Reviews

One of the first initiatives taken by the young but richly endowed, exceptionally active and productive Marjani Fund (www.marjani.ru) in Moscow, this new literary and philosophical journal (first annual, then quarterly) aims at playing the role of a forum for better mutual knowledge and exchange between the extremely varied national and confessional cultures of the Federation of Russia, with particular interest in the interaction between Russian and Muslim civilisations. Verses and prose by modern and present-day authors neighbour with editions of texts, oftentimes from oral traditions, by prominent representatives of Oriental studies in Russia ― in volume 2007/1 [pp. 33-47] and following, the re-edition of a translation from Chaghatay Turkic [‘Sart’] language of semi-popular lyric tale (hikaya) “The Adventures of Prince Sanawbar” made in 1908 by Nikolai P. Ostroumov (1846-1930), one of the most prominent Russian Turkologists of the nineteenth century, shortly introduced here by scholars Igor’ Alekseev and Pavel Basharin. Besides occasional studies on the reflection of Islam in the work of classical Russian writers (e.g., Medovarov Maksim, “Gogol’, khristianstvo i islam: v tsentre kollizii,” 2009/4 [6]: 117-9), the life and work of non-academic specialists of Oriental studies also constitute a key rubric of the journal (e.g., Boris Syromiatnikov, “Rossiia, vostok i zapad glazami ‘Sigmy’ [Russia, the East and the West in the Eyes of ‘Sygma’],” 2009/1[3]: 91-103, ill.; 2009/2[4]: 97-111, ill.; 2009/3 [5]: 110-29 ― on the life of journalist and would-be dilettante explorer Sergei N. Syromiatnikov, and his encounter with the British in the Persian Gulf in the early 1900s). The journal plays a particular role as a discoverer of contemporary domains poorly accessible for its Russian audience either through the publication of variations by Russian authors of themes identified as Muslim (e.g., Iuliia Mel’nikova, “Bashnia Suiumbike [Suiumbike’s Tower],” 2009/2 [4]: 52-78), or through numerous translations from languages of the Russian Federation (especially from the Northern Caucasus: Kumyk poet Ahmed Jachaev in 2008/1 [2], pp. 71-81; Noghai poet Dostambet Azauly in 2009/1 [3]: 34-44), from former Soviet Central Asia (Tajik poet Emom-Ali in 2009/1[3]: 54-61; present-day poetry from Kazakhstan in 2009/3[5]: 90-108), and from foreign countries of the world of Islam (Iranian short-story writer Khosrow Shahani in 2009/1 [3]: 21-32; Iranian novelist Nadir Ibrahimi in 2009/2 [4]: 6-30; 2009/3 [5]: 6-32; 2009/4 [6]: 6-33; American author Mohsin Hamid in 2009/3[5]: 70-88; present-day poetry from Saudi Arabia in 2009/4 [6]: 68-94, etc.). In parallel, the journal does not hesitate to confront some of the most acute issues related to the status of Islam and Islamic culture in present-day Russian society (e.g., Kagarlitskii Boris, “Islamofobiia,” 2008/1: 153-8; Pobedonostseva Anzhelika, “Pervyi – ne znachit luchshii (Obraz musul’manina v romane Valentina Pikulia ‘Baiazet’) [The First Does not Mean the Best: The image of the Muslim in the Novel “Beyazıt” by Valentin Pikul’],” 2009/3 [5]: 142-7; Mukhamedzhanov Il’dar, “Zvezda i smert’ Valiakhmeta Sadura [The Star and Death of Valiahmet Sadur],” 2009/4 [5]: 121-2; or a small file on the present-day Sufi movement of the ‘Murabitun’ in 2009/2 [4]: 117-39). The protagonist of an overall valuation of religion and ethics in general in present-day Russian society, Chetki proposes crossed reflections on relations between religion and literature (see notably the mutual echo between Renat Bekkin, one of the journal’s main writers, and Nikita Eliseev in 2009/1 [3]). A continuator of an editorial writing tradition long represented in the defunct USSR by a composite journal like Druzhba narodov, though in a completely different spirit, Chetki does not always avoid the traps of political correctness nor of finer feelings (a disaster for literature, as used to put it Victor Hugo, to whom the Editors could have referred besides their main inspirer Count Lev Tolstoy). However, the generous initiative of its publication should be saluted for the diversity of its content and for the high literary quality of most translations proposed in the journal, as well as for the high technical level of the overall layout. Through the variety of its articles and rich book review section, Chetki provides the Russian readership with an attractive instrument of reflection on the state of the current debate on and around Islam in present-day Russian society.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-1.3.A-57