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რუსთაველი [rustaveli] Rustaveli
We know very little about Shota Rustaveli, apart from the fact that he lived nine hundred years ago. He may have ended his life in Jerusalem in the Georgian monastery of the Holy Cross, where the wall still has a picture of him as a white-bearded old man, named as one of the monastery’s donors.
Whether this is so or not, this incredibly intellectual author of a distant epoch wrote a 1600-stanza epic poem imbued with lofty poetry and renaissance ideals: it is called The Man in the Panther Skin, and over the centuries it has become a constituent part of Georgia’s national identity, as well as a symbol of the greatness of Georgian literature. After Rustaveli, Georgian writers and readers became oriented on masterpieces.
For Georgia, Georgian literature has always meant more than just literature. Very likely, over a history of sixteen centuries it has been subjected to many influences and it has undergone oriental influences in particular, as well as Byzantine, Russian and the inhibitions of the Soviet epoch. But its most impressive examples have always contained an obvious European element and European aims. Probably Rustaveli was the benchmark for this.
There have been times in Georgia when a writer was a leader, a prophet, too, the main defender of the country, an innovator and the country’s main hope; at such times literature extended from romanticism to futurism. Literature led the way and established a link with Europe.
There have been other times when the life-long ideas of a poet who disappeared abroad have providentially come back to his homeland and filled literature with new blood. All sorts of things have happened, for this is a land of literature.