Tbilisi: city of wandering books

23 Apr 2014

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By Lali Tsertsvadze

Agenda.ge,23 Apr 2014 Tbilisi,Georgia

Pick a book you really like, write down your message on the first page, then leave it somewhere in the street and voila!

You have become a part of an exciting literary initiative started in Georgia about a month ago.

"Hello. I'm a wandering book. That means I wasn't born to spend years accumulating dust on a shelf: I'm meant to wander and please as many eyes and minds as possible. Please, after you read me, leave me somewhere where I can find a new reader."

Books with this kind of messages can be found anywhere in Tbilisi: bus stops, cafes, parks, doorsteps.

New "epidemic”

It’s simple but thrilling. You write down the rules on a book, leave it in a public place where someone else can find it, read it and then set it free again.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Thousands of people in Georgia have already been affected by the "epidemic” called Wandering Books.

A young Georgian writer Jaba Zarkua’s initiative of letting books wander in Tbilisi streets became more popular than the initiator himself could ever expect.

A Facebook page of Wandering Books that was created about a month ago gained 10 000 Likes over a night and has more than 46 000 followers today.

Then the Wandering Books spread to other Georgian cities as well and finally it started traveling the world. Georgians or Georgia-lovers living abroad released their own books in different countries around the globe.

Photo from the official Facebook page of Wandering Books.

Some started uploading photos of the books they set free or found in the street to Wandering Books Facebook page. One of the photos of a book released in Atlanta, Georgia, US read:

"I’m from Georgia, but not this one. From another Georgia, the country. I’m sure you will enjoy reading me.”

The book was Journey to Karabakh by a Georgian writer, Aka Morchiladze.

One can come across the greatest authors of world literature in the streets of Georgia.

Who is behind Wandering Books?

It all began a month ago, when Zarkua started thinking of easy ways of delivering his books to the public. This was when he came up with the idea of the Wandering Books. He shared his idea with his Facebook friends and then set up a Facebook page to popularize the initiative.

Teona Gelashvili, a sociology student at Tbilisi State University was walking down the street near her university when she saw the very first "abandoned” book on a bench, on April 1.

It was Noah's Child by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.

Teona Gelashvili found two different books by the same author; Photo by N. Alavidze

She did not get surprised as she already knew about the initiative from Facebook. She took the book, read it and was just about to set it free again next morning when she found another book by the very same author.

Once her family members are done with reading M. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, Gelashvili plans to set both books free again in order to make them available for a new reader.

"I am so happy finding the books but I am not sure I will ever be able to release my own ones because I cannot spare them,” Gelashvili said holding the book tightly with both hands and smiling.

Giorgi Arobelidze released a book near Tbilisi State University. Photo by N. Alavidze

Contrary to this, Giorgi Arobelidze, a politology student at the same university, could not wait to finish reading The Romantic Egoist by Frederic Beigbeder and then share the pleasure of reading it with others.

"It was such a good book; I just wanted to let others read it as well. That is why I left if in the street for a new reader,” Arobelidze said.

This lucky family found the book Arobelidze left on the bench near Tbilisi State University. Photo by N. Alavidze

The Wondering Books epidemic infected high level officials as well. When a week ago, the Georgian Infrastructure Minister resigned from his governmental role to run for Tbilisi Mayor, he took three books from his former working room to leave them in the street.

The trio David Narmania picked up consisted of the collected poems by Vazha-Pshavela, a classic of the Georgian literature, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann and Public Administration Basics, a book by himself.

Ex-Infrastructure Minister David Narmania leaves his books in one of the parks in Tbilisi. Photo from the Ministry's press office 

The most wonderful epidemic that has ever spread anywhere – this is how the readers assessed the Wondering Books phenomenon.

"A good book that one unexpectedly finds in the street can change a person, at least, for a minute. In case they read it – then forever,” Zarkua said.

He then suggested a game named the Wondering Book against a grumpy neighbour: Take a good book and leave it at the doorstep of the grumpiest neighbour in your building so that they cannot avoid seeing it in the morning when leaving home in a bad mood or in the evening when returning home tired and stressed.

"Make the world positive! It is so easy,” he said.

Wondering kindle

If some think reading books is not as popular today as it was before, then they might find it impressive that Edo Ardzenadze from Batumi, a Black seaside city in Western Georgia, released a kindle.

There still is the kindle wandering in Batumi streets with a caption on the screen saying "please, read only one book with me and then let me wander again. Do not forget to charge me.”

The Wondering Books are just about to reach probably the most sensitive part of Georgia – so called "beyond the border”.

Photo by N. Alavidze

Some readers left books near the administrative lines with the country’s breakaway regions. Now they are looking forward to the books to reach "from here to there”.

"It is a little utopian idea but let’s believe that books can do important things,” the Wandering Books Facebook page administrator wrote.

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