Archive for August, 2019

ANCIENT GEORGIA, NEW LOVE

August 3, 2019

The environs of Tbilisi where I’m living at the moment create a special ambience. The ever-green pine trees, new multi-storey buildings that cling to steep hills, oppressive heat in the afternoons, the mountainous horizon (so exotic as compared to the distant perspective of the Ukrainian flatland), and of course, the throaty Georgian speech – very rapid, distinct and incomprehensible – which you hear on the bus, in a shop, or just from a couple of pedestrians who may bypass you. An owner from whom I’m renting an apartment keeps a rich library of Georgian literature (also in Russian translations), which is another chance for me to plunge into the “atmosphere.” I started admiring the mountaineer poet Vazha Pshavela. I call him the “Georgian Robert Burns,” and I fully agree with Donald Rayfield, a professor of Russian and Georgian literature in London, who said that Vazha is qualitatively of greater magnitude than any other Georgian writer.

I keep learning Georgian, though I understand that the command of the language required to read Vazha Pshavela, Konstantine Gamsakhurdia or Nodar Dumbadze in the original should be much higher than the level set by textbooks, and the time to be spent on achieving such linguistic heights may exceed the number of productive years I still have at my disposal. However, the learning keeps me in touch with this country and makes me “feel younger.”

Ironically, whenever I make an attempt to practice my Georgian with strangers, they switch into Russian. The other day I dropped at a tone – a small bakery where they make authentic Georgian flat bread shoti. To my phrase “Minda viqido shoti” (“I’d like to buy some bread”) I heard an answer in Russian “Yeshcho rano” (“Sorry, we haven’t baked it yet.”). Or, when I once asked a policeman – also, for the sake of practice – “Sad aris gamziri Shota Rustaveli?” (“How do I come to Shota Rustaveli Avenue?”), the policeman replied “Pryamo!” (Russ. “Just go ahead!”).

Georgian traditional bread – shoti. Puri made of white wheat flour in round clay oven. This bread is always on table with bunch of greens for Georgian lunch or dinner.

One more thing. The owner of my apartment has got a sister who lives in England. Every time when he returns home after visiting her, he brings some mementoes from Britain. Here is one of them: a picture of a rainy day in London hanging on the wall in my room now. Red double-deckers, red umbrellas, the shining asphalt, and the yellow street lamp magically dispel the sweltering heat of Tbilisi. The picture is the thing that connects me to another country where my heart is. “Oh English, my love…” was the initial line of the oath of allegiance we, as students, pronounced while saying farewell to our alma mater.

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