Two of Georgia’s best loved writers take us on the rollercoaster of the country’s turbulent history.
This is an online event. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.
The settings of Aka Morchiladze’s award-winning fiction range from 19th-century Georgia under Russian imperial rule, to the bread queues and power cuts of the 1990s, and the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Dato Turashvili was a student protest leader in the run-up to independence in 1991 and his bestselling subsequent novel Jeans Generation became emblematic of Soviet brutality. His new play Republic of Georgia is set in 1921. As the Red Army prepares to invade the fledgling republic, elected politicians, unsure of aid from European powers or the US, flee on a train bound for the Black Sea and exile – little knowing that 70 years would pass before independence is restored.
Hosted by award-winning cultural journalist and critic Maya Jaggi, Artistic Director of Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern.
The conversation will be preceded by an introduction to Georgia’s first democratic republic.
In association with Maya Jaggi and Writers’ House of Georgia. Part of Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern: Where Europe Meets Asia (25-28 February 2021), an online festival of Georgian writers from the Caucasus, with food and song, inspired by the café culture of the first democratic republic of 1918-21.
For further information visit georgiasfantastictavern.com
Learn more about the British Library’s Georgian collections in this blog article written by curator Anna Chelidze.
Aka Morchiladze is the pen name of Gio Akvlediani, a novelist and screenwriter who lived in London in the 2010s. Several of his more than 20 books have won Georgia’s highest literary award, the Saba prize – including his novel Obolé in 2011 - and are translated into a dozen languages. Born in 1966 in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, he studied and later taught history at Tbilisi State University – founded in 1918 as the first university in Georgia and the south Caucasus. Morchiladze's debut novel of 1992, Journey to Karabakh, (translated by Elizabeth Heighway), followed a privileged youth from Tbilisi looking for drugs who strays into the Nagorno-Karabakh war, caught between Armenian, Azeri and Russian factions. The book revolutionised Georgian fiction, using demotic language to capture a post-Soviet era of violence and social change, and its 2005 film adaptation by director Levan Tutberidze heralded Georgia’s cinematic revival after the years of economic collapse. A later novel, Of Old Hearts and Swords, is a tale of abduction, chivalry and cultural misunderstanding set in 19th-century Georgia after Russian annexation in 1801. Morchiladze, who has also worked as a sports journalist and presented landmark cultural programmes on television, has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking.
Dato Turashvili is a mountaineer and anti-Soviet student leader turned novelist, playwright and screenwriter, was born in Tbilisi in 1966. He studied literature, film and art history at Tbilisi, London and Madrid universities, and was also an activist in the Rose revolution of 2003 that ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze. His new 60-minute play Republic of Georgia, translated by Madonna Tkhelidze, had a staged reading by Voyage Theater Company at the New York Public Library in April 2019. Among his more than 17 books, many translated into several languages, the bestselling novel Jeans Generation is based on the true story of seven young Georgians who hijacked a Soviet airliner in 1983 to escape to the West – most of whom were executed. Powerfully emblematic of a trapped generation, the novel began as a popular stage play for the Georgian Free Theatre in 2001 and is translated into English by Maya Kiasashvili as Flight from the USSR. Turashvili, a popular TV book-show host who has also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, translates prose and poetry from Russian, Spanish and English, and has taken part in mountaineering expeditions in the Caucasus, Andes and Himalayas.
Maya Jaggi is Artistic Director of Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern: Where Europe Meets Asia and Critic at Large for Words Without Borders in New York. A former staff journalist on the Guardian’s international news desk, she was a profile writer and fiction critic for the Guardian Review in 1999–2015. She has reported on culture from five continents, and her writing has appeared widely, including in Financial Times, The Economist, The New York Times and New York Review of Books. Educated at Oxford University and LSE, she was a DAAD Art and Media fellow in Berlin, and has given masterclasses in cultural journalism as an EU Senior Expert in post-Soviet capitals including Tbilisi. Among her awards is an honorary doctorate from the Open University for ‘extending the map of international writing.’ Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern is a pandemic-era sequel to Where Europe Meets Asia: Georgia 25, the UK’s first festival of contemporary Georgian writers and film which she directed in 2016 – and which was described by leading Georgian novelist Aka Morchiladze as ‘memorably filled with curiosity and benevolence … the first close contact of Georgian literature with Britain, where it is almost unknown.’
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