Six romances, one revolution, the story of the century.
'That night Stasia took an oath, swearing to learn the recipe by heart and destroy the paper. And when she was lying in her bed again, recalling the taste with all her senses, she was sure that this secret recipe could heal wounds, avert catastrophes, and bring people happiness. But she was wrong.'
At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian Empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste ...
Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the centre of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia's is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.
Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.
Nino Haratischwili ist eine aus Georgien stammende Theaterregisseurin, Dramatikerin und Romanautorin. Von 1998 bis 2003 leitete Nino Haratischwili die freie, zweisprachige deutsch-georgische Theatertruppe „Fliedertheater“, die mehrere Auftritte und Gastspiele in Georgien und Deutschland hatte. Von 2000 bis 2003 studierte sie Filmregie an der staatlichen Schule für Film und Theater in Tiflis. 2003 nahm sie ein Studium für Theaterregie an der Theaterakademie Hamburg auf, das sie 2007 erfolgreich mit ihrer Inszenierung „Mein und dein Herz. Medeia“ beendete. Nino Haratischwili ist auch selbst als Theaterautorin tätig; ihre Texte werden verlegt und teilweise von ihr selbst inszeniert. Die Neubearbeitung des Medea-Mythos für ihre Diplominszenierung ist ein Beispiel dafür. Mittlerweile schrieb sie mehrere Prosatexte und Stücke, die sowohl in Deutschland als auch in Georgien veröffentlicht wurden.
Now winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2020
The Eighth Life was longlisted to the Booker International Prize 2020 but missed the shortlist. I would have preferred it to China Iron or The Discomfort of Evening but I think I understand why It did not convince the jury. Too readable maybe?
The long novel is the saga of a Georgian family ( the Eastern Europe one not the US state) starting in 1900 and up to the beginning of the 21st century. The story follows a few generations of dramatic events, either external or among the family.
It took me forever to read this novel, not because I did not like it but because It was too dramatic although the writing is playful and not too oppressive. Many times, the events slide towards melodrama and that was a detail I did not appreciate too much. It seemed that there was no shortage of bad luck for the characters. The writing was pleasant, but I would not say it was anything too special.
There was a magical realism touch to the novel in the form of a secret hot chocolate recipe which brings doom to whoever drinks too much from it. I found this detail useless and a bit out of place.
All in all, I think the novel is worth the effort and it is a great way to learn more about Georgian history and not only. Some people complained that there is too much info about the WW2 but for me it was fine because I am no expert on the subject. I did not even know Beria was Georgian, for example.
Now Winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2020 Longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020 Believe me: You need this Georgian historical novel in your life. Really. All 944 pages of it. Haratischwili's epic saga tells the story of one family living through the 20th century in (Eastern) Europe, being shaped by and shaping history, becoming victims and perpetrators and everything in between. Niza, the narrator, conveys the destiny of their ancestors to her niece Brilka: "It really is the right thing to do, to record their stories for you. Ours. Yours. Mine, and those of all the others who have written their lives into ours. I suddenly knew why I was doing this, and it was right to do it. I knew that I was carrying out a duty, the duty of an axe that shatters time: for you."
This is of course a hint to Kafka's famous quote that "a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us": Haratischwili has written a novel about remembrance, about the ongoing past, and about the power of storytelling. The seven chapters center on one member of the Jashi family each, but also reveal the close-knit relationships between the characters: As Niza explains, the story is like a carpet, and all of the characters hold various threads, thus creating individual and larger patterns. All of them lead to and shape the eigth life: Brilka's.
The first part of this epic is dedicated to Stasia, born in 1900 and Niza's great-grandmother, who dreams of being a dancer, but marries a soldier; we meet her beautiful half-sister Christine, who, against her will, becomes the mistress of an infamous politician; then there's Kostya, Stasia's son, who rises in the Soviet ranks and falls in love with an older Jewish woman; his sister Kitty, who is accused of being a traitor to the communist cause; Kostya's daughter Elene; and Niza herself. Throughout the story, we witness historic events and developments like the end of the Tsarist rule, the October Revolution, the building of the Soviet Union, the Great Terror, WWII, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Georgian civil war, and we meet figures like Stalin and Lavrentiy Beria (although they are not explicitly named). Haratischwili shows what the course of history means for individual people, thus illustrating what a historical novel can do and a history book can't.
The whole story is given a symbolic layer with the magical hot chocolate that is consumed at neuralgic points throughout the book: The recipe was invented by the patriarch of the family, Stasia's father, who loved Western Europe just as much as his home country and dreamed of building Austrian-style coffee houses all over Georgia. His hot chocolate can lead to bliss and destruction, it can strengthen and destroy.
Haratischwili was herself born in Georgia and now lives in Hamburg - this book was originally written in German and became a huge literary sensation. I want to applaud Scribe for acquiring the rights and for investing in a fantastic translation by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin. This book is like a literary opera, rich and out there and unashamedly intending to paint a big, colorful picture - from time to time, it might be a little too much (subtle it is certainly not), but this novel has so much heart and radiates an immense joy of storytelling, so it doesn't spoil the experience at all.
My guess is that "The Eighth Life" will receive some love when it comes to book prizes for translated literature in 2020, and it will be well-deserved. In Germany, Haratischwili has already received numerous awards and stipends for her writing.
This book has had my complete attention every spare minute of the last week, and I was absorbed from page 1 to page 944. A family saga that starts with the four daughters of a Georgian chocolatier, through wars and revolutions and generations. That's the country of Georgia, which I knew almost nothing about.
I always say I find my best reads on the long but not shortlists of awards and this is no exception (longlisted for the International Booker) - any other books I've picked up while reading this have paled in comparison.
I had copy from the publisher through Edelweiss but it took me a while to get to it. It came out April 14, 2020.
Update: I am so happy that it is included in the long-list of International Booker 2020. It seems the book is doing a simple thing, but somehow it is managing to do it in a magical captivating way without resorting to any tricks. Maybe sincerity is underpriced asset in modern fiction.
