The book of Tbilisi

 

The book of Tbilisi by Various

Georgian fiction

Stories translated by Philip Price, Mary Childs, Maya Kiasashvili, Nino Kiguradze, Tamar Japaridze and George Siharulidze.

Source – review copy

I am never the most proactive at reading short stories, but sometimes when I get the chance with a collection like this it is a wonderful chance to get a glimpse into a new country. I’m not sure how many books from Georgia are out there to be read. As Ann Morgan point out on her world tour, this is changing as the government of Georgia is putting money in translation. So as Comma as brought its latest collection of city-based stories to Georgia to the capital Tbilisi and these writers.

 Ina ArchuashviliGela ChkvanavaErekle DeisadzeShota IatashviliDato KardavaLado KilasoniaZviad KvaratskheliaBacho KvirtiaIva Pezuashvili & Rusudan Rukhadze 

I’ve included the links to the comma bio pages of each writer.

Like most men, Baldy looked old for his age. He lit up his cigarette and asked Redhead what it was that couldn’t wait until the morning. In reply, Redhead said he wanted a story, a real one with blood, corpses – in other words something scandalous.

Baldy took him to his neighbour, a former investigator who had seen a lot in his time, having worked for both Soviet and Georgian police forces.

The rookie reporter listens to the older mens dicatapes.

The collection has ten tales in it. The first we meet a rookie newspaperman called Redhead is shown a tape by his fellow journalist Baldy an older man. That thinks he has found a gem of an old story about the killing of a man a few years ago. We follow him as he listens to the tapes from the time the tale of Uncle Evgeni a popular figure when the country first gained independence even sparking protests. in Dato Kardava story the naive reporter listens to the tapes and as the past unfolds he learns what happen back then. Then we see a piece of graffiti on the side of one of these old block of flats about a couple. This causes all the locals to go to facebook and find all Thea to see just who she was in the piece that said Anzor and THEA = LOVE. Then a young boy is looking after his sister as she is dying and he is getting no help from the state a sad tale. Then a quiet woman is the talk of three blocks of flats after she moves in with her husband but speaks with no-ones until the last line of the story after she is suspected to have run off. There are six other tales.

Her name is Peride. She doesn’t talk to anyone, and doesn’t pay attention to anyone either. It’s a blessing that I remember when she and her rusband first moved here more than thirty years ago. Otherwise, I might have believed she was not of this world, and that they’d brought her here from a parallel universe.

A woman moved in to the block years ago but never talks to her neighbours.

This is a great glimpse into a country that is just waking from its Soviet past. The one thing you found in the sense of a new world emerging after the bleakness of the place some were very sad especially the sister died in the rail carriage it made you feel how lucky we are. As with other collection I have read over the years like the Granta writer series the Spanish one, I do hope we get to read some of these writers in either fuller story collections or novels there is a wonderful chance with these ten stories to turn them into ten books and thus grow a library of Georgian fiction where we find out more about this country where neighbours are close and nosey and the world they are living in is bleak at times but also showing the small glimmer of want to grow and flourish again.

 

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The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

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The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

Iraqi fiction (Short stories )

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source – Personnel copy brought on Kindle

Well to another short story collection from this years IFFP longlist .Also the second Iraqi title from this years list .Hassam Blasim is some what of radical figure in Arabic fiction as the stories he writes are Genre bending to say the least .Hassam Blasim Fled Iraq in 2004 when he had made a  documentary film about the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq ,since then he lived in Finland originally a film-maker he has since made four more films for a Finnish film company .He also start writing at the same time ,this is his second collection to be published the first the madman of freedom square ,mad the Iffp longlist four years ago .

We were meant to camp in an old girls’ school and some of the soldiers decided the best place to spend the night was the school’s air-raid shelter. Daniel the Christian picked up his blanket and other bedding and headed out into the open courtyard. ‘Of course, Chewgum Christ is crazy,’ remarked one of the soldiers, a man as tall as a palm tree, his mouth stuffed with dry bread.

The opening of the title story of the collection The Iraqi Christ .

I said Hassam was a radical figure ,it is more his style of writing in this collection we move from the Iraq was in the title story Iraqi christ ,we meet Daniel the gum chewing soldier as he fights in the war He is one of the few christian fighting alongside his comrades  .Elsewhere we travel into the utterly surreal in a story like dung beetle a man or is it a man talking to a doctor in Finland but his is from  Iraqi  ,as he spouts out to the doctor .Drama post war in the Green zone living in the   post war Iraq with the westerners .More traditional sounding stories like A thousand and One Knives ,an obvious play on the most famous Arabic story One thousand and one Nights .Elsewhere a crossword setter is driven to the edge as he is haunted or more possessed by one of the victims of a bomb he narrowly missed .

Doctor, I can identify my feeling at that moment as a desire to kiss, to stand in front of the station gate like the people who give out free newspapers and adverts, to stand in the way of people in a hurry and to stop them to kiss their hands, their shoes, their knees, their bags. And if they allowed me to bare their arses for a few minutes, to kiss them too. Excuse me, madam, can I kiss the sleeve of your coat? Please, sir, accept from me this kiss on your necktie. Kisses for free; sad, sincere kisses. And very often, doctor, I don’t just want to kiss people, I want to kiss the vestiges they leave on the pavements: kisses for cigarette butts, for a key that an old woman lost, for the beer bottles the drunks left behind last night, for the numbers on discarded receipts; kisses that combine the maternal instinct with lust, as day and night are combined in my head.

A passage from my favourite story in the collection the dun beetle .

I read Tony’s review the other day he compared some of these stories to the Magic realism of Marquez ,he has touches of that ,for me other writers leap to mind my favourite story in the collection was the dung Beetle ,which for me had huge echoes of classic mittel European short stories .There are other bar room stories a man returns from the bar to find a wolf in his room then it is gone when awakes ,this could come from the pen of the grand masters of short fiction Italo Calvino or Borges .The collection shows a writer that obviously loves short stories and loves playing with the form as a writer himself .I felt this is a collection of a writer that has big things to come in the future ,the stories in this one vary from sublime to surreal but maybe jar to much of the collection in comparison to the other collections on this years IFFP longlist .I will be reading his next collection for sure as I can just see Hassam Blasim getting better over time as he works through his obvious love of short stories and writers of short stories as he develops  his own twists and style even more .

Have you read Hassam Blasim ?

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