Georgian fiction now available to the world

  • "Some of Georgia’s best-selling literature can now be experienced by international audiences."

By Tako Svanidze

Journalist of, 10 Feb 2014, Tbilisi,Georgia

Some of Georgia’s best-selling literature can now be experienced by international audiences.

Thirteen pieces of Georgian fiction and non-fiction work have been translated into English, German, French, Italian, Swedish, Hungarian and Dutch, for international literature enthusiasts.

Georgia’s Ministry of Culture founded an initiative to translate the books, while publishers of the novels provided the Georgian books to be exported to foreign markets and managed meetings with authors and readers, said a Ministry representative.

As well as the 13 books, three well-known poems by famous Georgian author Vaja Pshavela have also been translated and published in three languages: English, French and German.

The Ministry of Culture’s press service said the translation initiative fell under the "Book and Literature Promoting Program".

Synopses of the translated works

 Adibas by Zaza Burchuladze published in Germany.

Described as a "war novel” but without the battle scenes, this tale follows the life of a cynical journalist drifting through a war-torn Georgia - a consumerist wasteland. 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 advertisements—Adibas is a tragic satire describing the progressive falsification of his life, invaded by consumer goods, sex and carnage.

Antonio and David by Jemal Karchkhadze, published in Sweden.

Sometime around 1600AD, young peddler Bartolomeo d'Aniti is called to court in the Italian city where he lives. He is ordered to accompany a delegation to the distant land of Georgia, they called it as Colchis. On the voyage to Georgia he gets to know Antonio, a former priest who was accused of devil worship. They become good friends but the friendship with the fallen priest will soon draw Bartolomeo in a web of intrigue in the foreign country. Against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and lush valleys, dense forests and the black sea, a story of slave traders, bandits, bounty hunters, noble princes, priests and false counts unfold to develop the story into a thrilling chamber play about possibilities and limitations.

Avelum by Otar Chiladze, published in United Kingdom.

The novel depicts a love affair between a Western girl and a Soviet writer. It is a story of a Georgian writer whose private ‘empire of love’ collapses with the ‘empire of evil’. The story is a tragedy of an idealist who damages every woman he cares for, and, in the end, himself. Avelum is Otar Chiladze's fifth novel. It was published in 1995 and was the first work of Chiladze when he was free of Soviet censorship and living in an independent nation.

Dagny or a Love Feast by Zurab Karumidze, published in United States.

As the title suggests, two contrasting stories unfold in this novel: One is of the Norwegian poetess and dramatist Dagny Juel (1867-1901) - a beautiful, artistic, creative woman, whose errant life brings her to a totally foreign country where she dies falling victim to deranged male fantasies. The other story is a bizarre mixture of religious mysticism and eroticism, mythic origins of arts and politics. This mix of themes and ideas is rendered in a story of a so-called Agape - the Love Feast - a half-religious half-artistic event. The place where the Love Feast interacts with reality is a city of limitless feasting and wine-crazed discussion - Tbilisi.

Flight from USSR by David Turashvili published in the Netherlands and Italy.

The book is based on the real story of a group of young Georgians in 1983 who were living in the Soviet Union era. The youth were passionate about aircrafts and attempted to get to the United States by hijacking a plane. But their attempt failed and caused the deaths of many aircraft crew and passengers. The youths were arrested, judged in a Soviet court of law and charged with terrorism and sentenced to death – but one pregnant girl was allowed to live. The group was searching for freedom but instead they were recognised as terrorists. The case of "the aircraft boys” in Post-Soviet Georgia is still discussed to this day. There are current debates whether the young people were terrorists or heroes who defiantly opposed the Soviet Government. In May 2001 this famous literature was turned into a theatre production, titled "Jeans Generation”, which was performed at the Theatre of Freedom.

For old hearts and swords (SPEGEL RIKET) by Aka Morchiladze, published in Sweden.

A grand dramatic story in 54 short chapters, Morchiladze tells the tale of abduction, a love story and a pursuit across 19th-century Georgia at the time of its annexation by the Russian Empire. The characters are linked by strange quirks of fate and ends with a tremendous climax. The book begins with the release of a young Georgian nobleman, Baduna Pavneli, who is alleged to have killed a Russian officer. He travels from Tiflis (Tbilisi) to the west in search of his vanished brother while the Russian police continue to pursue him across Georgia. Like a classical tragic hero, he risks everything without knowing what awaits him at the end of his journey, at the Black Sea. Once there, the past -and his Russian pursuers - catch up with him. One of the political entanglements – Georgia has been under Russian rule for almost 25 years and the Russian-Ottoman war is about to begin –unfolds a very private tragedy.