”When i was about the same age as you, Brilka, I often used to wonder what would happen if the world’s collective memory had retained different things and lost others? If we had forgotten all the wars and all those countless kings, rulers, leaders, and mercenaries, and people to be read about in books were those who had built a house with their own hands, planted a garden, discovered a giraffe, described a cloud, praised the nape of a woman’s neck. I wondered how we know that the people whose names have endured were better, cleverer, or more interesting just because they’ve stood test of time. What of those who are forgotten?”
It has been a while since I’ve read a family saga. And it has been ages since I’ve read such a good one. It is the one of those books which is very tricky for me write about. I cannot quite put in words why I ended up loving this book so much. I am not a huge fan of the genre in general. There is a tradition of bold family sagas in Eastern Europe, Russia especially. I know quite a few written about the 20th century in the former Soviet Union. Lyudmila Ulitskaya does it very well. Also it has been done successfully in the recent English language books with the backdrop of China and Korea. The idea for this novel is deceptively simple - it is a story about several generations of a single family against the backdrop of historic events during the “red” century. However, there were two factors which raised my initial interest. Firstly, the main part of the book is set in Georgia. Quite often, the book with the plot based on the history of Soviet Union is written by a Russian writer. So perspective is from the centre towards the peripheries. The characters often do not have national identities unless their are Jews. Here it is different - it is the same events, but from the perspective rooted in Georgia. And I always was quite keen to read a novel about Georgia. Secondly, the author is quite young - she is a millennial living in Germany for a long time. So she could not witness the majority of things she was writing about. Though her narrator is 10 years older, almost exactly my age. And the fact that the writer lives in the Western Europe brings this slightly more detached point of view on the events combining both her western and eastern identity. I was curios to see how her generation internalised all this experience. The novel is originally written in German in 2014.
The book is structured in the form of a very long letter from the aunt, Niza to her 12 year old niece. Niza, who is born in 1974, now lives in Berlin. Her niece, Brilka, whom she has not seen since the girl was a baby, has unexpectedly bursted into Niza’s life shaking her routines and piercing the bubble of her existence. Intentionally or not, Brilka asks her aunt the questions which Niza was trying to burry for a long time. Brilka wants to understand herself. And she prompts Niza to do the same. Consequently, this book is the result of her search. Reading this, i was constantly thinking how our life reminds a Russian doll; the history of the older generations are often packed inside our motivations, thoughts and actions without us even aware about it. How many things seems to be predetermined. Or are they? That is the question which Niza and the author is grappling with too, it seems.
The novel is divided into 7 books-lives. Each book is devoted to a member of a Jachi’s family, mainly women. The family is founded at the beginning of the 20th century somewhere in a small town in Georgia by a confectioner who has had four daughters from two wives. The time frame between the individual books overlaps. I especially loved that the central character of each book is not simply dropped in the next one but still involved throughout the whole novel. It all starts with Stasia, born with the century, dreamy, extremely brave and devoted woman, who follows twice her loved ones plunging into the calamities of the revolution and later the second world war. Then there is Christine, her younger sister of exceptional beauty who becomes its victim. Then - Kostya and Kitty - the children of Stasia. Their fates could not have been more different from each other. He becomes a successful functionary, she has to flee to the West and never able to come back home. Niza is the last in the chain growing up in Georgia through the cynical eighties followed by wild 90s.
But when i write all of this it sounds very plane, it sounds like something which has been done already a million times: revolution, purges, world war 2, the 60s, Prague spring, the collapse of the Soviet Union. I seem not to be able to show what unique about this novel. And to be honest, while reading the first book I thought it would end up like a saga of broken dreams due to the historic calamities. But trust me, it is much deeper than that. It grabbed me from the second book onwards and there is something special about it. Maybe, it is its sincerity; maybe, it is the way how the author creates these characters, how psychologically complex, multidimensional they are and how they always balance between giving in to the “Fate” and still being free to make their own choices. This is the fiction which tells the truth somehow. Inevitably, there is a lot of cruel drama in this book: murders, rapes, wars, betrayals. Some scenes felt slightly overdramatised, a bit theatrical. Later I learned that the author is a successful play writer. But there were not single time when I felt the story overstretched. All the unthinkable things she describes could happen and were everyday experience at that era.
Georgia of course is a birth place of Stalin. And his shadow is hovering over the book. But the one of his henchman, Lavrentiy Beria is much more omnipresent in the plot. Stalin called him “our Himmler”. He was as nasty piece of work as they go. But in the novel, though existing only in the margins he is far from a cartoonish villain, more like a hand of destiny. Interestingly, the author chooses not to name them in the novel almost until the last few pages. Beria is known as a “Little Big Man” through the novel. Unexpectedly, I’ve learned some new history as well. I want to mention here two events. I did not know that over 5 mln Soviet citizens were forcibly repatriated from abroad after the World War II. It has been conducted by NKVD (Russian secret service) and called ‘operation SMERSH” (abbreviation to “death to spies" in Russian). Only half of them have reached home. I did not also know about the one of the last of war actions in the same war - Georgian uprising at Texel island in Netherlands which lasted from April 5 to May 20, 1945. The Georgians, many of them exRed army soldiers captured by the Germans and made to fight on their side, have mutinied against the Nazi leadership and killed around 400 German military personal, many of them in their sleep. In one of those weird parallels coincidences, it reminded me another book I’ve read recently. In the novel Insurrecto set in the Philippines, there is an episode when the locals are attacking the American troops stationed at their land in the middle of the night.
Anyway, slowly but surely, this novel has totally won me over. Her language is quiet simple, but penetratingly sincere. The book is driven by the dialogue which is snappy, sharp and bare of feelings. And maybe it is just me, but I found the book and some episodes in particular almost heartbreakingly moving. Of course, the last part about Niza was very relatable in my case. The author was writing from the perspective of a girl of almost exactly my age. When she was writing about the late 80s and early 90s, I had to stop reading quiet a few times as i felt almost physically overwhelmed by the flood of my own long forgotten memories about that time. It was crazy time, it was dangerous time, but we lived through it as it was totally normal. And we had hopes and freedom for the first time.
