- Modern Georgian Prose
Tbilisi, from the end of the 1990s to the start of the 2000s. Lekso is studying cinematography, Maia – dentistry.
Lekso plays at being a dissident, while Maia earns money by applying makeup to the faces of dead women. In Lekso’s imaginary world, a human rights protection initiative is set up. The exiled National Liberation Front grows in strength, and the battle begins. Maia, in order to overcome her fear of touching the dead, makes up stories for her corpses. In this way, she creates The Portrait of the Dwarf Seamstress, The Tale of the Kutaisi Thief’s Wife, and The Story of the Woman who was Released from Prison. We learn about the newspaper archives of the “Battle for Tobacco”. Maia turns up in Lekso’s game, and we, the readers, follow two parallel lines: reality, where students watch films through clouds of cigarette smoke, get to know each others’ bodies, explore their sexuality, hear stories about injuries sustained during treatment in Bishkek, assess dental health conditions among the population of Georgia, and take care of their parents and grandparents; and the imaginary dissident game, filled with plans for the dissemination of proclamations, surveillance and arrest, rumours about psychiatric hospitals, searches, round-ups, numerous demonstrations, and bloodshed.
Although the text is lightened with humour, the events portrayed therein play out on a background just as hard as the reality of the time in which they take place. In a country devoid of both electric power and border guards, the young have nothing to call their own. Nothing except big dreams, hence the game. The game, however, never ends in the same way and at the same time as the players imagine it will, all the more so at a time when the fictional world is becoming almost indistinguishable from reality.
“38, 44” is a book about our trauma, our exhaustion, our suffering, our defeat and, just maybe, since not only the living but also the dead yearn for love, our survival. The novel describes events that occurred in reality. Moreover, various archival materials, including documents preserved in the archives of the Ministry of the Interior, have been adapted for use therein. The novel is a work of fiction, however, created entirely by the author. “38, 44” marks the end of Nestan Kvinikadze’s trilogy of teenage and post-teenage life, following “The Nightingales of Isfahan” and “Jaguar Techno”.