I,Margarita (Ich, Margarita) by Anna Kordzaia Samadashvili, published in Germany.

The novel tells tales of men and women, love and hate, sex and disappointment in a way that’s expressive, emotional, light and a little cynical. The author lives and works as a writer, translator and cultural journalist, mostly in Tbilisi.

Jurney to Karabakh written by Aka Morchiladze, produced in United States.

The plot revolved around a drug deal-gone wrong and highlights issues of feeling free within the depths of confinement. In the novel, a young man travels from Georgia to Karabakh, a contested region between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to buy cheap drugs. After being taken prisoner first by the Azeris and then by the Armenians, the man spends long enough away from home to realize that he isn’t in such a hurry to escape his homeland. The book poses the question: What is freedom and can it be enjoyed just as well in captivity as at large? A Trip to Karabakh is one of Georgia’s best-selling novels and was the basis of two feature films. The book’s protagonist finds himself in the tricky business of finding, and defining, liberty.

The Caucasian Georgia by Hajnalka Babirák, published in Hungary.

This book contributed heavily to ongoing debates on the origins of the Caucasian wars, the process of "Sovietisation” and occupation of the Caucasian region. It also touches on ways to improve your understanding of European history after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. It is an important handbook for all types of readers who are interested in Caucasus region, and especially in Georgia. The Caucasian Georgia is the author's second book about Georgia.

The Inflatable Angel by Zaza Burchuladze, produced in France.

At exactly the same time as the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano and Europe’s skies were filled with ash causing airlines to cancel flights, a young married couple holds a spiritual session in a small apartment in Tbilisi. Their aim is to call up the spirit of George Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff was a famous esoteric, writer, choreographer and composer in the early 20th century, and held a position of importance to Georgians but other nations. (The Turks and Persians used to refer to him as "Gurdzhistan"). Now, in 21st-century Tbilisi, Gurdjieff appears as a result of his calling, not only in spirit, but in flesh and blood and because he simply will not go away again, the couple asks Gurdjieff to help them to get rich. Gurdjieff uses all the means available to a resurrected esoteric: kidnapping, blackmail, hypnosis, metamorphosis and miracle cures to their wish.

The Literature Express by Lasha Bugadze produced in United States.

The main character of the story is a Georgian author and at the heart of the novel is a love story between the protagonist and his Polish translator’s wife. However their romance is as unsuccessful as the central protagonist’s attempts at literary success. At the end of his fascinating voyage into Europe, we find out that all authors participating in a seminar are writing their new books on the literature express. Let’s see how the Georgian author will fare.

The taste of ashes (DER GESCHMACK VON ASCHE) by Beso Khvedelidze published in Germany.

This story reveals the tale of a high-society journalist who unintentionally turns into a war reporter and fills his notebook with interviews with soldiers, wounded and hostages, and letters to his mother. Whether a return to civilian life is still possible is one of the main questions of the novel and despite an unexpected conclusion, is it possible to escape this inferno? In dialogue- rich language that causes an almost turbulent immediacy of the narrative, the author spans from the political situation to the events of everyday life and interpersonal relationships.

Popularization of Georgian Books

"As part of the Book and Literature Promoting Program we are planning to translate Georgian books into more foreign languages. This will contribute to the popularization of Georgian books throughout the world,” the Ministry representative said.

In the upcoming weeks, the Program will separate from the Ministry and will become an Entity of Public Law.

Deputy Minister of Culture Manana Berikashvili said the Entity of Public Law was entitled to seek funds independently. Furthermore, all book markets required existing separate organisation in the field of transition, therefore organisers will prepare for this project for the entire year.

At last week’s presentation of the book translations, Berikashvili announced the Ministry would take part in the London Book Fair in April, with support of the British Council. Furthermore, Georgia had been invited as guests to the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018.

Meanwhile, a literacy expert announced good news for lovers of modern Georgian literature. Electronic version of the translated books will be available in the near future. Georgian e-books web portal is working to create e-version of the books.

"We are working on this issue so people will be able to buy electronic versions of these books very soon,” a representative said.