First Tbilisi International Festival of Literature Launched in Georgia
Twenty famous contemporary writers gathered in Tbilisi to take part in the first literary festival in Georgia. Literature discussions, poetry jams, books presentations, workshops for students, poetry evenings, photo exhibitions and many other events were held in the framework of first Tbilisi International Festival of Literature (TIFL) on May 18-23.
Mikheil Giorgadze, the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia many times argued that Tbilisi has the potential to become the capital of festivals of the whole Transcaucasian region. During recent years, the number of cultural festivals significantly increased in Tbilisi. But аmong the large number of music, film and theater festivals, there was no literary one.
“Literature is one of the peculiarities of Georgian culture, so it can be a link between writers all around the world and raise the interest of the outside world towards Georgian literature. With this Festival, we provide writers an excellent platform to share experiences, build links and perhaps establish joint projects,” said Ketevan Dumbadze, Adviser to the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.
Thanks to these links, it became possible to have in the Festival such great contemporary authors as Philip Besson, Sarah Bower, Anthea Nicholson, Kimberly Johnson, Caronlyn Forche, Vera Pavlova, Claudio Pozzani and many others. The Writers’ House, official organizer of the TIFL, choose and invited writers with the support of partner organizations: Embassy of United States and Italy, Goethe Institute, French Institute, British Council, the Polish Book Institute and others.
Despite the fact that the Festival focuses on invited guests, Georgian authors were also involved in the TIFL. For example, especially for the Festival they translated “De la, on voit la mer” by French writer Philip Besson and “Voices from Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich from Belarus.
Among the invited guests were also writers from Azerbaijan and Armenia. Together with the Georgian poet Eka Kevanishvili they arranged a friendly poetry evening.
“For the last 10 years I have had a strong friendship with Georgian poets and writers, and I know how many talented people there are. Also, not for the first time, I have cooperated with Violet [Violet Grigoryan, writer from Armenia]. For me, the TIFL is not only an opportunity to share my creativity, but a chance to learn more about modern Italian, French and Polish literature,” said Giunel Mevlud, a writer from Azerbaijan.
Tbilisi has always extended a warm welcome to famous writers. Alexandre Dumas, John Steinbeck, Boris Pasternak, Allen Ginsberg and many others lived and worked here in different years. Organizers of the Tbilisi International Festival of Literature hope that this tradition will continue.
“We want to make the Festival a yearly tradition; and it is acquiring even more importance, as Georgia is getting ready to become Guest of Honour of Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018. We have a lot of book festivals, but they are more similar to the fair. In the TIFL we are talking about pure literature. There is no such festival in the Caucasus region and in this case, Georgia is taking on an important but very pleasant mission,” said Natalia Lomouri, Director of Writers’ House and the Tbilisi International Festival of Literature.
British Authors Visit Georgia
On 19 May, at Writers’ House, the British Council in partnership with TIFL, organized the visit of two British female authors to show the best of contemporary UK literature to Georgian audiences. Anthea Nicholson and Sarah Bower read extracts from their works and discussed the fictionalization of historic facts in literature.
Anthea Nicholson began writing fiction later in life, coming from the profession of a visual artist. She took an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University, 2005, and was then writer in residence for a year on a Dartmoor sheep farm. Further distractions included building a dwelling and reclaiming wildlife habitat on the outskirts of Tbilisi with her Georgian partner. The Banner of the Passing Clouds, (Granta Books, 2013), is Anthea Nicholson’s debut novel. This novel is especially interesting for Georgian readers as it is about Georgians and some important historical facts are interestingly interpreted. ‘On the very day that Joseph Stalin dies, a baby is born in a hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia. The baby’s parents are grieving the death of their older child and don’t really notice that their new-born has been given the name Iosif by the nurses. Their surname being Dzhugashvili, means that the little boy has the same birth-name as Georgia’s most famous and feared son – Joseph Stalin. When the young Iosif learns of his strange link to the ‘man of steel’, he becomes convinced that Stalin has found a new dwelling place within his chest, a burden he both welcomes and fears.
Sarah Bower is a prize-winning novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, The Needle in the Blood, won the Susan Hill Award in 2007. Her second novel, The Book Of Love (published in the US as Sins Of The House Of Borgia was translated into nine languages and was a Toronto Globe and Mail bestseller in 2009. Her third novel, Erosion, writing as S. A. Hemmings, came out in 2014. Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in a number of publications including MsLexia, and Words Without Borders.
Zaza Purtseladze, British Council Director in Georgia: ‘The British Council Arts Programme is committed to showcasing high quality work from the UK. We were delighted to have two amazing female writers, Anthea Nicholson and Sarah Bower, to host the British Literature evening today’