The talented Tatar author Ildar Abuzyarov, born in 1976 in Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga, has several novels to his name and more than 30 short stories, all published in leading literary magazines as well as in book form. His best known novels include: HOOSH, The Finnish Sun, Kurban-Romance, Mutabor. He also published several collections of short stories.
Winner of the prestigious New Pushkin Prize, finalist in the Bunin Prize, and the National Bestseller his long story “Romance with the Victim” has been adapted for the cinema. Several of his stories were translated into Swedish, German, and Czech. His “hyper-textual” manner was likened by some critics to that of Milorad Pavic, but it is more often observed that Abuzyarov’s writing is a fine blend of Eastern and European writing and has successfully absorbed both mentalities.
HOOSH/XYIII, a novel.
“Hoosh” is the abbreviated name of a secret organization of those “willing to die as suicide bomber”, and “hoosh” also means “stay well” in some Turkic languages. The novel is not so much about terrorists as about a search for justice. The author tries to understand why people resort to violence for the sake of their ideas, and why they are unafraid of death. Different characters describe their early lives at home and what brought them to St Petersburg, where the action takes place. A boy from a mountain village is stunned by the luxury of the city comparing it to his family’s hungry existence in constant toil, and recalling how early his mother had aged from hard work. The social injustice and godlessness he observes arouse his anger for the “infidels”.
Some young men from wealthy families are fed up with their uneventful life and crave excitement and adventure, some others are looking for a worthy goal in life, and eventually they all meet in a local mosque and decide to create a secret society. The author shows how easily those inspired young fighters become puppets in the hands of dishonest politicians.
The characters live with a constant awareness of social injustice, falsehood and hypocrisy all around. They come across homeless children in the city overflowing with wealth which no crisis can diminish. They feel unwanted and superfluous both in this alien cold city and where they came from. St Petersburg as it appears to them is not much different from the one described by Dostoyevky in the 19th century. Modern-day misfits continue to look for a place in the indifferent society and reflect on the same “eternal questions” of being.
The novel has been perceived by some readers as a Moslem apology although it is addressed to non-Moslems and attempts to look at the East-West confrontation from within the situation, and thus it should be of interest to all of us.
“Ildar Abuzyarov’s novel is an Islamic breakthrough into Russian literature, a successful attempt to address the non-Moslem reader in a language they can understand.” – Novaya Gazeta
Mutabor, which literally means “I’m changing”, is one of the few Russian-language novels devoted to the “colored” revolutions in the former Soviet republics following the collapse of the USSR. It shows the various ways young people become terrorists. In 2010 the author visited Kirghizia during the bloody April coup there, and collected unique material and ideas for his novel.
The novel’s characters are Moslem terrorists but not at all the likes of those which appear in cheap thrillers - they are educated romantic youths who believe that at the cost of their lives they can change the world for the better and restore justice. The author knows Islamic culture well and shows in what way Moslem mentalities and perceptions of reality differ from the European. He attempts to give an artistic interpretation to the deepest layers of Islamic tradition and theology from a modern point of view.
Says Abusyarov: “I started writing this novel in Kirghizia during the post-Soviet political unrest and finished it after I’ve witnessed the uprising in Egypt when ages-old traditions were collapsing like a house of cards.”
Mutabor may also be described as an intellectual detective chess story where the investigation follows the rules of a chess game. Seized by passions a man turns into a beast and joins the revolution to become human again. A European passes the way of a Sufi and turns from a human being into a stone. A writer is imprisoned for a book about terrorism he has written, and for preaching the idea that each person should assume responsibility for everything going on in our turbulent world.
However, apart from human suffering and injustice the novel abounds in witty humor and sheer mirth, philosophical reflections, exciting adventures, and much else. The author convincingly shows that revolutions always leave a lasting mark on human lives, good or bad as the case may be.
Kurban-romance is written in the name of a poet enamored with sumptuous Oriental imagery and folk traditions. The book is a cycle of elegantly poetic stories, a blend of drama, tenderness, humor, and eccentricity.
The Finnish Sun is a collection of parable-like stories featuring the Volga Finns. They are all neighbors, living in the same block of flats. They make friends and often quarrel, they commit crimes and repent.