Alan Tschertschessow

Alan Cherchesov was born in 1962 as the son of an Ossetian father and Russian mother in Ordshonikidse, North Ossetia, today known as Wladikawkas in the Russian Federation where he still lives.

After completing his A-levels he studied Slavonic studies in his hometown; in 1985 he worked at the Institute for American Studies at the Moscow Lomonossow University and did his PhD there on ‘Mass culture and literature’. Today Alan Cherchesov is not only lecturer at the chair for world cultures of the North Ossetian Wladikawkas University but also vice chancellor of the Institute for Civilisation, founded by him, and managing Editor of the institute’s academic almanac. He also works as translator from the American literature. In 1990 Cherchesov’s first literary publication came out , the stories ‘And it will be Summer…’, ‘Nacked Island’ and the novella ‘Rain is a Lonely Passant’. His first big success was with his novel debut ‘Requiem for a Living Person’ (1994) a multilayered panorama of memories. Here from different perspectives, the story of a young orphan boy is told who settles in a remote Caucasian farming village. The initial distrust of the villagers slowly turns into open hatred. The lonely boy both rejects and keeps their customs and traditions according to his own will and so becomes a touch-stone for their daily culture. Through his unconventional contact with the villagers he comes into great wealth and yet at the same time he must remain a stranger like in the beginning. After many years he leaves the village upon which his figure, in the stories and memories of the villagers, becomes a legend.

Cherchesov’s epos is a call for tolerance, for a creative reflection of foreign and unknown things. With regard to his protagonist he tells the story of a hero, who through his solitude wins an incredible degree of freedom thanks to which he is sentenced to a magnificent damming of his own existence and in the end becomes a prisoner of his freedom. With this novel the author consciously doesn’t place himself in the line of contemporary post-modernists, but instead looks for the connection to the big Russian narrators like Dostoievski and Tolstoy and also to Faulkner, Camus or García Marquez.

Cherchesov’s novel ‘Wreath on the Grave of the Wind’ (2000) was awarded the ‘Apollon-Grigorjew Literary Prize’, one of the most highly regarded prizes in Russia today. It tells the story of three nameless outsiders who live on the shores of the cursed river near a Caucasian canyon. They reluctantly give shelter to a stranger called Azamas – his name being an allusion to the Ossetian myth. He forces them to encounter their past and to take on their names again, thereby accepting their individuality. Together they build houses and a bridge which causes more and more people to settle down there and form a small community. The author, who writes in Russian, achieves with his work a complicated balancing act as he is on the one hand an Ossetian writer who stands for Ossetian cultural identity and on the other hand he is celebrated in the Moscow feuilletons as a Russian author.

© international literature festival berlin