Now, about the chocolate and the magic realism. I’ve read that some people identified a trace of magic realism in the novel. I am not one of them. As i mentioned earlier, the main theme of the book is the role of Fate in a life of an individual; the question, to which extent our origins define our life. And there is a powerful metaphor for this in a book. There is a secret family recipe of a hot chocolate which is carefully (or sometimes less so) passed from generation to generation. Added to other products, it brings only good things. But there is a belief that whoever drinks it pure will face a calamity. Many family members did have a drink. Is it the drink to blame for what happened later? Ive seen somewhere this novel is compared One Hundred Years of Solitude. Especially, that the novel covers around 100 years as well. But for me, they would be off the mark. If I would compare it to some other book, it would be The Neapolitan Novels. The similarities I found is this "matter of a fact prose", honesty and psychological depth. But again, it would be a mistake to take this comparison too far.
It is the longest, but the most engrossing and the most moving novel I’ve read this year. And, I think it deserves to be widely read.
Update: It has got a great review in the Guardian:
Now winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Let the Celebrations begin. The jury felt the book’s Quality put it Streets ahead of the rest of the list.
A 900 page history of a chocolate dynasty. I had heard Wispas about it but it really came to prominence with its International Booker longlisting. It was a Kinder surprise to me the book was so good and it definitely p-p-p-picks up the more you read.
The large red book reminds me of a London Double Decker. Reading it is something of a Marathon, but there is a Bounty of great reading awaiting anyone that reads it. But its no Picnic and I would be Lion if I said it was an easy read, albeit the split into eight books was a Boost. I found I needed to Have a Break at intervals and Work, Rest and Play or my life was consumed with reading it. I also, to avoid disturbing my sleep, made it a rule to never read it After Eight. After finishing I felt I had joined a Club. Reading a few pages a day to my children was just enough to give my kids a treat. I felt I could read it between other books, without spoiling my appetite for fiction.
If you are finding the vast cast list difficult to follow and the connections far from Eclair, Yorkie breakthrough may be to draw a family tree as even the small Fry’s in the family are important. At times though the author simply Revels in adding additional cast members. It is a book with multiple Heroes (or should that be - with more than one Aero) which does feel like a Fudge. At times this Bounty Mars the reader’s enjoyment.
There is humour in the book – it’s not laugh out loud funny but it did raise some Snickers. The storyline is good although at times it is the crumbliest, flakiest plot I have read.
There is lots of history told as narrative in the book. Some based on events the characters experienced, but some based on rumour or Hershey. Some of the narrative seems unjust - Niza is definitely not a Ferrero. But don’t skip this part, key plot details are Nestle’d among the well known history, even when you think the author is going off Topic. Some books are said to contain a world – this contains a Galaxy.
Overall the book was much darker than I expected – almost like accidentally buying a Bournville.
I have never previously read any books set in Georgia – but I have read many books from neighbouring countries. Some are Turkish. This was just a Delight. If like me you have not read it you are in for a Treet.
[4.5] I didn't realize how much I loved this novel until I reached the end and felt bereft. For the past two weeks, while reading The Eighth Life, I have led a second life, far removed from my 2022 existence. I have been enraptured with the story of the Georgian Jashi family, from the early 1900s to 2007. It is a 934 page love letter from Niza to her niece Brilka and encompasses the 20th century history of Georgia, the Soviet Union and Russia. The longer I read, the more I appreciated the structure, breadth and depth of this magnificent novel.
Longlisted for the Booker International Prize 2020
This is by far the longest book on the Booker International list, and for the most part I found it an enjoyable and absorbing read, though I can appreciate that it won't appeal to everyone.
It tells the story of a Georgian family from 1900 to the early part of the 21st century. Like her narrator Niza Jashi, Harataschvili was born in Georgia but now lives and works in Germany, and this book was written in German.
It starts with a brief prologue in which Niza describes the circumstances in which her mother calls her to rescue her 12-year old niece Brilka from Austria, where she has arrive alone having travelled after Holland by local trains having abandoned a school party. The rest of the book consists of 7 long chapters, each loosely the story of one family member, plus Brilka's section at the end which is blank (I don't think this is a spoiler). Although each chapter concerns one central character, most of the story is told chronologically, and the main protagonists also appear before and after their chapters.
The first chapter tells the story of Stasia, the third of four daughters of a chocolatier from a small town in the south of Georgia that aspires to be "the Nice of the Caucasus". So somewhere on the Black Sea near the Turkish border, perhaps Batumi. The chocolatier, who remains nameless, has a secret recipe for a special form of hot chocolate which he believes is too dangerous to those who taste it, so he only uses small quantities in his products. This chocolate recipe is almost a character in its own right, and most of the main protagonists get to taste it.
We soon leave pre-war Georgia for a tour of the main events of Soviet and post-Soviet history, in which the family undergoes many tragic events, with a few unlikely coincidences and a dash of magic realism. Much of the historical content is very familiar, but the Georgian context makes it more interesting, and the two most important Georgians in Soviet history, Stalin and Beria (who plays a major role), appear without being explicitly named. I found the history of post-Soviet Georgia intriguing if a little depressing.
A couple of quotes that seem apposite: "The stories intertwine, merge into one - I'm trying to untangle this skein of wool because you have to tell things one after another, because you can't put the simultaneity of the world into words"
"Yes, maybe she should do that, sing life's praises. Life, as it was. Life, with all its murderers, its classrooms, the cheated, the left-behind, the words that had no meaning any more, life with its miracles and coincidences, its kisses and revulsion".
“Wherever we had been in Russia. . . the magical name of Georgia came constantly. People who had never been there, and who possibly never could go there, spoke of Georgia . . . as a kind of second heaven”. —John Steinbeck
Does 1071 pages send you running the other direction? (which my copy stated)... How about 944 pages? ( which some book copies state)... Does that feel better? Have momentary qualms about investing time reading this highly praised novel: “Winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation”? It’s also recognized as the longest book ‘ever’ to make the Booker International long list. Does that pique your interest? curiosity?
Truth from me: I hadn’t read even 1 review or blurb about this MEGA-SAGA-HISTORICAL novel. As far as I knew it was a 350 page novel. I had received an email from a friend in Germany who is the sweetest less pushy person on the planet....but soooo highly recommended this book to me: I simply said, ‘ok’....I’ll read your book so we can chat about it. (Peter, you now owe me a book discussion).
