yusufbek Hajji

In which Hasan Ali informs Yusufbek Hajji of Otabek and Qutidor’s predicament.

Chapter Eighteen:

In which the Qorboshi turns to Hamid boi for further funds in order to augment his son’s circumcision. Hamid boi discovered that his brother-in-law Ziyo Shohichi and his nephew Rahmat were also detained along with Otabek and Qutidor as co-conspirators to the overthrow of Khudayar Khan. Hamid buys their freedom, but also convinces the Qorboshi to execute Otabek and Qutidor, thus silencing them and protecting Hamid and his machinations. Qorboshi has a moment of conscience when he realizes that he has taken gold for the lives of others.
We must note at this point that the hosting of lavish lifecycle events such as wedding and circumcisions was an object of criticism by the Jadids and has played into present-day cultural politics in almost all of the Central Asian Republics where various leaders have attempted to curb the number of those attending, the amounts that we were spent etc all in an attempt to reign in the issues that arise from the inevitable graft and corruption that result.

Chapter Nineteen:
The Verdict

In which a mysterious woman in paranjir appears to speak on behalf Otabek and Qutidor. She approaches Uttaboi Qushbegi with irrefutable proof that the two were unjustly framed in a plot to overthrow Khudayar Khan. Uttaboi Qushbegi questions the two before the woman in attempt to discover the truth. In a key moment during this chapter the women in paranjir drops her veil to reveal Kumush the wife of Otabek and the daughter of Qutidor.
This scene is perhaps one of the most powerful messages of the novel. Mirroring the Jadids’ campaign to eradicate unveiling in Turkistan, Hujjum, Kumush dropping her veil in front of strangers was considered a major transgression in a conservative Muslim society. Her presentation of the letter before a person of power such as the Qushbegi, essentially evidence, arguing on behalf the accused, and revealing her face to strangers give insight into the vision that Qodiriy held for liberated women in post Revolution UZ SSR.

Chapter Twenty:
Languishing for Freedom

In which Nur Muhammad Qushbegi, the commander of the Army of Qoqan, retreats from Tashkent after a 70 day siege. Azizbek in a fit of hubris over his victory orders Yusufbek Hajji to raise taxes on the citizens of Tashkent in order to restore his fortunes. Yusufbek’s internal dialogue reveals his disillusionment towards the leadership of Turkistan. Yusufbek Hajji steels his resolve…

Chapter Twenty-One:

In which Yusufbek Hajji leads a revolt against Azizbek over the increase in taxes. Hajii’s credibility as a spiritual leader incites the population of Tashkent. Qodiriy provides an overview of Tashkent’s cityscape before Russian conquest as he rallies his people walking from the Orda to old Tashkent. With Azizbek overthrown, Hajji delivers the city back to Nur Muhammad Qushbegi and as recompense asks his son Otabek to be spared—thus revealing the contents of the letter presented to Uttaboi Qushbegi.

Chapter Twenty-Two
One Poor Miserable Wretch

In which the reader meets Khudayar Khan and his regent Musulmanqul after a detailed description of the Khan’s palace. Musulmanqul joins the group of characters of O’tkan Kunlar to receive an anonymous letter slandering Otabek and Qutidor—as well as Uttaboi Qushbegi. Musulmanqul sends for all three to be questioned.

Chapter Twenty-Three

In which Otabek, Qutidor and Uttaboi Qushbegi stand before the court of Khudayar Khan and undergo questioning by Musulmanqul. A dispatch arrives from Nur Muhammad Qushbegi who informs the court that Tashkent has been delivered back into the hands of Qoqan—with Yusufbek Hajji playing a pivotal role in overthrowing Azizbek.


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