Fazil Iskander

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Fazil Iskander
Iskander being awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2010
Iskander being awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2010
BornИскандер, Фазиль Абдулович
Fazil Abdulovich Iskander
(1929-03-06)6 March 1929
Died31 July 2016(2016-07-31) (aged 87)
Peredelkino, Russia
OccupationNovelist, essayist, poet
Genrememoirs, satire, parable, essays, aphorism
Notable worksSandro of Chegem
Notable awards
RelativesAbdul Ibragimovich Iskander (father);
Leili Khasanovna Iskander (mother);
Feredun Abdulovich Iskander (brother);
Giuli Abdulovna Iskander (sister)
Reverse side of a 10 apsar commemorative coin minted on 6 May 2009 to celebrate Fazil Iskander's 80th birthday.

Fazil Abdulovich Iskander (Russian: Фази́ль Абду́лович Исканде́р; Abkhazian: Фазиль Абдул-иҧа Искандер; 6 March 1929 – 31 July 2016) was a Soviet and Russian[1] writer and poet known in the former Soviet Union for his descriptions of Caucasian life. He authored various stories, most famously "Zashita Chika", which features a crafty and likable young boy named "Chik".


Early life[edit]

Fazil Abdulovich Iskander was born in 1929 in the cosmopolitan port city of Sukhumi, Georgia (then part of the USSR) to an Iranian father (Abdul Ibragimovich Iskander) and an Abkhazian mother (Leili Khasanovna Iskander).[2] His father was deported to Iran in 1938 and sent to a penal camp where he died in 1957.[3] His father was the victim of Joseph Stalin's deportation policies of the national minorities of the Caucasus.[2] As a result, Fazil and his brother Feredun and his sister Giuli were raised by his mother's Abkhazian family.[2][3] Fazil was only nine years old at that time.[4]


The most famous intellectual of Abkhazia,[citation needed] he first became well known in the mid-1960s along with other representatives of the "young prose" movement like Yury Kazakov and Vasily Aksyonov, especially for what is perhaps his best story,[5] Sozvezdie kozlotura (1966), variously translated as "The Goatibex Constellation," "The Constellation of the Goat-Buffalo," and "Constellation of Capritaurus." It is written from the point of view of a young newspaperman who returns to his native Abkhazia, joins the staff of a local newspaper, and is caught up in the publicity campaign for a newly produced farm animal, a cross between a goat and a West Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica); a "remarkable satire of Lysenko's genetics and Khrushchev's agricultural campaigns, it was harshly criticized for showing the Soviet Union in a bad light."[6]

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 1970s, which evoked praise for the author as "an Abkhazian Mark Twain."[7] Mr. Iskander's humor, like Mark Twain's, has a tendency to sneak up on you instead of hitting you over the head.[7] This rambling, amusing and ironic work has been considered as an example of magic realism, although Iskander himself said he "did not care for Latin American magic realism in general".[8] Five films were made based upon parts of the novel.

Iskander distanced himself from the Abkhaz secessionist strivings in the late 1980s and criticised both Georgian and Abkhaz communities of Abkhazia for their ethnic prejudices.[citation needed] He warned that Abkhazia could become a new Nagorno-Karabakh.[citation needed] Later Iskander resided in Moscow and was a writer for the newspaper Kultura.[citation needed]

On 3 September 2011, a statue of Iskander's literary character Chik was unveiled on Sukhumi's Muhajir Quay.[9]


Iskander had been married to a Russian poet Antonina Mikhailovna Khlebnikova since 1960. In 2011 the couple published a book of poems entitled Snow and Grapes to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.[1] They had one son and one daughter.


