Schar School’s Richard Kauzlarich Discusses New Translation of Detained Azerbaijanian Novelist

By Buzz McClain

Schar School Distinguished Visiting Professor Richard Kauzlarich, left, discusses the important new translations of works by detained Azerbaijan novelist Akram Aylisli with translator Karen E. Young. Photo by Alex Raufoglu.

Schar School Distinguished Visiting Professor Richard Kauzlarich drew on his experience as ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (1997-99) and Azerbaijan (1994-97) on Tuesday when he served as moderator for a discussion of a new translation of three Akram Aylisli novellas collected in “Farewell, Aylis: A Non-Traditional Novel in Three Works” (Academic Studies Press).  An audience of about 50 attended the conversation at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. 

The release of the book and the discussion with Karen E. Young, an award-winning translator of Russian poets and a former poet laureate of Arlington, Va., illuminated Aylisli’s fate and future, Kauzlarich said. Aylisli, a former member of Azerbaijan’s National Assembly and a Nobel Prize nominee, has been under de facto house arrest since 2014.

“Akram is under house arrest and cannot leave Azerbaijan because the regime took offense at his ‘Stone Dreams novella, which described persecution of Armenians in Azerbaijan,” Kauzlarich said. “His portrayal of Armenians as human beings did not fit into the official narrative of Armenians being the aggressors against Azerbaijan in the context of the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the contested territory of Nagorno Karabakh. 

“One of the results was an officially-sanctioned burning of his books despite Arkram’s prior recognition—by Soviet and Azerbaijan authorities—as a talented and prolific writer in the Russian and Azerbaijani languages.”

The release of the new translations is important, he said, because the novellas take place “against the background of continued regime oppression of independent journalists and bloggers.”