Sunday, July 31, 2016

Farewell to Fazil’ Iskander

I was very sad to see the news that Fazil’ Iskander died last night; he was 87.

Though I only began reading Iskander in 2011, when I read some of his stories about an Abkhazian boy named Chik, I listed Iskander in my 2011 year-end post as my “favorite discovery.” I noted that the little I’d read “[was] enough to give me a new favorite writer whose stories I want to ration and read over time.” I have done just that, reading several more of his stories, some about Chik, some not, in the past five years. Iskander’s combination of humor and a keen sense of humanity—which feels particularly strong to me in his characterization of what it means to be a child—won me over very quickly. For more on the Chik stories: I featured Iskander in my “Favorite Russian Writers A to Я” series.

In 2011, Iskander won a special Big Book award as well as the “Contemporary Classic” prize from the Yasnaya Polyana Awards. Iskander’s books have been translated into numerous languages: according to, a number of his books have been translated into English, including Chik and His Friends, translated by J.S. Butler for Raduga in 1985.

 Up next: Alexander Snegirev’s Vera and Maria Galina’s ever-mysterious Autochthons, both of which force me to look at my own reading habits and book preferences from new angles, and Ludmila Ulitskaya’s Jacob’s Ladder, a family saga that reads along easily.

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