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FAZIL ISKANDER was born in 1929, in Sukhumi, and one of Russia’s leading writers. In 1938, his father was exiled from the USSR and Fazil was raised by his Abkhazian relatives, such that Abkhazian traditions and multi-ethnicity of Sukhumi had a lasting influence on his life and work. Iskander’s first literary success was the novel Sozvezdiye Koslotura (The Goatibex Constellation), and his many short stories have garnered him a wide following. Beginning in 1966, Iskander began to publish a number of stories which were later compiled into what would become his major work, the novel Sandro iz Chegema (Sandro of Chegem, published in two volumes in the U.S., one under this name, the second as The Gospel According to Chegem, though not all stories were included). At the center of these stories was the reckless, fun-loving tamada and dancer, Uncle Sandro, who embodied all the brightness of the Abkhazian spirit.