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Georgian Literature in European Scholarship
Prof. Elguja Khintibidze
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Chapter one: Introduction.

The research project "Georgian Literature in European Scholarship", for work on which I had been awarded a Grant by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1994 had as its object the analysis of the process of scholarly study of Georgian literature in Western Europe and the compilation of a relevant monograph. The acquaintance and study by European literary historians of Georgian literature with its centuries-old history - beginning with the first Georgian books published by the Italians in Rome early in the 17th century and their scholarly study - has not been hitherto made the object of a monographic study. Such a study is of dual purpose: purely scholarly and socio-political: on the one hand, to raise the research in Kartvelian (Georgian) Studies to European level, and, on the other, to get foreign scholars and students interested in Georgian culture. This is not only of social but of political importance for present-day Georgia, for it contributes much to the involvement of the Republic of Georgia in European democratic structures.

In tackling all the aspects of the tasks set I enjoyed the collaboration of European Kartvelologists, and over the past two years I worked on the theme not only in Georgia but at the scholarly centres and libraries in Europe at which more materials are available on the study of Georgian literature by European scholars. I believe it will not be amiss to give a more detailed account of the process of the compilation of the monograph.


The present monograph is the result of the work of a whole group of researchers at literary centres of various countries of Europe as well as in Georgia. The group of scholars was selected and the subjects and methodology for studying the problems where compiled by me. The gathering of the material, correction, generalisation and the compilation of the monograph on its basis took place at the Centre for Kartvelian Studies in Tbilisi. I feel it necessary to publish the names of these scholars and students who have responded to my call and taken part in the compilation of the cited work. The foreign Kartvelologists were: Michel Van Esbroeck, Steffi Chotiwari-Jünger, Heinz Fähnrich (Germany), Katharine Vivian, David Barret, Robert Thomson, Donald Rayfield (Britain), Bernard Outtier, Gaston Bouatchidze (France), Luigi Magarotto (Italy), Frederic Thordarson (Norway). The following scholars worked in the group set up at the Centre for Kartvelian Studies: Arrian Tchanturia, Marika Odzeli, Greta Chantladze, Maka Elbakidze, Gaga Shurghaia, Sesili Gogiberidze, Neli Saginashvili, Kakha Loria, Bela Tsipuria; students Eka Macharashvili, Tamar Pataridze, Maia Orkodashvili. Special mention must be made of the compilation of the German, English, French and Italian Bibliographies included in the cited monograph on which I worked with Steffi Chotiwari-Jünger, Eka Macharashvili, Neli Saginashvili - on the German, Marika Odzeli, Maka Elbakidze, Maia Orkodashvili - on the English, Tamar Pataridze - on the French and Gaga Shurghaia - on the Italian materials.

I wish to express thanks to the administrations of some European libraries who responded with understanding to my request and supplied me with written consultation and helped me to make my work fruitful at these scholarly centres.

Namely, I want to give special due to Leonard Boyle, the Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, to D. Barret and A.D.S. Roberts, collaborators of the Department of Oriental books of the Bodleian library at Oxford, and to Nieves Diaz, collaborator of the Information Department of the Madrid National Library. The latter supplied me with detailed facts in written form about Georgian books preserved at the Madrid National Library. I recall with pleasure the academic atmosphere that was created at the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturberitz, Berlin, where I worked on the bibliographies cited above.

Here I should also note Tbilisi scholarly centres, where the collaborators of the Centre for Kartvelian Studies worked in the course of compiling the above bibliographies: the Georgian National Library, the K. Kekelidze Institute of Manuscripts of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, Rustaveli Seminar at I. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and the Laboratory of Georgian-foreign Literary Contacts. The collaborators of this laboratory (Manana Erkomaishvili, Lela Shanidze, Nana Ingoroqva, Tamar Razmadze, Asmat Japaridze, Maka Kharebava, Natia Kvernadze) shouldered all the technical work of preparing the present monograph for the printer (typing, proof-reading, etc.).

It should be specially noted that this monograph would not have materialized without the financial and moral support given to the project by the Information and Press Department of NATO in the form of a grant for its realization. In the hard economic conditions of present-day Georgia this grant proved essentially the only material support on the basis of which this laborious project was consummated.

The monograph, Georgian Literature in European Scholarship, which has already been completed, consists of an introduction and four chapters. The Introduction deals with (a) the contacts of the Georgian world with European civilization, (b) the problems raised by the study of the Georgian phenomenon in the Humanities of today, (c) Kartvelology as an interdisciplinary study of Georgian history, the Georgian language, literature, art and various branches of culture, (d) the rise of European interest in Georgian literature, (e) the significance of Western research on Georgian literature, and (f) the bibliographical works preceding the creation of the present monograph.

Part one, entitled "Towards the history of the Study of Georgian Literature in Europe" contains a chronological review of the research in Western Europe on individual works of Georgian literature or a general study of this literature done in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as more or less noteworthy attempts at a study or popularization of this literature, including translations into Western languages of works of Georgian literature. Light is shed on the process of the study of Georgian literature by Western scholars; its determining factors as well as the separate stages of this process and the specificities of these stages are highlighted. This is the first attempt at writing a history of the cited process.

Part two of the monograph, entitled: "Georgian Literature in the English, French and German Languages", makes a special study of German-language research on Georgian literature, the points of view expressed in English literary criticism on Georgian literature. The translation of works of Georgian literature into French, German, English and Italian are also passed under review.

Part three of the monograph, entitled: "Towards the Scholarly Value of Research on Georgian Literature in Europe", generalizes the scholarly value of the research on Georgian literature done by Western scholars, more precisely, the novelties and the significance of Western research to the study of Georgian literature are brought to light. The typical errors attending this research and their causes are analysed.

Part Four comprises the Bibliographies. Two types of bibliographies, hitherto non-existent in scholarship, are compiled: 1. "Studies of European Scholars on Georgian Literature", comprising four sections: German-language Bibliography, French-language Bibliography, English-language Bibliography, and Italian-language Bibliography; 2. "Translations of Georgian Literature into European Languages", also comprising four parts: Georgian literature in German, Georgian literature in English, Georgian literature in French, and Georgian literature in Italian.

I am the author of Chapters One and Three. Chapter Two was written under my editorship by my former pupils and present colleagues, whose names appear below. Part Four - the Bibliographies - was compiled under my direction by the team indicated above. The monograph is written in Georgian, while the Bibliographies are compiled in the respective Western languages in which the works were written, i.e. in English, French, German, and Italian.


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