I suggest readers read the blurb and read other reviews....[I just finished reading ‘The Guardian’s’ review, by Maya Jaggi]. It’s long too ( but not 900+ pages) > it’s outstanding!!! I mean....write a review for THIS book? Maya, ( who ever you are, you’re a pro!!) I admit her long detailed - informative review might have made little sense to me ‘before’ reading this book though. Point is: Good luck to anyone who attempts writing a review for “The Eighth Life”, by Nino Haratischwili, translated by Ruth Martin. I applaud every reader and reviewer. ( gotta include myself too).... ...... as I’ll try to offer my best effort.... knowing darn well, that most of my friends won’t even consider this mega-family-saga...about a Georgian family (a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia > formally Soviet republic that’s home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. The capital is Tbilisi) Personally ... I did a little Google studying of the area. I liked what I was learning about Georgia in this story enough to pique my interest in wanting to see photos and read more. There are gorgeous cathedrals, monasteries, old forts, and....gorgeous ‘hiking trails’. 🥾🌳
Ok....back to this book review ....( fearful that it’s going to be too long)...I’ll try to trim tab it.... But will include some ‘general dialogue’ ....so readers might get a flavor of the story itself. There are many wonderful excerpts— many highlight scenes about love, marriages, pregnancies, births, children, tragedy, murder, jealousy, beauty, disfigurement, adultery, horridness, suicide, wickedness, rape, humor, seduction, war invasion, abuse, sweetness, bitterness, friendships, celebrations, broken relationships, family curse, lovers, guilt, drunkenness, schnapps, enemies, education, Government corruption, military soldiers, horrors of war, art, dance, music traitors, aging, wealth & luxuriousness, poverty, famine, revenge, redemption, family fighting, political and private wars, emotional and psychological vulnerability, a tidbit amount of magical realism, and a changing world....as we journey along with the Jashi family. One unnamed character I must highlight is “The Chocolatier”....who has a secret recipe for HOT CHOCOLATE.... There is much intrigue about this black liquid secret ingredient: the exquisiteness & its dangers....interwoven throughout the entire novel.
This novel is broken up into 7 ‘book’s. Book I, ( 9 chapters): *Stasia* Book II ( 7 chapters): * Christine* Book III ( 15 chapters): *Kostya* Book IV ( 12 chapters): *Kitty* Book V ( 32 chapters): *Elene* Book VI ( 25 chapters): *Daria* Book VII ( 8 chapters): *Niza* Book VIII (0 chapters)will make sense if you read this novel....:*Brilka*
‘The Eighth Life’ covers move than 100 years. We follow six generations ....( I’ll share about the Jashi family: the heartbeat engrossing aspects of this novel soon enough)...but first a little overview .....about the history we move along with: in chronological order: ( from early 1900’s to the 21st century): .....The Red century into the 21st century: the October socialist revolution. .....The Great Purge of terror: Statin had to fight his way to political succession, but ultimately declared himself dictator in 1929, .....The Great Patriotic War, .....The Prague uprising in 1945.. partially successful attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city of Prague, and Leningrad. .....Perestroika ( a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s... with its leader Mikhail Gorbachev), .....Georgian Independence referendum.... held in the Republic of Georgia in 1991. ....NKVD: The Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs established in 1917. The agency was originally tasked with conducting regular police work and overseeing the countries prisons and labor camps. It was just founded in 1930.
I shared a little about history we journey along with....but the reader never needs to burdened with overindulged dry facts. One could simply read this novel as a sweeping multigenerational family drama. Readers who have ever enjoyed ‘Kate Morton’, ‘Rohinton Mistry’, ‘The Elena Ferrante Neapolitan series’, or Colleen McCullough’s ‘The Thorn Birds’ epic ....will probably love this novel too.
Now for the BEST THINGS TO REPORT about this book: ....The writing is gorgeous, seamless, easy flowing, as though you’re not even reading much of the time....(learning about Georgian and USSA history wasn’t effort....and its not even necessary to Google anything. I did ...but it’s not necessary. What’s phenomenal is how well we come to know the characters. The authors artistry, crafting, ingeniousness, finesse, proficiency, skillfulness....call it what you want....makes for intimate engrossing brilliant storytelling.
I loved the way the book started. The prologue, [or The Score of Forgetting, 2006], sets the tone with such precision and astuteness — it gives a great overall context for the rest of our reading. Niza tells us this story actually has many beginnings... so many beginnings it’s hard to choose because they all constitute the beginning. We meet Niza Jashi, ( 32 years of age), the book’s narrator, in the prologue. (who says the story ‘could’ start in Berlin)....or she could start the story with many beginnings. Niza, sets the stage...telling us about ‘her’ mother who demands she must go find Brilka ( her 12 year old niece). Brilka ran away, bolted her school party in Amsterdam, with hardly any money ( and a tuna sandwich). She traveled alone by train until she arrived in Austria. Brilka left a note saying she did not intend to return. Niza herself, was living in a foreign country, and had cut herself off from most of the people she once loved. Niza tells us Brilka is the daughter of her own dead sister, Daria. Brilka set off to Vienna, her personal utopia, because it was only place she felt solidarity with the dead woman. Brilka’s dead great-great aunt had become her heroine and she wanted to obtain the rights to her aunt’s songs. Brilka hoped to find redemption, and an answer to the emptiness she felt inside her. The dialogue was funny and forceful when Niza’s mother said.... “She’s your sister‘s daughter, and you will FETCH HER”. Niza was to obey her mother, find Brilka; catch a plane and bring her back home. Let the stories begin.... But first....Niza tells us: “Brilka.....”even if I’ve never told you, I would like to help you; to write your story differently, to write it anew. So as not just to say this, but to prove it as well. I’m writing all this down”. “I owe these lines to a century that cheated and deceived everyone, all those who hoped. I owe these lines to an enduring betrayal that settled over my family like a curse. I owe these lines to my sister, whom I never forgive for flying away that night without wings; to my grandfather, whose heart my sister tore out; to my great-great grandmother, who danced a pas de delux with me at the age of eighty-three; to my mother, who went off in search of God....I owe these lines to Miro, who infected me with love as if it were poison; I already has lines to a chocolate-maker and a White-Red Lieutenant; to a book I would never have written, if . . . I owe these lines to an infinite number of fallen tears; I owe these lines to myself, a woman who left home to find herself gradually gradually lost her self instead; but, above all, I owe these lines to you, Brilka” “I owe them to you because you deserve the eighth life. Because they say the number eight represents infinity, constant reassurance. I am giving my eight to you”.
