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Georgia – Made by Characters

12 October, 2017

The Georgian ‘characters’ – the 33 artful, sweeping letters of this unique alphabet, which was recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List – date back to the 4th century AD. The country of Georgia,  which will be presenting itself as the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2018, is just as rich in tradition, multifaceted and  unique as the letters of its alphabet. Under the tagline ‘Georgia – Made by Characters’, the country intends to introduce not just the stories and works written in this script, but also the characters behind them: the authors, the artists and the Georgian people. Today, Georgia presented its concept for its appearance as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse and gave first insights into the comprehensive literary and cultural programme of events.

“Georgia  is one  of the  oldest cultural nations in the  world, and  has an incredible wealth of cultural treasures for such a small country,”  said Mikheil Giorgadze, the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection for Georgia. “We are delighted to  be  able  to  present our  unique cultural identity  in Germany in 2018,  as  Georgia celebrates  the  centenary of its independence. We  want  to  make  ‘Georgia – Made  by Characters’ a  celebration of Georgian literature, culture and creativity.” An insight  into this great cultural nation is already being  conveyed by the events that are currently taking place as part of the German-Georgian Year 2017.

“Georgia  is able  to look back  over a literary history  spanning 15 decades and  an exciting  history.  This cultural heritage provides a source of inspiration which  contemporary writers still draw  on today.  At the  Frankfurter Buchmesse 2018, visitors from around the world will, for the most part, encounter for the first time the agile and lively literary scene from this Caucasian country”, said Juergen Boos, President of the Frankfurter Buchmesse.

During  the   Soviet  occupation from  1921   to  1991,  Georgian literature  was   only  translated  sporadically. Since   its independence, Georgian literature managed to resume its great literary  tradition with its wealth of genres, while  also establishing its own identity  in a completely new  and  experimental manner. Since  2010,  more  than  65 Georgian books have been published in German-speaking countries with the aid of the Georgian National Book Center. A further 90 new translations are  planned as  part  of Georgia’s appearance  as  Guest of Honour.  The  palette ranges from  classical to contemporary authors and includes narratives, Georgian epics and anthologies of Georgian poetry, non-fiction, children’s and young adult literature, thrillers  and a collection of critical essays.

Georgia has  a literary tradition that dates back to the 5th century,  a literature that is immensely varied and an exciting synthesis of oriental and  western influences – open to innovation and  yet, at the  same time, autarkic. One of the  most important literary  works  from Georgia is the  epic  The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota  Rustaveli (1172–1216). Modern Georgian literature is based on the experiences and trials of many centuries. “It developed step by step alongside modern world  literature, and  conveys a clear  image of the  character of the  nation that  produced it,” explains Medea Metreveli,  Project Director Guest of Honour.  “As the Guest of Honour,  we want to present our response to the challenges of the modern world – the response of a country as small as ours, which wants to share its historic and cultural experiences with the whole world."

One of the best-known authors at present is Aka Morchiladze, the most-read contemporary author from Georgia.  Five of his books alone  will be released onto  the  German market whilst Georgia is Guest of Honour.  Zaza Burchuladze has already attracted attention in Germany with his book Touristenfrühstück (engl. translation: Tourist Breakfast), and German readers can also look forward  to a new novel from this provocative writer. Probably the best-known female author here in Germany is Nino  Kharatishvili.  The  Georgian national, who  now  lives in Hamburg and  writes  her  books in German, provided interesting insights into the  history  of and  life in Georgia in her  highly acclaimed book  Das achte Leben (Für Brilka) (engl.  translation: The  Eighth  Life (For  Brilka)). She  sees  Georgia's position as  Guest of Honour as  a  major opportunity: “It could  prove  worthwhile expanding European literature to include Georgian literature, because diversity, the co-existence of the diverse as an idea, that, for me, is what defines Europe, and what, unfortunately, is frequently called into question nowadays.”

Throughout next year, the Georgian literary scene, with all its diversity, will be presented in Frankfurt and exciting  insights into  Georgian literature, culture and  its  way  of  life will be  provided through  a  range of  readings, workshops and conferences. Georgia’s Guest of Honour appearance will be supplemented by a comprehensive supporting programme of exhibitions, musical events, theatrical performances  and  film screenings. This  will bring  together the  best of its prehistory, antique and contemporary art, photography, architecture, design, typography and illustration, for example, in an exhibition on the human remains from Dmanisi,  dating back 1.8 million years,  or a display of archaeological finds and ancient works  of art connected to the myth of the Argonauts. Cineastes will also have something to look forward  to: For example at  the  Frankfurter Buchmesse  in 2018,  the  Georgian National Film Centre will put  on  15  screenings and discussions of films.

Around  500  readings and events in the German-speaking regions will coincide with Georgia's appearance as Guest of Honour.  70 authors from the  Guest of Honour country will visit around 30 cities  in Germany, Switzerland and  Austria, including some 20  literary  festivals,  such as  the  lit.COLOGNE, the  Harbour Front  Literaturfestival Hamburg and  the Literaturtage Zofingen.

To give us a taste of what’s to come during  next year’s Guest of Honour appearance, Georgia will be launching its cultural marathon at this year's Frankfurter Buchmesse including the Guest of Honour handover ceremony with British-Georgian singer Katie Melua, discussions  on  the  German-Georgian Year  of Friendship 2017  and  a series of events at  which Georgian authors and critics, such as Lasha Bugadze, Zurab Karumidze, Salome Benidze, Nestan Nene Kvinikadze and Beka  Adamashvili will talk  about both  classic Georgian literature and  the  latest modern publications with  German presenters.

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