Iskander died in his home on 31 July 2016 in Peredelkino, aged 87.[10][11][12][13]


"Perhaps the most touching and profound characteristic of childhood is an unquestioning belief in the rule of common sense. The child believes that the world is rational and hence regards everything irrational as some sort of obstacle to be pushed aside. . . . The best people, I think, are those who over the years have managed to retain this childhood faith in the world's rationality. For it is this faith which provides man with passion and zeal in his struggle against the twin follies of cruelty and stupidity." (The Goatibex Constellation)

Awards and prizes[edit]

In 2009, Bank of Abkhazia issued a commemorative silver coin from the series "Outstanding Personalities of Abkhazia", dedicated to Fazil Iskander denomination of 10 apsaras.[citation needed]


Works in English translation[edit]

  • Forbidden Fruit and Other Stories, Central Books LTD, 1972.
  • The Goatibex Constellation, Ardis, 1975.
  • Sandro of Chegem, Vintage Books, 1983.
  • The Gospel According to Chegem, Vintage Books, 1984.
  • Chik and His Friends, Ardis 1985.
  • Rabbits and Boa Constrictors, Ardis, 1989.
  • The Old House Under the Cypress Tree, Faber and Faber, 1996.
  • The Thirteenth Labour of Hercules, Raduga, 1997.


Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "There's no doubt I'm a Russian writer who praised Abkhazia a lot. Unfortunately, I haven't written anything in the Abkhaz language. The choice of Russian culture was principal to me." It is stifling to live without conscience interview in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, March 4, 2011 (in Russian)
  2. ^ a b c Christine Rydel. Russian Prose Writers After World War II, Volume 302. p 122. Thomson Gale, 2005 ISBN 0787668397
  3. ^ a b The Myth of the Non-Russian: Iskander and Aitmatov's Magical Universe. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Soviet Literature and Art: Almanac". Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  5. ^ Edward J. Brown, Russian Literature Since the Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1982: ISBN 0-674-78204-6), p. 331.
  6. ^ Karen L. Ryan-Hayes, Contemporary Russian Satire: A Genre Study (Cambridge University Press, 2006: ISBN 0-521-02626-1), p. 15.
  7. ^ a b Jacoby, Susan. "An Abkhazian Mark Twain". The New York Times. 15 May 1983. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  8. ^ Haber, Erika (2003). The Myth of the Non-Russian. Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0531-0.
  9. ^ "В Абхазии появился первый памятник литературному герою". Regnum. 4 September 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  10. ^ "Abkhaz writer Fazil Iskander dies, aged 87". euronews. July 31, 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  11. ^ "Soviet humanist writer Fazil Iskander dead at 87 - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. July 31, 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  12. ^ Polska, Grupa Wirtualna (July 31, 2016). "Pisarz Fazil Iskander nie żyje". wiadomosci.wp.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  13. ^ "Fazil Iskander passes away". vestnikkavkaza.net. July 31, 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  14. ^ The Myth of the Non-Russian: Iskander and Aitmatov's Magical Universe, Erika Haber, Lexington Books, UK, 2003. (Page 65: "Iskander was awarded the USSR State Prize in November 1989")
  15. ^ Remaking Russia: Voices from Within, Edited by Heyward Isham, Intro by Richard Pipes, M.E. Sharp 1995. (Intro, page xviii, "USSR State Prize 1989")
  16. ^ "Puschkin-Preis 2005 für Boris Paramonow" (in German). Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. 2005-05-26. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  17. ^ Yeltsin, Boris (2003-12-07). Указ Президента РФ от 7.12.1993 № 2120 (in Russian). Moscow: Официальный сайт Президента Российской Федерации. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  18. ^ "Winners of the 2013 Russian Federation National Awards announced". Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  19. ^ "abkhaz.org".
  20. ^ Фазиль Искандер награжден высшим орденом Абхазии (in Russian). Kafkas Vakfi. 2002-06-20. Archived from the original on 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  21. ^ "Fazil Iskander". Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  22. ^ "Дмитрий Медведев наградил писателя Фазиля Искандера орденом "За заслуги перед Отечеством" IV степени".
  23. ^ "Фазиля Искандера наградили премией "Ясная Поляна"".