After I finished this novel ....I found it valuable to go back and read the prologue. Book I .....begins with my favorite character, *Stasia*. She was the third of four daughters of the chocolatier. They lived in a small town near Georgia, ( Tbilisi, Georgia), claiming to be as beautiful as the breathtaking region, Caucasus ( known for being one of the most beautiful and historical interesting places in the world to explore).
Moving from Georgia to Russia to England, to Vienna..... at this point I’ll simply leave some excerpts ( hoping they might entice others to dig your teeth into this very brilliant ambitions historical family saga.
Craving Hot Chocolate? “The scent melted me along with the chocolate as I watched her mixing the ingredients with hands that were old but still nimble, consciously, carefully tasting, and measuring everything several times as if it were a medicine, a poison, and not this heavenly chocolate. And of course I didn’t believe a word she said. Chocolate was there to be eaten, after all, and I just wanted to dive into this dark mass and lick it all up”.
“We were both shielded by our ignorance, not just about our family, but the wider world, too. We didn’t know that our grandfather was plagued by nightmares, all of which took place on a submarine, and featured an inferno, a tall woman with rings on her fingers, a man whittling wooden angels and his curly-haired son, who forced his love upon Kostya’s daughter”. “We didn’t know that Stasia as Thekla and Sopio played Patience in our garden. We didn’t know that, in far-off Moscow, Giorgi Alania was sliding into a deep depression. We didn’t know that Elvis Aaron Presley had died at Graceland, bloated and estranged from the world. That our mother suffered two miscarriages before finally giving up on her desire to start a ‘proper’ family, then began writing her degree dissertation (on Lady Macbeth, of all things). That Christine was doing everything in her power to confer on Miqa’s son the happiness Miqa himself had lost. No one told us that Stasia’s second-eldest sister, Meri, had died in Kutaisi, or that Lida had died a short while later, in the town where she was born—probably without fear, overjoyed to be entering the kingdom of heaven at last as a bride Christ”. “But perhaps we were already starting to suspect that the world resembled a tangle of threads, and that this was incredibly important in some complex, inexplicable way”.
“Wild times were coming, Brilka. The East envied the West it’s blue jeans, and young girls in the West fainted at Beatles concerts. In the West, people were demonstrating against the Vietnam War, which was taking on ever more absurd and bloody dimensions, and had become, like the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War power struggle”. “In Paris, students occupied the Sorbonne and erected barricades. Parents no longer understood their children. They didn’t understand why these children, who had never lacked for anything, we’re certainly taking a stand on behalf of the unions and workers. Why they didn’t take their own national identity seriously, why they were dragging its values through the mud; why they were taking to the streets to demonstrate for women’s rights and against the military. Surely they didn’t seriously believe they were bringing peace to the world with a joint and a few flowers plaited in their hair, or by wearing ridiculous batik sarongs!”
“Telling this story, Brilka, I sometimes feel as if I can’t breathe. Then I have to stop, go over to the window, and take a deep breath, it’s not because I can’t find the right words, not because of the punishing gods, judges, and omnipresent choirs. Nor is it because of all the stories clamoring to be told. It’s because of the blanks”. “The stories overlap, entertwine, merge into one—I’m trying to untangle the skein of wool because you have to tell things one after another, because you can’t put the simultaneity of the world into words”. “When I was about the same age as you, Brilka, I often used to wonder what would happen if the world’s collective memory had retained different things and lost others. If we had forgotten all the wars and all those countless kings, rulers, leaders, and mercenaries, and the only people to be read about in books were those who had built a house with their own hands, planted a garden, discovered a giraffe, describe the cloud, praised the nape of a woman’s neck. I wondered how we know that the people whose names have endured were better, cleverer, and more interesting just because they’ve stood the test of time. What of those who are forgotten?” “We decide what we want to remember and what we don’t. Time has nothing to do with it. Time doesn’t care”.
One hell of an amazing novel..... with elaborate steamy hot chocolate grandeur!
This is an amiable crowd-pleaser of a novel: a 'sweeping' family saga through the twentieth century history of what purports to be Georgia but which is essentially Soviet Russia. I enjoyed reading it in a light way but am somewhat bemused at what it's doing on the International Booker list: it's entertaining, nicely written, fluently translated - but I wouldn't classify it as 'literary' in that it's not doing anything novel, isn't delivering any new historical or personal insights, doesn't press on the boundaries of genre or language - it's entertaining, it's unchallenging, it's an ideal holiday/bathtub/long flight read.
One of the limitations of the formal conceit, that this is a long (long!) letter written to a niece, is that the narrator isn't present at most of the scenes and events, many of which take place before she is even born. As a result, this is very 'told' and throughout the 900+ pages, there is minimal dialogue. It's only in the last quarter or so that this starts to change.
It's also the case that, like much popular historical fiction, characters somehow manage to be at all the big events of the age and rub shoulders with the most (in)famous men: if someone's going to have an affair, then it's with a key Soviet leader; if someone is in the army, then they're commanding a unit at the battle of Stalingrad; if someone joins the Navy, then they're manning the 'Road of Life' during the siege of Leningrad ('Kostya had helped get more than 44,000 tons of food and 60,000 tons of kerosene into Leningrad') - no-one is just a farmer or a infantryman, natch!
Some of the history is very simplistic, perhaps even inaccurate? (See my note below on the Hitler-Stalin pact). And there is a tendency for the chapters to end on a cliffhanger of prolepsis: 'but that was where my great-great-grandfather was wrong' - da da da!
All of which is making it sound like I didn't enjoy this book: I did - it's just that I expected something challenging and 'literary', and instead got a light family saga with its fair share of melodrama and soapiness. As I said, a page-turning crowd-pleaser.
