მელია-ტულეფია: Foxtrot
Siesta Publishing House 2011
232 pages
ISBN: 97899414718




In 1926 an American couple are travelling through Russia and Georgia. What starts out as a business trip soon becomes much more than that when they find themselves in the historic and mountainous province of Svaneti. The journey reaches its climax when they dance a foxtrot at a feast in the region’s highest mountain village. It is a story about crossing cultural boundaries and exploring outer and inner worlds, expressed in love stories involving people of widely varying origin and culture. The central characters of the novel are vividly pictured: A young American businessman Bill Wasserstein, his wife Marion – a French aristocrat, though progressive and cosmopolitan –, a Russian beauty, Nadia Dashkova, secretly working for KGB, and a flamboyant Georgian ex-prince Shakro Karmeli. They make up a love quadrangle, with all the predictable sentiments and passions. They are presented against the background of a historical panorama. In fact, the Age, the Historical Epoch is the fifth central character of the book. Special focus is made on Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, at that time – aka the Fantastic City where diverse ethnic and artistic traditions meet. The novel provides a picture of Roaring 1920s and Modernism in America, in Russia and in Georgia. We meet artists, writers, intellectuals, KGB agents and occultists of the period: it is a re-reading of Georgian Modernism of the 1920s and the lively artistic scene in Tbilisi at that time. We also meet such historical figures as Minister of Foreign Affairs of USSR Litvinov, the notorious journalist and head of the NYT Moscow desk Walter Durante, spy and adventurist Yasha Blumkin, the maker of the KGB Lavrenti Beria, the occultist guru George Gurjieff, etc. It was a critical era that saw the Sovietisation of Georgia, as the influence of the Bolsheviks grew and grew, and – by contrast – it is about the adventure-filled folklore of the people of the Georgian mountains, lives of city aesthetes and their artistic places.

‘To be frank, something unbelievable happened to me: the Blue Horn poets’ intricate manifestoes, Robakidze’s distorted essays or no less erratic novels which came out in the 1910s and 1920s and the periodicals written in gibberish, the provincial rumours of Tbilisi (or Tpilisi as some spelled it), the bohemianism of the peripheral cafés, the black magician Gurjieff, the chancer Beria, the phantasmagoric year of 1926 – all this came back to life and how!! To say that Karumidze’s text can be read with pausing for breath is to say nothing: You can read it without pausing for breath and at the same time it is mixed with spontaneity and reflexion. Zurab Karumidze has shown himself to be a real writer. This is now more than an interesting experiment by a talented intellectual; this is real prose, which brilliantly reanimates the ‘high Bohemia’ of Georgian modernism.’    

 Z. Shatirishvili on Caucasian Foxtrot / literary critic / Arili Literary Magazine 

‘The wildness of imagination and energy of mind sparkle and blaze on every page. This work is unique, though it may comprise several works. Its narrative dissemination, poetic intensities, erudite pyrotechnics overflow every form.’    

 I. Hassan on Dagny or a Love Feast / Emeritus Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin

‘Karumidze deserves mush praise for writing such a profound, complex, and deeply original work of literary art.’    

R. Rosenthal on Dagny or a Love Feast / Tweed’s Magazine of Literature and Art

‘[His] tone, I feel, is one of play, not the dogmatic postmodern play of binaries, the cat with its dead mouse, but love play, a child with its kitty of corn silk.’     

D. Thompson on the Wine-Dark Sea / Amazon

Translated into German by Julia Dengg und Nino Idoidze   

Melia Tulepia: altes, heidnisches Fruchtarkeirstritual in Swanetien, einer im Hohen Kaukasus gelegenen Region Georgiens

1. Schakro Karmeli

Großer Mittag. Uschguli. Die Lamaria-Kirche. Um den heiligen Ort reihen sich kräftige swanische Männer auf und tanzen in Schlangenlinien: Die Hände an die Lenden des Vordermanns gelegt, schwingen sie sich vor und zurück. Kleine Kinder laufen den Tänzern nach und bewerfen sie mit Dung, bespucken sie, beschmeißen sich auch gegenseitig und schreien: „Pfui, Lamaria! Pfui, Lamaria!“ Die Prozession hat einen Anführer – bärtig, langnasig und großäugig; auf seiner Brust hängt eine Tonscheibe mit der Aufschrift adrekila; die Hose hat er hinuntergelassen, das Hemd hochgezogen; sein zottiger Wanst wackelt, und unter dem Wanst ist ein roter Gockel heraufgewachsen, den er mit beiden Händen in die Höhe spielt … Auch „Adrekila“ schwingt vor und zurück und schreit dazwischen: „Ah, Kinder, lasst uns Mutterscheiße essen, essen, essen! Shambhalaaa!“ Worauf ihm die anderen antworten: „Melia Tulepia! Foxtrott! Foxtrott! Melia Tulepia! Foxtrott! Foxtrott!“ Daneben versammeln sich Frauen in weißen Kopftüchern, auf einem podestartig erhöhten Platz sind mehrere Ziegen an einen Pfahl gebunden, und vor diesen knien sie nieder; die Ziegen urinieren, die knienden Frauen halten den Mund unter den Strahl um zu trinken; wenn sie den salzigen Urin schlucken, wischen sie sich die Lippen mit dem Zipfel des Kopftuchs ab und wispern: „Gib uns unser Salz, Dschimscher! Mon cher! Dschimscher! Mon cher!“ ... „Pfui, Lamaria! Pfui, Lamaria!“, lärmen die kotverschmierten Kinder ... „Ah, Kinder, lasst uns Mutterscheiße essen, essen, essen! Shambhalaaa!“, schreit „Adrekila“... (See PDF)

Translated into English by Lela Abdushelishvili, Natalia Bukia-Peters, Charlotte Marsden and Adham Smart

The Great Noon. The church of Lamaria, Ushguli. Hefty Svanetian men, lined up for the dance, snake their way around the shrine, each with his hands on the hips of the man in front, humping him. Children chase after, throwing dung and spitting at them and at one another, with yells of "Spit on you, Lamaria! Spit!" The whole procession is led by a bearded man, with a long hooked nose and bulging eyes; he has a clay tablet hanging on his chest bearing the inscription "Erectus"; his trousers are pulled down and shirt lifted; beneath his hairy, wobbling belly, he holds a red cockerel in both hands, swinging it from side to side... Erectus struts around, thrusting like the others, now and then calling out "You eat your mother's shit! You eat your mother's shit! Yes-you-do-you-do-you-DO! Shamballa!" And the others answer: "Fecundity Fuckundity! Fuxtrot Foxtrot!" Beside them, a cluster of white-scarved women have tied some goats to a stake on an altar-like mound, and are kneeling before them; the goats urinate, and the women open their mouths under the stream of urine and gulp it down greedily; when they swallow the salty urine they wipe their lips on the edge of their headscarves and whisper, "Share the salt, mon cher, Jimsher! Share the salt, mon cher!" ? "Spit on you, Lamaria! Spit!" clamour the dung-covered children ? "You eat your mother's shit! You eat your mother's shit! (See PDF)

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