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ანი კოპალიანი, ფოტო: თაკო სონღულაშვილი
ავტორის გვერდი Ani Kopaliani 2020-04-13 9083
Photo credit: Tako Sonulashvili
 
To tell you the truth, I wasn't quite shocked - I've been ready for this for a long time; since the time, when I tried to abstain from coughing, being locked up next to Anne Frank in the attic or walking with Natasha Rostova from ballroom dancing to spitting to the inhabitants of the infirmary. I knew perfectly well that I could get into any of these storms one day, and when this day finally came, I am neither Anne nor Natasha. I am standing like a character in “Disillusionment” by Thomas Mann, where I have already eaten all the thrilling sensations, thinking “is that it?”  
 
It's been the fourth week I've been locked in a house. It's too cozy to be tortured inside four walls. If any virus thinks that it will suppress the introvert translator by locking her at home, then it is not that clever to delay the invention of the vaccine. I’m still having so much work to do that I hardly catch up with the deadlines, while making hell-of-the-kitchen dinners in between, feeding my family, hopefully with healthy food, if not delicious. 
 
It is true that we are addicted to the information and social networks, where I constantly upgrade that hellish excel file depicting the world drama in numbers, but still, people find it hard to understand and perceive the truth, they are not connected with personally, even we know that hundreds of our countrymen are badly coughing and/or thousands of people are dying everyday. Thus, Coronavirus fails to compete with wild capitalism for now and for a long time. Mankind has invented the vaccine against misfortunes of others long time ago, and meanwhile, I’m trying to cure my sadness by twiddling in rhythmic-metric structure of Eliot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a glass of Martini … “Why in the world one would think to eat Pangolin?” – I asked my brother; “I don’t know; I wonder who was the first to guess that Pangolin could not be drilled?”, - supported my brother. We looked at each other, sadly shaking our heads, while thinking about unfortunate, unthinkable, though thereby pardonable mistake of our Chinese brother. 
 
I was feeling worried through the night, where I recalled about telephone conversation with my old grandfather: 
- Granny, when will you come? 
- As soon as the corona things end;  
- And if you have to come earlier, what will you do?  
Asking me with some clumsy ambiguity of an old man, waiting for an answer with the doubt and hope of a child. I cannot lie.  
- You must do everything you can to avoid me coming, - I said.   
 
He and grandmother are hardly laughing. We clarified that, if something happens to him, I shall not able to come.   
One more old man, I am worried about is the Georgian Literature and ongoing literature processes, not because I am someone nurturing and caring, but I simply want to be part of it and you can see all the rest on the Maslow pyramid. 
 
If we keep the belletristic parallels, this old man was behaving quite as a young man, when like a Julien Sorel, just arriving from the provincial suburbs, was eagerly striving to storm the high society of France and now, there is a fear that pandemic might swallow Sorel and thus, “The Red and the Black” of the Georgian literature might go short.    
 
To clarify, Georgian literature process was developing, where the process was not quite satisfactory, but we might not mention it some other time: there were no honoraries for the authors or was not taken into account at all (I mean, it was not difficult to count, but it was so small that it could not be accounted as the reasonable honorary); for example, due to the small amount of honoraries, translators were also working as the cashiers; several years ago, I really saw the editor, who was crying because they paid 0.60 tetris per page (comparing to the fact that merely for typing the text price was 1 Gel per page at that time).  
Georgian literature as well as other true blood Georgian fields, cannot boast with the deficiency of nepotism, amateurishness, intentional messing of good and bad, fed by the lack of reasonable criticism or merely intentionally ignorance of hardly breathing slight criticism.. 
 
… But as the grave is making us more sentimental, we can say that literature processes were surely developing, unlike the quality of the Georgian literature. Apart from such important successes, like Frankfurt Book Fair, more than 300 books translated in different languages, honorable guest status of Paris Book fair, internal processes were also progressing for good: number of published books increased in ten times for the last 20 years, Tbilisi book fests and other literature events are becoming more dynamic and interesting; we almost welcomed Mario Vargas Llosa here, but we certainly saw Michel Houellebecq here; Georgian publishers and literature persons of Georgia are known and welcomed in large–scale international book fairs; institute of professional literature managers were founded and in 2021 (which we hope, we shall have) Tbilisi is enjoying the status of the Book Capital.  We are having bilateral programs for promoting translation; online platforms of the Georgian book and their partner publishing houses were one of the firsts showing public responsibility amidst pandemic and provided the stay-at-home people with free books; literature-associated society turned into brothers-in-arms and so on…   
But what will happen now and then? As we have only slight hope that the turmoil brought by the storm, will be taken away by the storm again. We already know that we have to do some penny-pinching and of course, culture and especially, literature are pinched in first place; and as one of the outstanding poets of the modern era says, the love as well as the huge historical disasters are told and written about “later” and only a couple of people remembers the literature amidst disasters, having nothing left to save, but keeping and taking those “invented stories” from era to era. 
 
Besides, Georgian literature remembers even four-century gap, right after “the Knight in the Panther's Skin”, but we also know that ramming of the same place and the risk of forcefully going backwards, will make us to capitulate for a long time.  
When the corona ends and if we find ourselves in a damaged boat, I hope that the first heavy load to be thrown from the boat in open sea by the state shall not be the culture, including book sector; moreover, the latest events proved that financing of those institutions, which do not happily support the critical thinking, turns into the government problem again and developing of more reasonable, witty, open and critical minded generations is becoming must-to-do part of country’s agenda.    
Eventually, it is not much, right? Since the saving of the situation that Luka  described is still in question: “Now I'll cover all utility costs, and then I'll have to write fifty pages a day to survive.”
 

The project is supported by the Writers' House of Georgia.

Translated by Tamar Mirianashvili

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