Dit verhaal van acht familieleden, vrienden en vijanden uit Georgië leest als een trein. Tante Nitsa schrijft dit boek als antwoord aan nichtje Brilka. Ze wil daarmee uitleggen waarom ze het kind niet meteen in huis neemt als die op twaalfjarige leeftijd opeens vanuit het verre Tbilisi bij haar in Berlijn voor de deur staat. Twee jaar lang schrijft ze aan dit 1269 pagina’s tellende antwoord. Ze vat daarmee de hele 20ste eeuw samen van een land dat politiek nauw verweven is met dat van Rusland. Alweer lezend leren dus. Maar wat een prachtverhaal! En welke diep uitgewerkte karakters! Achteraan in het boek staat een stamboom, en die helpt. Maar de schrijfster met de onuitspreekbare naam herhaalt regelmatig de hoofdlijnen, en dat helpt evenzeer. Mooi, vlot lezend en behapbaar opgedeeld in afzonderlijke hoofdstukken telkens met één leven in de hoofdrol. Ik wil ook zo’n schrijvende tante!
Want a lesson in endurance? Read this book — its almost 1300 pages (German paperback) demand quite a lot of your reading muscle but much more from the book’s characters.
Want to know more about Georgia ? Read this book — its time span (1900-2007) covers pretty much everything from modern (Georgian and European) history and projects it onto the Jaschi family.
Like epic (I mean really epic) family sagas? Read this book — members of no less than six generations are dancing on the pages, but due to the cleverness and pace of introducing them you never lose track and love and sometimes hate any of them.
It’s hard for me to point out highlights. There are so many. There’s love – happy and unhappy – and hate; there’s rape and torture and murder. There’s all kinds of wars and revolution taking place – a massacre, a vitriol attack. Beauty and ugliness. There’s a terrace on the roof of the “Green House” from which you can see the stars in the night sky over Tbilisi, but which never got a railing. There’s a wanna-be ballet dancer who never made it to Paris and a singer of songs who missed Vienna. And there’s some magic realism too. You can’t help it. Sometimes ghosts from the past just appear and sit together in the garden to play cards. It’s all woven together into one single carpet that covers the entire 20th century and of which every thread seems important.
At the beginning the style needs some getting used to in its detachment and matter-of-fact tone. Feelings are essentially reserved for dialogues. But you should never forget the narrative perspective: The story wasn’t written for us. It was written by an aunt (of generation 5) and addresses her 13 year old niece Brilka (generation 6). One notices in a few places that the author is not a German native speaker. But it didn’t matter. I was captivated by the story from beginning to end. And I suffered with the characters. A lot. Much more than I usually do.
The good news is: The book was translated into English under the title The Eighth Life (for Brilka) and will be published in couple of days (reportedly on November 8th) (Correction: delayed until November 14th 2019). I suspect the translation will be quite alright as the prose isn’t very demanding. Read an excerpt from the prologue and a short note by the translator here: https://www.no-mans-land.org/article/...
Not quite a five-star read. There are too many small deficiencies and quirks for that, but a solid four stars nonetheless.
Oh, and I almost forgot: Do you love hot chocolate? Read this book.
Ein absolutes und unbedingtes Lebenslesehighlight. 1280 Seiten voller Geschichte, Gefühlen und Familiengenerationen . Ich habe jede Seite inhaliert, habe gelitten, gehofft, mit den Charakteren auch geträumt und einiges über osteuropäische Geschichte dazu gelernt. Jede einzelne Frauenfigur in diesem Roman hat ihren eigenen inneren Krieg gekämpft und dabei auch einige Krisen an die nächsten Generationen weitergegeben. Es ging hier um Selbstbestimmung, Verzweiflung, Hoffnung, Traumata und viel um Ohnmacht und Hilflosigkeit. Aber irgendwie ging es letztlich auch ums Ankommen und um das Suchen und Finden der eigenen Identität, nach dem Ort in der Welt, der Heimat bedeutet. Ein grandioses Werk. Chapeau Nino Haratischwili. 💛💛💛💛
Un libro con più di mille pagine e io mi ritrovo con il blocco dello scrittore a fissare un foglio bianco.
Non so da dove partire, da chi partire. È un po’ come quando fate un viaggio, tornate a casa e non sapete cosa raccontare: partite dall’inizio e andate con ordine? Vi soffermate sugli imprevisti per riderci su ora che la rabbia è passata? Andate direttamente ai ricordi più belli ed emozionanti? Cosa decidete di raccontare? Da dove partite?
Mi succede spesso quando amo un libro, perché vorrei trovare le parole giuste, le parole perfette per convincere chi mi legge, chi mi ascolta, a leggere a questo libro. Per me diventa di importanza fondamentale trasmettere tutto l’amore possibile per un libro che ho amato, perché è un libro che deve essere amato anche dagli altri, da più persone possibili. E sento questa pressione, questo bisogno di far bene che alla fine poi mi fa fare peggio del solito.
È come se anch’io, come Niza, mi rifiutassi di scrivere questa storia. Certo, tra le due cose non c’è paragone: Niza ha dovuto parlare della Storia del suo Paese e della storia della sua famiglia, ed entrambe le storie sono dolorose, maledettamente dolorose; io devo solo convincervi ad affrontare questo viaggio, anche se doloroso, maledettamente doloroso.
Niza decide di scrivere L’ottava vita per Brilka. Brilka è sua nipote, è la figlia della sorella di Niza, e l’ottava vita è la sua. Ed è una vita ancora tutta da scrivere.
[…] devo queste righe a te, Brilka.
Le devo a te perché tu meriti l’ottava vita. Perché si dice che il numero otto equivalga all’eternità, al fiume che ritorna. Ti dono il mio otto.
Ci lega un secolo. Un secolo rosso. Per sempre e otto. È il tuo turno, Brilka. Io ho adottato il tuo cuore. Il mio l’ho gettato via. Accetta il mio otto.
Niza che per anni ha deciso di ignorare la sua vita, la sua storia, la sua famiglia, si rende conto che non può più scappare dal suo passato, né dal suo presente. Si rende conto che deve abbracciare quello che è stato, quello che è accaduto, e fissarlo, scriverlo, per non dimenticarlo più, per trasmetterlo a Brilka, che ne ha bisogno, e per lei stessa, che ne ha altrettanto bisogno, ma non lo sapeva.
