Festival: Literature in Dialogue Georgia is a pluralistic society

Nino Haratischwili and Stephan Wackwitz
Nino Haratischwili and Stephan Wackwitz | Picture: Goethe-Institut Georgia (Film-Still)

Producing intellectual and artistic sources of friction, working out similarities, revealing differences and illustrating the necessity of social change: At the literature festival in Georgia, the Goethe-Institut Tbilisi offers encounters between German and Georgian writers. German-Georgian author Nino Haratishvili spoke with institute director Stephan Wackwitz.

How is the Perspectives – Literature in Dialogue project structured?

Nino Haratishvili: The project was developed within the framework of the German-Georgian Friendship Year 2017 and is part of the International Literature Festival of Tbilisi, which is already taking place for the third time. One focus in the international programme is on German-language literature. In close cooperation with the Goethe-Institut and the Georgian Writer’s House in Tbilisi, I had the pleasure of compiling the programme of readings and discussions and inviting colleagues to take part.

In order to strengthen cultural dialogue, the second part of the project will be a literary travel book, which will be presented on time for the Frankfurt Book Fair. In it, six German-speaking authors come to Georgia and each meets a Georgian colleague. Together, accompanied by a guide, they travel through various Georgian regions from Tbilisi to the Black Sea coast.
All in all, it is about making Georgia visible on the literary map: Georgia as a country where literature is being written, where books are translated and where new literary voices are appearing.

At the beginning of the project, there are political discussion events such as “Europe as an Idea.” What is behind that?

Although Georgia took the big step of visa liberalisation only recently in April, we need an analysis of the idea of what Europe is, in particular with regard to populism, the “shift to the right,” which not only is happening throughout Europe. The United States is also distancing itself more and more as a European ally. A dialogue about this is ever more important.

You know both countries, Georgia and Germany, well. What can Georgia contribute to a European process of rapprochement? What is the Georgian colour of the idea of Europe?

Georgia is a pluralistic society and in good years has managed to maintain cultural diversity without aggression or violence. This has not always been successful, but there have been such times. This remains the core of Georgian society – even if it is a utopian idea in times when nationalism is rising and the coexistence of different opinions seems to be more difficult. I think that Georgia is proof that this is nevertheless possible. Georgia has always been able to unite all these contradictions and still does so today precisely because it has always been at the border between East and West, between tradition and modernity. I wish that for Europe as well.