Der Perser

Alexander Ilichevsky | Andreas Tretner

Alexander Ilichevsky: Der Perser
Translated from the Russian by Andreas Tretner | Pers
Suhrkamp Verlag 2016 | Astrel, Moskau 2010 (2013)

“Alexander Ilichevsky’s novel Der Perser is a raging torrent of oil that has broken its banks. Full of intensity, unruly and continually surprising, the Russian author tells the story of two friends in the oil region around Baku in Azerbaijan. Ilja, a geologist, who can literally hear the black gold under the earth, returns from the USA in search of his wife only to meet his childhood friend and religious thinker, Haşem, a member of a group of militant nature conservationists. With his rich vocabulary, Andreas Tretner lends this sweeping narrative, which includes lovingly written digressions on subjects as diverse as bacteria and falconry, a rhythmical power, generating an intricate, polyvocal portrait of a region of the world that is at once peripheral and global.”
(The jury on the shortlist nomination 2016)

Der Perser

Ilja, an Azerbaijani geologist working for the oil industry, returns to the peninsula of Abșeron following a failed relationship in the USA in order to track down his childhood friend Haşem. The two friends could not have developed more differently. The broadly educated Haşem, the son of Iranian refugees, lives as an ornithologist amongst a group of gamekeepers in the nature reserve of Şirvan, protecting the animals from the hunting excesses of the rich. His lifestyle and aura captivate Ilja, throwing his life into question. However, instead of hardened fronts, their opposing characters meet in continual negotiations between science and poesy, technology and nature which lace the plot in the form of lengthy digressions. In the vein of the artificial language of the Soviet Futurist Velimir Chlebnikow, the novel synthesizes a global thought experiment.

Alexander Ilitschewski, © Suhrkamp Verlag

About the author

Alexander Ilichevsky, born in Sumgait/Azerbaijan in 1970, grew up in Moscow where he studied mathematics and theoretical physics. Following graduation in 1993 he taught at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. In the 1990s he emigrated to California when he continued to pursue a scientific career which also took him to Israel. Following a trip to Amsterdam he returned to Baku in 1998. Since then he has published many volumes of poetry and essays, books of short stories and novels which have received numerous prestigious prizes. Alexander Ilichevsky has lived in Tel Aviv since 2013. Der Perser is the second part of a tetralogy of which the third and fourth parts still remain to be translated.

Recent publications in German translation:

  • Matisse, translated from the Russian by Friederike Meltendorf and Valerie Engler; Matthes & Seitz 2015 (Matis; Verlag Wremja, Moskau 2006)

Recent publications in Russian:

  • Sprava nalevo; AST, Moskau 2015
  • Orfiki; AST, Moskau 2013

Andreas Tretner, © A. Tretner/Suhrkamp Verlag

About the translator

Andreas Tretner, born in Gera in 1959, studied Russian and Bulgarian in Leipzig and has worked as a literary translator since 1985. For his work as an editor, publisher, critic, journalist and media educator he received numerous awards. He has translated, amongst others, the following authors into German: Viktor Pelewin, Vladimir Sorokin und Jáchym Topol. In 2012 he received the Internationaler Literaturpreis - Haus der Kulturen der Welt for his translation from the Russian of Michail Schischkin’s Venushaar.

Recent translations:

  • Michail Schischkin: Briefsteller; Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 2012 (Pis'movnik; AST, Moskau 2010)
  • Michail Schischkin: Venushaar; Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 2011 (Wenerin Wolos; published in the Russian literary magazine Snamja, Nr. 4/5/6-2005)