Author: Otar Chiladze
Translated by: Anahit Bostanjyan
The Basket published in 2003 is the last novel by Otar Chiladze. A Saga-novel, overtly portraying ’empire of evil’, its consequences and a long journey of Georgian society and culture, won top literary award SABA as the best novel of the year. The story begins at the end of the 19th century when a Russian officer seduces a Georgian shepherd’s wife: the resulting bastard, the ancestor of the novels anti-heroes, is kept in a basket where he cannot interfere with his mother’s adultery. The shepherd avenges himself by murdering his wife and disemboweling himself, but fails to kill the boy in the basket. The boy, Razhden Kasheli, later rapes his foster-mother, before disappearing to become a robber and murderer, returning to Georgia with the Red Army and a female tramp he has married: he becomes a killer for the Soviet authorities. After he is murdered by a drunken Assyrian, his son Anton acts as a GPU and NKVD killer in the Great Terror of 1937-8, shooting countless victims. Anton’s great achievement is to marry Princess Ketusi, whose father and husband he has murdered, thus initiating the process, fatal for Georgian society, of intermarrying and interbreeding Soviet killers with Georgian aristocrats and intellectuals. Anton is killed by a runaway truck in 1949, but his son Razhden 2nd takes over as an important Soviet official. Razhden’s son Anton 2nd may not, however, be a real Kasheli, since his mother Pepe was pregnant before the parents married. Anton is a childish dreamer and, manipulated by Razhden 2nd , marries Liziko, the daughter of an unworldly writer, Elizbar. Razhden seduces Liziko: both Anton and Elizbar find out after Liziko confesses to her stepmother. More important even than these violent sexual and homicidal events are the author’s and character’s reflections on the irrecoverable degradation of the country.
1933-2009 was a Georgian writer who played a prominent role in the resurrection of the Georgian prose in the post-Stalin era. His novels characteristically fuse Sumerian and Hellenic mythology with the predicaments of a modern Georgian intellectual. Otar Chiladze was born in Sighnaghi, a small town in Kakheti, the easternmost province of Georgia. He graduated from Tbilisi State University with a degree in journalism in 1956. His works, primarily poetry, first appeared in the 1950s. At the same time, Chiladze engaged in literary journalism, working for leading literary magazines in Tbilisi. He gained popularity with his series of lengthy, atmospheric novels, such as A Man Was Going Down the Road (1972-3), Everyone That Findeth Me (1976), Avelum (1995), and others. Otar Chiladze who became a Georgian classic author during his lifetime was awarded some Highest State Prizes of Georgia and in 1998 was nominated for the Nobel Prize along with five other writers. His works are translated into English, Russian, Estonian, Serbian, French, Danish, German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian and Spanish. Otar Chiladze’s novels A Man Was Going Down the Road and Avelum translated by Donald Rayfield were published in the UK in 2012 and 2013. Chiladze died after a long illness in October 2009 and was buried at the Mtatsminda Pantheon in Tbilisi, where some of the most prominent writers, artists, scholars, and national heroes of Georgia are buried.