Fazil Iskander was the Abkhazian author who wrote in Russian and was best known for using humour and a digressive, anecdotal style in his often satirical portrayals of life in Soviet Abkhazia. He subsequently settled permanently in Moscow. Though he was known mostly for his prose works, he started his career as a poet, publishing six volumes of verse between and Another collection of poetry, Put' "The Path" , was published in His stories are generally set in Abkhazia and are linked by recurring characters and incidents; often based on his experiences in Abkhazia during the s and '40s, they are also partly autobiographical. By , Iskander had published 19 collections of short stories, most famously Chik's Defence which star a crafty and likable young boy named "Chik".
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More on Fazil Iskander! Check back here each time you go to read another section - I'll trty to add new questions as we work along, and it does no harm to think a second time about the earlier questions. After he received his college degree, Iskander studied at the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow which was, remember, largely a necessiry if a person wanted to make a living as a writer in this planned cultural economy , and he became a member of the Writers' Union in 4 years or so after Stalin's death , and eventually moved back to Moscow, as well as writing in Russian.
Surely his approach to writing was shaped as he came of age creatively in the "Thaw" period, when there was much less censorship imposed on Soviet writers and publications. On the other hand, humor is always a tricky genre, no matter how much people love it. The first complete publication was in the US as "tamizdat" , in , with the translation in - just the same time as the translation we read of The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years.
Iskander got away with things that other writers weren't able to get away with. The history of this novel is indicative of Iskander's particular status as a Soviet writer. He published the first of the stories in , but the novel as a whole was first published abroad.
Iskander's litlte preface refers to the picaresque novel, one of the first forms of the novel. Its hero, the Picaro, goes from place to place, and the episodes are strung along without particular development of the character: the fun is to see the Picaro, who is often a trickster, being himself over and over again. How much does that sound like this novel? Humor is a very popular literary element, but it also has its risks: laughter often involves making fun of someone else.
How does Iskander direct the humor in safe - or not so safe ways? Note the cultural versus religious signs of Islam in the text. What other religions are present in the region, as implied by its ethnic groups? And why would a warm country with a seashore, where tobacco is an important crop, be likely to have an ethnically mixed population? Abkhazia as a place with a long relationship with Russians as well as Greeks, Armenians, Turks : how does this, along with other historical elements, appear in the presentation of Uncle Sandro?
NB: This is the same "uncle" as in "Forbidden Fruit" - they are neighbors, not close relatives. Our narrator presents himself as a journalist, and he plays a big role in the first chapter or two. How is a journalist qualified to produce a novel? How does the gradual disappearance of the narrator lead the reader into the novel?
Russian is a "world language" with many millions of speakers and a literary tradition recognized in other countries, while Abkhazia is a small country. What does Iskander achieve by writing in another language? How does he convey Abkhazian culture? Do you see anything deeper than just a generalized mockery of ethnic stereotyping in the "Endurskies"? Iskander plays with the space between Abkhazia and the rest of the USSR and the world - which is possible largely because he writes in Russian.
Besides that, in what ways does his writing give an outsider a non-Abkhazian an "in" to this society? With a humorous writer, it's often worth asking: what parts are funny? What parts are NOT funny, and why not? Questions for Reading Sandro of Chegem : 1. And a few more Questions: 8. Next Trains to Philadelphia. Next TriCo Shuttles. How to Plan Your Classes. The Swarthmore Bucket List. View previous guide View next guide. Search the website Search Form What are you looking for? Search Icon Looking for a specific person?
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He authored various stories, most famously "Zashita Chika", which features a crafty and likable young boy named "Chik". The most famous intellectual of Abkhazia , [ citation needed ] he first became well known in the mids along with other representatives of the "young prose" movement like Yury Kazakov and Vasily Aksyonov , especially for what is perhaps his best story,  Sozvezdie kozlotura , variously translated as "The Goatibex Constellation," "The Constellation of the Goat-Buffalo," and "Constellation of Capritaurus. He is probably best known in the English speaking world for Sandro of Chegem , a picaresque novel that recounts life in a fictional Abkhaz village from the early years of the 20th century until the s, which evoked praise for the author as "an Abkhazian Mark Twain. Iskander's humor, like Mark Twain's, has a tendency to sneak up on you instead of hitting you over the head. Iskander distanced himself from the Abkhaz secessionist strivings in the late s and criticised both Georgian and Abkhaz communities of Abkhazia for their ethnic prejudices. Iskander had been married to a Russian poet Antonina Mikhailovna Khlebnikova since
Fazil Iskander, Sandro of Chegem
Fazil Iskander: wiseman from Chegem. A poet, writer, philosopher who brilliantly possessed the language: his aphorisms truly impressed: "How simply it is said, but how accurate, how deep! He is a kind genius who has lived a long and, probably, happy life: he was engaged in his favorite work, to which he devoted himself entirely, and during his life earned both the people's love and the recognition of the authorities, something that was not given to every writer. His books have been translated into dozens of languages and are still in demand - thousands of copies are proof of that. Fazil Iskander himself called himself a Russian writer who glorified Abkhazia - it is here that his characters live, be it the famous Sandro or the boy Chik, here the events of all his most famous works took place.