სამოსელი პირველი
Meridiani Publishing 2011
664 pages
ISBN: 9789941103179


A young man Domenico, a seeker of adventure, is very much affected by a secret contained in the tale of a refugee: it is about the rest of the world, which he does not know: he leaves his parents’ home and goes to seek his fate. Gradually, as he contacts many different people, he understands what friendship, love, goodness, evil and freedom are. Domenico is not yet 18 years old. So his ‘Odyssey’ begins, a prolonged and very hazardous path in life towards self-knowledge. His first adventure is to be in the city of beauty, where life passed in games and pastimes. Everything there is false: love, and friendship. In the city of beauty he gets to know Ana-Maria, whom he falls desperately love with, but Ana dies pregnant after a violent attack, and that determines Domenico’s next journey – the traveller, in thrall to a desire for self-destruction, heads for a nest of evil, inhabited by bandits, the city of Kamora, hoping that some bandit will take his life. In Kamora everything is based on violence and evil, and Domenico is a toy for nonentities. He sees that there is no limit to indifference and treachery. The ‘contact’ that Domenico needs most follows him from the city of beauty. That is where he got to know Alexandro, whom everyone considered to be mad. ‘Sometimes we would look too seriously like madmen,’ Alexandro would himself say. One brother lives in the city of beauty, he is thought to be a harmless madman; another brother lives in Kamora, the bandit city, where he does not preach love, but uses force to combat evil. The process by which the reader gets to know Alexandro’s brother, at one particular point, becomes the main plot element in the novel. Alexandro reveals nothing to Domenico about his identity, although he does promise that it will be thanks to his brother that the traveler will escape from Kamora alive. Domenico tries to recognise Alexandro’s brother in every decent person whom he comes across in Kamora, and the reader, together with him, is ‘tormented’ by curiosity. Finally we realise that the most evil character in Kamora, the ‘killer’ Michinio, turns out to be Alexandro’s brother. This kind, mysterious person has been protecting Domenico from every danger. In fact, this invisible saviour has brought the traveler out of a lair of sin, but Domenico has himself managed to avoid being split apart inwardly, his soul remains uncontaminated. Thus he has passed through the most difficult stage of initiation. The traveller, passing through hell, comes to Kanudos, a free city which shepherds and tillers of the soil have founded. Five rebels have created this dreamlike Kanudos for any person, a place where everyone is equal, everyone is for the others, and everyone is free. This is Domenico’s second homeland. He sees how people die for the sake of their land, how they suppress the fear of death, but finally Domenico does not stay in Kanudos: he returns home, to his father, so that when the time comes he himself can become a father and a master. Domenico is made a dominus, and earns his bread by his own hand on his father’s and grandfather’s land. A worker goes back to his high village after wandering the world and failing to find anything better that his own village, built on a mountain peak. In this sense, Domenico is no prodigal son. He goes with his father’s blessing and never breaks with his father. He goes in order to know what his father knows. He goes with six thousand drachmas (his inheritance) and returns hungry and naked, longing for pig’s swill. Now he can gratefully accept the bread which his father allots to him, to know the grace of the portion which God offers us. The novel’s popularity in Dochanashvili’s homeland is well attested by the fact that the first night club opened in Tbilisi during the Soviet period was called Kanudos, and it was always the favourite place for young people to gather. It is hard to find anyone who has read The First Robe only once. The reason probably is the wisdom so simply but brilliantly offered in the novel, and the vivid, memorable characters and interesting development of the plot: as a whole, the work arouses an amazing desire in the reader for a shared experience, a shared wandering, a shared learning.

‘It is lucky for Georgian literature that after such a long time a person has appeared who has been able to joke like Cervantes about his pains. Guram Dochanashvili, with Cervantes’ allegory in the distant 1970s, defines the sense of human existence.’   

Z. Chkheidze, writer, critic

‘How much warmth and light there is in this book, what a free book it is, and imagine that it was created in the Soviet period, in an epoch of terror. In the 1970s, in years of stagnation and death, something completely unique was created – The First Robe was undoubtedly a genuine masterpiece.’   

L. Berdzenishvili, writer, critic / Books for Hot Chocolate

Translated into English by PJ Hillery 

Part 1
In the Village

Chapter 1
A Fugitive Came

It was still pitch dark; in one place only, on the horizon, the sky appeared to have lightened slightly. The rain had only recently stopped, the drops were noiselessly gliding down from one leaf to the next and the fugitive – shaken, drenched, alert to the slightest noise – was listening to this exhausted rustle. He could cope with all kinds of noise, except for the clatter of hoofs. His pursuer was constantly appearing to him as a hallucination and, sapped of his strength, he gripped the wet branches tightly with both hands. Up to now no one had noticed him, holding his breath like that, clutching the tree; but now, at dawn, when it had become very cold and the troubled fugitive had begun to get restless, his blackened, moving silhouette clearly stood out in that fractured darkness. He desperately wanted to sleep; he barely managed to keep his heavy head upright. It was a good thing that he was at least seated: he was resting his tired, scratched feet after such a steep slope. He had climbed a tree to where dogs could not reach him, although he had not actually heard any barking. He felt slightly invigorated and there and then became hungry. He thrust his frozen fingers into his clothes and extracted a crust of bread. Slowly, unhurriedly he regained his strength. This way he prolonged his pleasure, but it was a tiny piece of bread and he couldn’t help devouring it in a hurry. His craving increased, he stared at the village where he had to find food... (See PDF)


Translated into German by Nikoloz Lomtadze and Susanne Kihm

Es war noch dunkel, nur dort hinten, am Rand der Welt, schien es, als würde der Himmel licht. Gerade hatte es aufgehört zu regnen, lautlos glitten die Tropfen von einem Blatt zum anderen und der durchnässte Flüchtling lauschte zitternd und angestrengt auf ihr kraftloses Fallen. Jegliches Geräusch konnte er ertragen, solange keine Hufe klapperten. Unablässig wähnte er den Verfolger in der Nähe und mit letzter Kraft klammerte er sich an die nassen Äste. Eben noch hätte niemand ihn bemerken können, aber jetzt, in der Morgendämmerung, wo es kalt wurde und er in seiner Not nicht mehr stillhalten konnte, war seine schwärzliche, unruhige Silhouette in der fadenscheinigen Dunkelheit deutlich zu erkennen. Wie gerne hätte er geschlafen, er konnte seinen Kopf kaum noch halten. Immerhin saß er, nach dem langen Aufstieg ruhten seine müden, geschundenen Füße. Hier oben auf dem Baum würden auch die Hunde nicht an ihn herankommen - obwohl, Gebell hörte er keins. Er griff mit steifen Fingern in die Brusttasche und holte einen Kanten Brot heraus. Ohne Hast kaute er daran - er wollte eine Weile dran haben, aber das Brot war zu klein und es war zu schnell aufgegessen. Jetzt bekam er erst recht Hunger, er schaute zum Dorf, dort musste er etwas zu essen herkriegen. Die Häuser traten schon ein wenig aus den Schatten, er schaute noch einmal zurück, da schüttelte es ihn, nicht vor den Verfolger(n) hatte er jetzt Angst, sondern vor etwas ganz anderem - wie wundersam es doch dämmerte!.. (See PDF

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