Glimpse into Georgia’s literary past

Old Georgian literature. Photo by N. Alavidze., Jun 01, 2015, Tbilisi, Georgia

Writer and journalist Peter Nasmyth has been travelling the Caucasus for more than 10 years, writing on the area for most UK newspapers, as well as the Washington Post. His familiarity with Georgia began during the late 1980s, when he served as correspondent in the Soviet Union.

Now, writing for Open Democracy, Nasmyth has described three Georgian texts that have been translated into English for the first time and why translating such pieces is vital for the wider world.

When a small but strategic country with a rich literary history receives its first credible contemporary translations, one feels a new level of international companionship has been reached. The last couple of years have finally allowed us to say this safely about Georgia – a nation, which, prior to the time of Shakespeare, possessed a literary inheritance almost comparable to that of England,” writes Nasmyth.

"For the 70 years until 1991, Georgia had been subsumed into the Soviet Union and more or less disappeared from the world stage. Mostly it flickered in and out of international consciousness via references in 19th century Russian literature. Mikhail Lermontov's Hero of Our Time opens on the Georgian Military Highway; his Romantic poem The Demon is set there, and the area often features in Pushkin and Tolstoy's work.

"But its native writers were rarely allowed to reach out of their mountain fastness – until independence in the 1990s, when the Russian language began its rapid decline in the Caucasus.”

He said the translating of Georgian writings has offered a rare and vital insight into Georgia’s past; "this new doorway into a culture is useful on many levels, particularly for such a famously unpredictable nation whose political twists and turns love to confound the experts”.

Meanwhile in 2013 the Georgian National Book Centre translated 13 contemporary books by Georgian authors into three European languages. Then in late 2014 the Centre, with the Ministry of Culture, offered people the change to read 11 pieces of Georgian literature translated in to several languages; English, German, French, Italian, Swedish, Hungarian, Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabian, Turkish and Macedonian.

Read’s story about some of Georgia’s translated literature.

For further reading, see the full list of ‘Georgian Literature in Translations’ on the Georgian National Book Centre’s latest online catalogue here.

Read Nasmyth’s full article here: