Category: Georgia

Iliazd: Восхищение (Rapture)

The latest addition to my website is Iliazd‘s Восхищение (Rapture). Iliazd was a futurist and surrealist so, though this is seemingly a conventional adventure story, featuring a bandit, it has surrealist touches, as well as influences from Central Asia myth, legend and culture, it also somewhat subverts the conventional adventure story. The hero is Laurence, a man who seeks to avoid being conscripted as he does not want to kill but then becomes bandit … who kills. He is based in a village, living with a family of people who have wens (i.e. cysts or goitres) and they control the area but Laurence gets taken in, first by a man who wants to use him for a big heist and then a party leader who wants him to help overthrow the system. It all goes badly. Meanwhile he has met Ivlita, daughter of a widowed retired forester, and they fall in love but the course of true love does not run smoothly. Iliazd embellishes the book with colourful and often surrealist touches. These touches and the subversion of the adventure genre help make this a fascinating book, first appearing in English eighty-seven years after its initial publication in Russian.

Nino Haratischwili: Das achte Leben (The Eighth Life)

The latest addition to my website is Nino Haratischwili‘s Das achte Leben (The Eighth Life). This is a monumental Georgian novel that tells the story of several generations of a Georgian family, from the beginning of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century. The story is told against the background of the history of Georgia and the history of the Soviet Union during this period, both of which have a huge effect on the family members. The family members often make poor choices, particularly in their choice of romantic partners and we follow their up and their downs, with real people, particularly Lavrentiy Beria having a huge influence on their lives. It is a wonderfully imaginative and colourful story, full of life as well as full of sadness, but never leaving us bored.

Mikheil Javakhishvili: კვაჭი კვაჭანტირაძე (Kvachi)


The latest addition to my website is Mikheil Javakhishvili‘s კვაჭი კვაჭანტირაძე (Kvachi). This is a book I have long been wanting to read, even since I read about it in Donald Rayfield’s essential The Literature of Georgia. We must be grateful to Dalkey Archive Press for publishing it (in a translation by Rayfield) in English, in their excellent Georgian literature series, which has revealed already several first class novels. This one tells the story of a loveable but thoroughly scurrilous rogue. His birth is auspicious – the obligatory thunderstorm – and he is precocious. His first activities consist of sleeping with women and charging them, starting with his (married) landlady but he soon gravitates to more sophisticated scams. He builds up a gang, which helps and accompanies him, and they are happy to rob poor widows and rich men alike. They move away from Kutaisi to Tbilisi, then to Odessa and onto St Petersburg, where our hero becomes friendly with Rasputin and, thus, with the Tsar. This, naturally, gives him access to a whole range of sophisticated scams. The gang moves on to the rest of Europe – Warsaw, Vienna, Paris and London – before returning to Russia to mastermind the murder of Rasputin and both the February and October Russian revolutions. He is imprisoned numerous times but manages to escape, he is almost killed on many occasions but escapes. He falls in love with far too many women (his major weakness) and makes and loses fortunes with monotonous regularity but we cannot help liking him. It is a wonderful book and long overdue in English.

Zaza Burchuladze: რომანი (Adibas)


The latest addition to my website is Zaza Burchuladze‘s რომანი (Adibas), another fine novel from Dalkey Archive Press’s wonderful Georgian Literature Series. This one is a supremely cynical novel by a writer known as the bad boy of Georgian literature. In this novel, Shako (aka Gio) is an actor, in between assignments, who spends most of his time hanging out with friends, engaging in sex with a series of girlfriends and doing drugs. He and his friends seem to have few interests beyond these activities, with scoring the latest drug their main concern. However, as they go on with their lives and gratifications, Georgia is under invasion by Russia. Though Tbilisi may be bombed or even be under chemical attack, they really do not care all that much. It may be now and then a minor inconvenience. A Russian drone approaches Shako in the street but he finds it rather amusing, though the street cleaner nearby does not. A road is closed but that merely means rescheduling his meeting. As long as he can get his oral sex and his drugs and some occasional acting work, everything is fine and who cares about Abkhazia? This is a very amusing and very cynical novel and we should be grateful to Dalkey Archive press for making it available to us in English.

Zurab Karumidze: დაგნი ანუ სიყვარულის დღესასწაული (Dagny or a Love Feast)


The latest addition to my website is Zurab Karumidze‘s დაგნი ანუ სიყვარულის დღესასწაული (Dagny or a Love Feast). Dagny is Dagny Juel, a Norwegian writer, model for Munch and lover of Strindberg, who, in 1901, travelled to Tbilisi, Georgia, where, after three weeks, she was murdered by her Polish lover, Władysław Emeryk. The novel is allegedly about the last three weeks of her life but it is about much more as, in Tbilisi at the time, were the young revolutionary who would become Stalin and the spiritual teacher George Gurdjeff. Karumidze, without any evidence, surmises that Dagny met both of them and we follow their activities in Tbilisi during that period, though with a lot of mocking. While Karumidze discusses the people he calls shamans (which includes Gurdjeff) and false shamans (which includes Stalin), he also treats us to a wonderful romp through Tbilisi at the time with food, drink and sex naturally featuring but also Japhetic linguistics, revolutionary terror, higher consciousness, the post-modern novel, The Great Game, art, music and astronomy, with even an appearance from an extraterrestrial watching down over a young Albert Schweitzer. It is all glorious fun, albeit with something of a serious intent hidden in there somewhere, and shows that the novel in Georgia is as alive as it is elsewhere.

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