A private publisher in Yerevan has translated into Armenian and printed a controversial Azerbaijani novel that casts a sympathetic light on Armenians in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The novel “Stone Dreams” by Akram Aylisli, a renowned Azerbaijani writer, portrays brutal campaigns by his fellow Azerbaijanis against Armenians, notably the notorious January 1990 pogrom in Baku in which Armenians were murdered by the dozens and expelled from the city.
The book’s publication in a Russian literary magazine late last year sparked a government-orchestrated outcry in Azerbaijan recently. Government officials, pro-government politicians and public figures there accused Aylisli of betraying his nation by ignoring the sufferings of Azerbaijanis in the Karabakh dispute.
In early February, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stripped Aylisli of the title of “People's Writer” as well as his presidentially awarded pension. A corresponding decree signed by Aliyev said the 75-year-old author is punished for "for distorting facts in Azerbaijani history and insulting the feelings of Azerbaijani people."
A leading member of Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaycan Party accused Aylisli of secretly being Armenian. Some Azerbaijani lawmakers went so far as to call for a DNA test to determine his ethnic heritage.
Aylisli dismissed such criticism and accused Azerbaijani officials of exploiting the Karabakh conflict for their own political gain.
Some of Aylisli’s colleagues in Armenia were quick to voice sympathy for the embattled writer. The Yerevan-based publishing house Nork, which also publishes an eponymous literary magazine, went further, translating the Aylisli’s book into Armenian. The first copies of its Armenian edition were circulated this week.
“Interest towards the book in Armenia has been commensurate with the uproar in Azerbaijan,” said Leonid Zilfugharian, the book’s Armenian translator. “The book is unprecedented not because such issues have never been publicly discussed in Azerbaijan before but because they have been raised by such a prominent writer,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).