Georgian literature

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Georgian literature

Georgian literature: Early Georgian literature shows the influence of two distinctly different civilizations—medieval Eastern Orthodox Christianity and, later, Persia. The Passion of St. Shushanik, a 5th-century work attributed to Iakob Tsurtaveli, has long been recognized as the literature's earliest surviving work, but recent studies suggest that earlier compositions may have been incorporated into later texts. Through the 10th cent. Georgian literature, produced primarily in monasteries, was ecclesiastical; hymns and religious biographies and chronicles as well as Biblical and liturgical translations are among the principal works surviving from this period.

From the end of the 11th cent. to the early 13th cent., classical old Georgian poetry, secular in nature and influenced by the Persian epic, enjoyed its greatest flowering. The masterpiece of this period (and of Georgian literature generally) is the epic poem by Shota Rustaveli, The Man in the Panther's Skin (tr. 1912). Inventive and imaginative and marked by psychological insight and wide-ranging knowledge, it also is distinguished by fluent rhymes and subtle alliterations. In this same period, the poet Chakhrudkhadze wrote the odes in Tamariani, and Ioane Shavteli completed Abdulmesia. After the 13th cent. Mongol invasion there was little important literature over the next few centuries.

In the 17th cent., poetry revived under King Teimuraz I and King Archil, who themselves wrote verse. Prince Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani wrote the outstanding prose Book of Wisdom and Lies and compiled the first Georgian dictionary. In the 18th cent. the foremost writers were David Guramishvili, author of The Woes of Kartli, and the lyric poet Bessarion Gabashvili. Throughout these years troubadour literature also evolved. In the early 19th cent., romanticism was the dominant style, as seen in the writings of Alexander Chavchavadze, Nikoloz Baratashvili, and Grigol Orbeliani. Later in the century Prince Ilia Chavchavadze and Alaki Tsereteli, masters of poetry and prose, turned away from romanticism, and Vazha-Pshavela wrote tragic narrative poems.

In the early 20th cent., Galaktion Tabidze and other Georgian poets such as Paolo Iashvili and Titsian Tabidze were influenced by the symbolist movement. Major Georgian literary figures, including Iashvili, T. Tabidze, and the novelist Mikheil Javakhishvili, whose captivating works are marked by vivid writing, were victims of Stalin's purges. In the post-Stalinist period, Georgian writers such as the novelist Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the playwright Shalva Dadiani, and the poet Ioseb Grishashvili, reflected Soviet literary trends, styles, and topics. The poems of Ana Kalandadze and Mukhran Machavariani, the novels of Nodor Dumbadze, the short fiction and novels of Guram Docahanashvili were among the most important literary works of the period, marked by a freer imagination and technical artistry and in some cases a renewed sense of nationalism. Chabua Amirejibi and Otar Chiladze wrote inventive, thoughtful, and distinctive novels in the latter decades of 20th cent. as has Aka Morchiladze (Giorgi Akhvlediani) more recently. Lasha Bughadze is noteworthy both as a contemporary playwright and novelist.

See M. Kvesselava, Anthology of Georgian Poetry (1958); A. G. Baramidze and D. M. Gamezardashvili, Georgian Literature (tr. 1968).

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