Si inizia con un fabbricante di cioccolato, che fa la cioccolata calda più buona del mondo, a cui nessuno può resistere, come se quella cioccolata esercitasse una malia, una malia che ben presto si trasforma in una maledizione. Basta poco, anche solo un assaggio, e la vita di quella persona sarà rovinata, sarà maledetta, sarà una catastrofe, sarà dolore.
La cioccolata ormai non era che il ricordo di un’altra epoca, e senza cioccolata si dimenticava la dolcezza, e senza dolcezza si dimenticava l’infanzia, e senza infanzia si dimenticava l’inizio, e senza l’inizio non si riconosceva la fine.
Si inizia con Stasia, nata nel 1900. Si finisce quasi un secolo dopo, con Brilka, nata nel 1993.
«Chi ha bisogno di un velo, un oggetto, sia anche di seta, tra sé e il mondo, ha paura della vita. Ha paura di sperimentare cose, di sentirle veramente. E trovo che la vita è troppo breve e troppo meravigliosa per non guardarla davvero, per non coglierla davvero, per non viverla davvero.»
Si inizia con la famiglia Jashi, le cui donne sembrano sempre scegliersi l’uomo sbagliato: l’uomo che dà più importanza alla carriera per uno spirito patriottico che prende il sopravvento su qualsiasi cosa; l’uomo che non si accorge cos’è costretta a fare la propria moglie; l’uomo che verrà considerato un traditore; l’uomo che verrà considerato figlio di un traditore e uno stupratore; l’uomo che della propria vita non sa fare nulla, se non rovinarla, con droghe o gelosia o delinquenza.
Si inizia a Tblisi, capitale della Georgia, si prosegue in giro per il mondo, e si finisce di nuovo a Tbilisi, dove tutto ha avuto inizio. Come un cerchio che si chiude. O forse un otto.
C’è la Georgia e c’è la Russia, un secolo di Storia macchiata da litri di sangue versato, da lotte, manifestazioni, gulag, campi di lavoro che erano campi di morte, uomini e donne uccisi a sangue freddo perché considerati traditori, povertà, freddo e gelo, nelle ossa e nell’animo.
E per la prima volta si chiese se tutto questo potesse magari essere giusto, la vita che si svolgeva normalmente, e se i sogni potessero essere ostacoli che allontanano dalla realtà.
E potreste anche non conoscere la Storia della Georgia, della Russia, dell’Unione Sovietica, del Kgb, perché ci pensa Nino Haratischwili a farvela conoscere. E i nomi dei potenti non vengono nemmeno fatti subito, eppure si capisce a chi si sta riferendo l’autrice, anche se parla del Piccolo Grande Uomo o del Generalissimo, si capisce tutto.
L’ottava vita (per Brilka) è una saga famigliare che mi ha ricordato molto La casa degli spiriti di Isabel Allende. Una saga famigliare intrisa di sofferenza e di morte. Parliamoci chiaro: L’ottava vita (per Brilka) è un libro che fa male. Ogni membro della famiglia Jashi, e moltissime persone che entrano in contatto con quella famiglia, è destinato a soffrire. Per colpa di quella maledetta cioccolata calda, per colpa di un secolo di Storia che è stata segnata da soprusi, violenze, stupri, e sangue, tanto sangue.
E non mi stupisce leggere che l’autrice è nata a Tblisi, perché solo una donna che ha vissuto lì, la cui famiglia ha vissuto lì, poteva dipingere così bene la distruzione subita nella carne e nello spirito di persone comuni che desideravano la libertà e che hanno trovato solo morte.
Nonostante questo dolore, affrontate questo viaggio. Assaporate la cioccolata calda, fatevi inebriare dal suo profumo, fatevi abbracciare da quell’aroma. Perdetevi nelle vie di Tbilisi, nelle stanze della Casa Verde, sedetevi sul balcone senza ringhiera, ammirate il ciliegio, sorridete agli spiriti che se ne stanno lì a giocare a carte, amate e soffrite con la famiglia Jashi, e continuate a vivere come hanno fatto i loro membri, nonostante tutto, per Brilka.
Perché devo queste righe a un secolo che ha ingannato e raggirato tutti, tutto quelli che speravano. Devo queste righe a un tradimento di lunga durata, che ha pesato sulla mia famiglia come una maledizione. Devo queste righe a mia sorella, che non ho mai potuto perdonare per essere volata via quella notte senza ali, a mio nonno, al quale mia sorella ha strappato il cuore, alla mia bisnonna, che ha danzato con me molti pas de deux, a mia madre, che cercava Dio… Devo queste righe a Miro, che mi ha contagiata con l’amore come con un veleno, a mio padre, che non ho mai potuto conoscere veramente, devo queste righe a un fabbricante di cioccolato e a un tenente bianco-rosso, alla cella di una prigione, ma anche a un tavolo operatorio nel mezzo di un’aula di scuola, a un libro che non avrei mai scritto se tu non fossi entrata nella mia vita. Devo queste righe a un’infinità di lacrime versate, devo queste righe a me stessa, quella che lasciò la patria per trovarsi e tuttavia si perse sempre di più; ma soprattutto devo queste righe a te, Brilka.
Le devo a te perché tu meriti l’ottava vita. Perché si dice che il numero otto equivalga all’eternità, al fiume che ritorna. Ti dono il mio otto.
