Join us for two events and three authors that will take you right to the heart of Georgian history.
18.30-19.15: From The Knight in the Panther Skin to Stalin’s Great Terror: Georgia and its Bards
Donald Rayfield’s Edge of Empires reveals a Georgia fought over by Ottoman, Persian and Russian empires, a stage on the Silk Road and Colchis. Author of The Literature of Georgia and Stalin and His Hangmen, and editor-in-chief of the Georgian-English dictionary, he also translated a classic novel which William Boyd in Guardian Review described as the ‘sardonic picaresque masterpiece of 20th-century Georgian literature … a scabrous, disturbing story of a conman … confronting the demons of Stalin’s Russia.’ Mikheil Javakhishvili’s novel Kvachi (Dalkey Archive 2014) was banned in the 1930s.
Professor Rayfield, emeritus professor of Georgian and Russian at Queen Mary University of London, tells Maya Jaggi, award-winning cultural journalist and Artistic Director of Georgia25, why Georgians cherish the ‘golden age’ of Queen Tamar and the medieval poet Shota Rustaveli (author of the national epic The Knight in the Panther Skin) and about the fate of writers such as Javakhishvili swept up in Stalinist purges.
19.30-20.15: Flight from the USSR: Eyewitnesses on the Road to Freedom
Aka Morchiladze and Dato Turashvili, two of post-Soviet Georgia’s bestselling novelist-screenwriters, will be in conversation with documentary filmmaker Teresa Cherfas about the rocky path to independence in 1991, the civil war that followed and the legacy of the ‘90s – a time of bread queues and blackouts. They also look back on their early fiction exploring the nature of freedom, and on the stories they chose to tell.
Aka Morchiladze is the pen name of Giorgi Akhvlediani, whose début novel Journey to Karabakh (1992) was a landmark in post-Soviet fiction. A privileged youth from Tbilisi on a car journey, looking for drugs, strays into the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The 2005 film adaptation as Trip to Karabakh heralded a cinematic revival.
The author is also a sportswriter and TV presenter, and now lives in London.
Dato Turashvili’s novel Jeans Generation was based on real events: in 1983 a group of young Georgians hijacked a Soviet airliner to escape to the West; the subsequent executions shocked Georgian society. Adapted for the stage, the novel is now being filmed as a US-Georgian co-production, Fly to Freedom. Turashvili, also a keen mountaineer, was a student leader in 1989, and wrote his memoir Once Upon A Time (2001) about the fight for independence in which he was active – as he later was in the Rose revolution.
Teresa Cherfas is a documentary film-maker and producer, who has produced many historical documentaries about Russia, the USSR and the former Soviet republics, beginning in Georgia in 1989 with a series of films about Stalin. Her work has featured on Channel 4 and the BBC, including BBC’s Russia: a Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby. Her most recent film, Baku: The City of Ali and Nino, is a companion piece to Asif Kapadia’s forthcoming feature film adaptation of Kurban Said’s Ali and Nino, a famous novel about a love story between a Muslim prince and a Georgian princess in early 20th Century Azerbaijan.
This is the second talk in our series on Georgia as part of Where Europe Meets Asia: Georgia25 and complimentary Georgian wine will be served.
Where Europe Meets Asia: Georgia25 is a cultural feast – a week of talks and films between 11 and 17 April, presented by the Georgian National Book Center, Tbilisi, in association with Maya Jaggi, Artistic Director. Partners include Asia House; Europe House; Life Through Cinema; and Regent Street Cinema. With support from the Embassy of Georgia in the UK. The series has been timed to mark 25 years since Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union on 9 April 1991. Download the full programme here: Georgia25