Fazil Iskander

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Fazil Iskander
Iskander being awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2010
Born Fazil Abdulovich Iskander
(1929-03-06) March 6, 1929 (age 93)
Occupation novelist, essayist, poet
Nationality Russian
Ethnicity Abkhaz and Iranian
Genre memoirs, satire, parable, essays, aphorism
Notable works Sandro of Chegem
Notable awards
Relatives Abdul Ibragimovich Iskander (father);
Leili Khasanovna Iskander (mother);
Feredun Abdulovich Iskander (brother);
Leli Abdulova Iskander (sister)

Signature File:Автограф Фазиля Искандера.png
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; Abkhaz: Фазиль Абдул-иҧа Искандер; born 6 March 1929, Sukhumi, USSR) is an Abkhaz writer, known in the former Soviet Union for his descriptions of Caucasian life, mostly written in Russian. He has written various stories, most famously "Zashita Chika", which star a crafty and likable young boy named "Chik".


Early life

Fazil Abdulovich Iskander was born in 1929 in the cosmopolitan port city of Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia (then part of the USSR) to an Iranian father (Abdul Ibragimovich Iskander) and an Abkhazian mother (Leili Khasanovna Iskander).[1] Of Iranian descent, his father Abdul Iskander was deported to Iran in 1938 and sent to a penal camp where he died in 1957.[2] He was the victim of Joseph Stalin's genocide policies against the national minorities of the Caucasus.[1] As a result, he and his brother Feredun and his sister Giuli were raised by his mothers Abkhazian family.[1][2] Fazil was only nine years old at that time.[3]


The most famous intellectual of Abkhazia, 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,[4] 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."[5]

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."[6] Mr. Iskander's humor, like Mark Twain's, has a tendency to sneak up on you instead of hitting you over the head.[6] 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".[7] 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] He currently resides in Moscow and is a writer for the newspaper Kultura.

On 3 September 2011, a statue of Iskander's literary character Chik was unveiled on Sukhumi's Muhajir Quay.[8]

List of awards and prizes

Iskander being awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland by President Dmitry Medvedev, 2010.

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.


Works in English translation

  • 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


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Christine Rydel. Russian Prose Writers After World War II, Volume 302. p 122. Thomson Gale, 2005 ISBN 0787668397
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Myth of the Non-Russian: Iskander and Aitmatov's Magical Universe. Retrieved 24 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Soviet Literature and Art: Almanac". Retrieved 11 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Edward J. Brown, Russian Literature Since the Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1982: ISBN 0-674-78204-6), p. 331.
  5. Karen L. Ryan-Hayes, Contemporary Russian Satire: A Genre Study (Cambridge University Press, 2006: ISBN 0-521-02626-1), p. 15.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jacoby, Susan. "An Abkhazian Mark Twain". The New York Times. 15 May 1983. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  7. Haber, Erika (2003). The Myth of the Non-Russian. Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0531-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "В Абхазии появился первый памятник литературному герою". Regnum. 4 September 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 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")
  10. Remaking Russia: Voices from Within, Edited by Heyward Isham, Intro by Richard Pipes, M.E. Sharp 1995. (Intro, page xviii, "USSR State Prize 1989")
  11. "Puschkin-Preis 2005 für Boris Paramonow" (in German). Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. 2005-05-26. Retrieved 2009-10-03.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 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.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Winners of the 2013 Russian Federation National Awards announced". Retrieved 29 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Abkhaz.org
  15. Фазиль Искандер награжден высшим орденом Абхазии (in Russian). Kafkas Vakfi. 2002-06-20. Retrieved 2009-10-03.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Fazil Iskander". Retrieved 29 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. http://news.kremlin.ru/news/6895
  18. Fazil Iskander has been awwarded the Yasnaya polyala award