Scandals and discussions have erupted in Azerbaijan over the bestselling new novel – “Artush and Zaur.” This book by Azeri writer Alekper Aliyev (who has been in Yerevan on at least two occasions that I can recall) has written a novel about the romance between two young men — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani. For a highly conservative society like Azerbaijan (and Armenia for that matter), the publication of this book comes as a real shock.
“Taboos will not be easily overcome” declares the sub-title of “Artush and Zaur.” And in this bestseller novel about the romance between two young men — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani — Azerbaijan is experiencing the truth of that line.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani combination alone might raise eyebrows, but in this tradition-bound society, the homosexual orientation of the novel’s two lovers is stirring additional controversy. By contrast, a heterosexual Armenian-Azerbaijani romance published in late 2008 received a largely favorable reaction.
None of Azerbaijan’s large publishing houses would print the novel. Some said the book was disgraceful; others that they were afraid, according to the author, Alekper Aliyev. A publishing house allegedly located in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, finally accepted the job.
Aliyev, the author, says that a desire “to fight against petrified stereotypes” motivated him to write the book.
This story, carried by EurasiaNet, attracted my attention for two reasons:
1. It is genuinely interesting
2. Why on earth did they put that news item into the Civil Society category?