“I’m writing only in German” – Interview with the Georgian author Nino Haratishvili

The Georgian author and theatre director Nino Haratishvili, who lives in the German city Hamburg became famous in Germany, because of her book: “Das achte Leben (Für Brilka)”. The book is about a Georgian family history and deals with the Georgian history of the past 100 years. While she was highly praised in Germany and received several prices she is not very known in Georgia . In may 2016 she received the Giwi-Margwelashvili-Award for German-Georgian-Cultural Relations, granted by the Goethe-Institut and the German Volkshochschulverband.

The ceremony took place in the Tumanishvili-Theatre in Tbilisi. The jury said that Haratishvili managed to set Georgia on the mental map of German readers. The Georgian minister of culture, Mikheil Giorgadze, joined the praising in his speech. The German ambassador, Bettina Cadenbach, said that Haratishvilis book was highly recommended to her from different sides, when she asked how to prepare for her time in Georgia. In 2017 the Year of Georgian-German Culture will be announced and in 2018 Georgia will be the official guest country of the Frankfurt Book Fair. These are two events in which Nino Haratishvili will participate. Between the award ceremony and the premiere of her theatre play “Zorn – Anger”, which was brought to stage in a impressing bilingual German-Georgian coproduction at Tumanishvili Theatre, Nino Haratishvili found the time to answer a few questions.

You can also listen to the interview right here.

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Nino Haratishvili during the ceremony in the Tumanishvili-Theatre in Tbilisi. Photo: Gia Gogatishvili. All rights reserved by Goethe-Insitut.

As a young girl you founded a german-georgian theatre group, you are living rin germany right now and you are publishing in german. Where does this passion for the German language comes from?

From school. I attended a school, which focused on German language and culture. That was the former 6th high school, founded by germanists and many young and committed teachers, who tried to bring the childrenclose to German culture. I would say that they were succesful. We were educated by native speakers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and between my 12th and 14th year I spent two years in Germany and during this time my language skills and understanding of the German culture increased.

In Germany your are especially because of your novel „Das achte Leben“ famous, popular and award-winning. But not in Georgia. Did you write in Georgian and publish in Georgia in the past years at all?

No, for the last ten years I’m writing only in German. I publish very rarely in Georgia – maybe for a blog or I wrote an article. But in general I’m not very present what concerns publishing. But this is mainly due to the reason that I don’t write in Georgian and don’t even live here.

Maybe that can change soon. „Das achte Leben“ is about to be translated by Georgian actor and translator Nino Burduli. Is there a date yet, when the translation will be finished and when the book will be published in Georgia?

That’s a question of the financing, because of course it’s a lot of work and time. That means that Nino Burduli has to be payed for the time, she would work on the translation. One part of the financing is covered, another part has to be clarified. It is depending of that fact. Ideally it would be great, if it will be finished until 2018, when Georgia is partner country of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

You had a scholarship for your research, granted by the German Robert Bosch-Foundation. What was this research like – what places did you see and what did you experience?

With some breaks I was busy for two years. Most of the time I spent in Russia, because most of the material, I was looking for, was there. It was a lot of work in archives, which are open for public at least. It was a lot of work in libraries with press material from the relevant decades – that meant looking thorugh articles and reading. It was about secondary literature, but also talks with contemporary witnesses. And although the story is fictional I questioned friends and family, because it is related to real historical events and everything had to be well thought out and I had to learn about that.

Did you thus see your home country with different eyes?

Yes, I can’t really say „different“ but I understood certain things and connections better. I saw things more clearly, although I can’t say that I got more lenient or more critical. What was negative before, got more negative and what was already positive became more positive.

Did you thought about a German or Georgian readership during the writing process?

German readers in the first place, because I wrote in German and I knew that the book will be published in Germany. I can’t say that I would have written in another way for Georgians, but I tried to include some more information, because I knew that the whole story with its Eastern perspective wouldn’t be so comprehensive for Germans.

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The Tumanishvili-Theatre in Tbilisi.

In your book you dealt with the Georgian history of the past 100 years. What is your vision for the future of Georgia?

I hope that Georgia will continue following the European path. I hope that social and econimocal problems will be solved. It is horrible that unemployment and poverty is still so acute. I wish that the opening towards the West will coninue. I wish a a peaceful or at least neutral coexistence with Russia. And I wish that the country will open itself more and more towards modernity, freedom and democracy.

You were awared with the Prize for German-Georgian Cultural Relation. Congratulations! It is not your first award. You got several before. Is this just one in a row or does it have a sepcial meaning to you because it is related to your homecountry and maybe you have a special relationship to the author Giwi Margwelashvili who gave the prize its name?

Of course I have a special relation to him. I can’t claim, that I know him very well, but I know him a little bit and I consider him as a really enriching and inspiring person and author. On the other hand it is my first award in Georgia and that is why it is special to me. It is also important for the dialogue and for building bridges. In every day life I’m not really aware of my political role. But when it is perceived like this and things that weren’t possible before are happening, of course I’m happy and take it as something special.

I hope it wasn’t the last Georgian prize, but one of many. Thank you a lot for the interview and that you found the time for it.

Sure, thank you!

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