Akaki Tsereteli, The Story of My Life, Ilia State University Press: Akaki Tsereteli (1840–1915), born near Sachkhere in western Georgia, is the second of the three Georgian writers of the late nineteenth century so renowned that they are known by their Christian names. He was a great-great grandson of Solomon I of Imeretia; his family had been leading noblemen at the court of the last Imeretian kings and had survived the collapse of the kingdom only to live in rural isolation, a decay which fired Akaki’s indignation (despite his affection for his parents) for a lifetime.
The Story of My Life is “the most enduring and the best-written prose narrative in Georgian literature of the period, it is a classic portrait of a rural gentile childhood and a mid-nineteenth century grammar school in the Russian empire. One of the world’s great autobiographical studies, it sheds light on a whole national character.”
The English translation was performed by a prominent British scholar and translator, Professor at the London University (QMW) – Mr. Donald Rayfield.
Shot’ha Rust’haveli, Man in the Panther’s Skin, senza indicazione: Shota Rustaveli (Georgian: შოთა რუსთაველი) (1172–1216) was a Georgian poet of the 12th century, and one of the greatest contributors to Georgian literature. He is author of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (ვეფხისტყაოსანი, Vepkhistkaosani), the Georgian national epic poem.
The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, translated by Marjory Scott Wardrop (Georgian: ვეფხისტყაოსანი Vepkhist’q’aosani meaning “Man in tiger’s skin”, “Owner of tiger’s skin”) is an epic poem, consisting of over 1600 shairi quatrains, was written in the 12th century by the Georgian epic-poet Shota Rustaveli, who was a Prince and Treasurer at the royal court of Queen Tamar of Georgia. The Knight in the Panther’s Skin is often seen as Georgia’s national epic. The poem has been highly praised by literary critics for its language and dramatic effect. The poem was first printed in 1712, in Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi).
Otar Chiladze, A Man Was Going Down the Road, Garnett Press: Set in Vani, the semi-legendary capital of Colchis (as western Georgia was called in antiquity), Otar Chiladze’s first novel of 1972 explores the Georgian ramifications of the myth of Jason, the Golden Fleece and Medea, weaving his own inventions with Greek myth and history. (Daedalus and Icarus, as well as King Minos play a part in the story, too.) At the same time, the novel explores very modern predicaments of the idealist who unwittingly destroys his family. The mythical Greek intervention in Colchis is subtly told by Chiladze as an allegory of Russia’s and the Soviet Union’s subversion and conquest of Georgia.
Otar Chiladze, Avelum, Garnett Press: This, Otar Chiladze’s fifth novel, is the second to be translated into English. The story of a Georgian writer whose private ‘empire of love’ collapses with the ‘empire of evil’, it was published in 1995, and is the first work in which Chiladze was free of Soviet censorship, living in an independent, albeit chaotic, strife-torn Georgia. He no longer clothes in myth his portrayal of the predicament of a Georgian and an intellectual under alien tyranny, but vents his indignation at the fate of Georgia in a novel which stretches for 33 years, the life of Christ, between the Tbilisi massacres by Soviet special forces of March 1956 and April 1989. This is a deeply personal work (but we must not identify the hero Avelum with his creator, even though Avelum is a novelist whose themes of the Minotaur and Icarus resemble Chiladze’s own). Its plot centres on a love affair between a western girl and a Soviet writer, and on the tragedy of an idealist who damages irreparably every woman he cares for, and, in the end, himself. (The Russian translation of Avelum was refused by every publisher in Moscow, even though Chiladze’s other novels were best sellers in Russia.)
AA. VV., Contemporary Georgian Fiction, Dalkey Archive Press: This volume brings together stories from nineteen of the most influential contemporary authors to have emerged from the Republic of Georgia. Spanning fifty years, but with a particular emphasis on post-independence fiction, this collection features a diverse range of styles and voices, offering a window onto a vibrant literary scene that has been largely inaccessible to the English-language reader until now. With stories addressing subjects as diverse as blood feuds, betrayal, sex, drugs, and Sergio Leone, it promises to challenge any existing preconceptions the reader might hold, and make available a rich and varied literary tradition unjustly overshadowed by the other ex-Soviet republics, until now.
Includes work by Mariam Bekauri, Lasha Bugadze, Zaza Burchuladze, Teona Dolenjashvili, Guram Dochanashvili, Rezo Gabriadze, Kote Jandieri, Irakli Javakhadze, Davit Kartvelishvili, Besik Kharanauli, Mamuka Kherkheulidze, Archil Kikodze, Ana Kordzaia, Zurab Lezhava, Maka Mikeladze, Aka Morchiladze, Zaal Samadashvili, Nugzar Shataidze, Nino Tepnadze, and David Dephy.
Lasha Bugadze, The Literature Express, Dalkey Archive Press: A bevy of mediocre writers are invited to a seminar aboard a specially chartered train, and this novel tracks their progress across Europe: bitter, bickering, and self-absorbed. Aboard this Literature Express is a Georgian author whose love for the wife of his own Polish translator seems as doomed as his hopes for international success; worse still, it seems all the novelists congregated on The Literature Express intend to write their next books about their time on the train . . . Can our Georgian author compete? Is there any hope for contemporary literature, or, barring that, at least his own little love affair? The Literature Express is a riotous parable about the state of literary culture, the European Union, and our own petty ambitions—be they professional or amorous.
Zaza Burchuladze, Adibas, Dalkey Archive Press: War is raging in Georgia, Russian fighter planes are thundering overhead, and yet, for some, the falling bombs cause no more impact than the slight ripple moving through the purified water of their swimming pools, or the rattling of a spoon in their cappuccino cups. Filtered through the bleary and cynical mind of Shako—a journalist famed for his appearance in Georgian Pepsi ads—Adibas is a tragic satire describing the progressive falsification of his life, invaded by consumer goods, consumer sex, consumer carnage. A “war novel” without a single battle scene, Zaza Burchuladze’s English-language debut anatomizes the Western world’s ongoing “feast in the time of plague.”
Zurab Karumidze, Dagny, or a Love Feast, Dalkey Archive Press: Fact and fantasy collide in this visionary, literary “feast” starring historical Norwegian poet and dramatist Dagny Juel (1867-1901), a beautiful woman whose life found her falling victim to one deranged male fantasy after another. An inspiration to such celebrities as Edward Munch, August Strindberg, and Gustav Vigeland, the “Queen” of Berlin bohemia in the 1890s, she met her death at the hands of her lover in a Tbilisi hotel room in 1901. Here, her story becomes a phantasmagorical mixture of religious mysticism and eroticism, bound up with the mythic origins of civilization, and taking in everything from shamanic art to Bach’s Art of the Fugue, from gnosticism to modernism, from magic to linguistics. Also present at this feast are Joseph Stalin, his terrorist friend Camo, the guru and composer George Gurdjieff, the Georgian poet Vazha Pshavela, August Strindberg, and Gornahor, a raven-like creature from the planet Saturn.
Aka Morchiladze, Journey to Karabakh, Dalkey Archive Press: A young man travels from Georgia to Karabakh, a contested region between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in order to buy cheap drugs. Taken prisoner first by the Azeris and then by the Armenians, he spends long enough away from home that he finds he isn’t really in such a hurry to escape. Is there anything waiting for him back home, so soon after the end of Georgia’s own war, where he’s weighed down by an alcoholic father and a pregnant girlfriend his family will never accept? What is freedom, and might it be enjoyed just as well in captivity as at large? One of the best-selling novels ever released in Georgia, and the basis for two feature films, this is a book about the tricky business of finding—and defining—liberty.