Kitabın Almanca orijinal ismi Das achte Leben (Für Brilka), kitap 1280 sayfa ancak bu kitabı listesine alarak çok iyi bir iş yapan Aylak Adam Yayınları, kağıt tasarrufu yapmak için karınca duası gibi küçücük puntoyla ve sayfaların alt-üst-yanlarında sadece 0.5 cm boşluk bırakarak çok kötü bir basımla sayfa sayısını 790’a düşürmüş. Hem okumayı zorlaştırıyor hem de acaba kitap eksiksiz tercüme edilmemiş olabilir mi sorusunu akla getiriyor. Buna rağmen olağanüstü güzel ve sonlara doğru temposu düşse de okuma keyfini hep üst seviyede tutan bir romanı Türkçe’ye çok iyi bir çeviri ile kazandırdığı için övgüyü hak ediyor Aylak Adam Yayınları. 1983 yılında Tiflis'te dünyaya gelen ve 2003'ten beri Hamburg'da yaşayan Gürcü yazar Nino Haratischwili, ülkesinde 1900 yılında doğan Stasia’ile başlayan ve 2007’ye kadar altı kuşak içinde dramatik yaşamlar süren yedi kişi üzerinden Yaşi (Jaschi) ailesinin hikayesini şiirsel ve sade bir dil ile anlatıyor bu romanında. Ve sekizinci kişiye anlatılan bu hikaye, bu kişiden yani kitabın orijinal isminde yer verdiği yeğeni Brilka’dan sekizinci kitabı yazması bekleniyor. Destansı ve hacimli romanında aslında keskin bir komünizm karşıtı ve anti-Sovyet’çi olan kitabın anlatıcısı Niza tarafından Sovyet tarihine dair farklı bakışlar, zaman zaman espirili, bazen hüzünlü, ama hep yüksek heyecan düzeyiyle anlatılıyor. Bu aile romanı aynı zamanda bir alternatif/resmi olmayan Rusya tarihi olarak da okunabilir.
Roman Gürcistan’da çukulata imalatçısının (büyük büyük büyükbaba) kızı Anastasia (Stasia) ile başlıyor ve yazarın ifadesiyle “kızıl yüzyıl”, 20. yüzyıl kurgusal ve gerçek olaylarla harmanlayarak anlatılıyor. Çar yanlısı ve refah içindeki ailenin Ekim Devrimi ile altüst olan dünyalarının anlatımıyla roman başlıyor. Ailenin kilometre taşı olan yedi kişi için yazılan yedi kitap yer alıyor romanda. Bu kişiler Stasia, üvey kız kardeşi Christine, oğlu Kostya, kızı Kitty, Kostya’nın kızı Elene, ve Elene’nin kızları Daria ve kitabın anlatıcısı beşinci kuşaktan ailenin ferdi olan Niza. Her birine birer kitap ayrılan ana karakterlerden biri hariç (Kostya) hepsi kadın, bayan Stasi ile başlayan hikaye 14 yaşındaki Brilka ile biterken kadınların ortak noktaları hayatlarının bir döneminde erkek şiddeti veya egemenliği ile trajedi yaşamış olmaları. Stasi başta olmak üzere bu altı ana karakter Yaşi ailesindeki anaerkil yapıyı şekillendiriyorlar. Bu yapıda sevgi, özveri ve bedel ödeme hep kadınların üzerinde. Buna karşın buyurgan, otokrat, her şeyi bilen ve kontrol eden Kostya ise Sovyet Rusya’nın ete kemiğe bürünmüş bir hali olarak anlatılıyor. Romandaki yan kişilerin hem şaşırtıcı kişilikler hem tanıdık insanlar olmasını yazarın düşünce gücünün zenginliğine bağlıyorum, bu karakterleri yanınızda hissediyorsunuz adeta.
Haratischwili’nin anlatımı gerçekçi olmasına rağmen okurken bir masal dünyasında olduğunuzu hissedebiliyorsunuz, yani büyülü bir gerçeklikle anlatmış.Bu anlatımda önemli bir yer tutan sıcak çukulata ise, nesilden nesile aktarılan, baştan çıkarıcı etkisi olan ve her zaman felaket getirdiğine inanılan ve Stasi'nin babası yani büyük büyük büyükbabanın yarattığı formüldür. Bir metafor olarak kullanılan sıcak çukulata acı ama lezzetlidir. Çukulatanın baş döndüren lezzeti aile fertlerine felaketler getirse de ailenin en zor zamanlarında üretilip satışı yapılarak aileyi kurtarmıştır da.
Kitabın başlangıcındaki olayların gelişimi kitabın sonunda net olarak ortaya çıkıyor. Kitabın dans etmeyi seven Stasia ile başlayıp dans etmeyi seven Brilka ile sonlanması da hoş bir kurgu olmuş. Yazar aşk öykülerini peşpeşe sıralarken Sovyet Rusya’daki devlet baskısını ve bunun halk için sonuçlarını okuyucunun gözünün içine sokarcasına anlatmayı da hedeflemiş ve başarmış da. Aynı şekilde Stalin sonrası, Kruşçev, Brejnev, Gorbaçov, Yeltsin dönemlerini de paçavraya çevirmiş, bu açıdan roman oldukça cesur bir roman. Kendisi de Gürcü olan Stalin’in korkunç istihbarat örgütü Çeka’nın (sonradan NKVD ve KGB olacak) başındaki bir diğer Gürcü, romanda "Küçük Büyük Adam" olarak geçen Lavrentiy Pavloviç Beria’nın yaptıklarını ve aileye yaşattıklarını dehşet içinde okurken yüreğim sıkıştı ve Stalin’e bir kez daha lanet ettim. Çok keyifle okudum, bilgilendim, sürükleyiciliği ile kitabının 800 sayfa olmasını fark etmedim, kesinlikle okumanızı öneririm.
[4.5] A towering Bake Off showstopper of a historical family saga (laced with cursed chocolate to an irresistible secret recipe). Like the novels of Isabel Allende, this is a story of interesting women and hard times; enthralling, soapy and easy to read; such a perfectly constructed example of its type that you may forget the work that must have gone into it; and with just enough metaphorical flourish, metafictional awareness and subversion of formulae to appeal to many literary readers (albeit not the most hardcore fans of formal experimentalism).
It is a triumph of translation on the part of Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin to have rendered this so fluidly into English. Not for years have I thought so rarely about the translation process whilst reading a translated book. There were only a tiny number of instances where I doubted a word choice, far fewer than in most novels a quarter the size of this one. (And of the few off-notes, most seemed down to the original rather than the translation, e.g. usage of UK place-names.)
The Eighth Life is by turns enchanting and shocking, full of the strong characters and dramatic events which a mass readership want from Russian novels, but it is easier and quicker to read than most older, famous examples. (It's translated from German, as Haratischvili made her home in Germany, but in setting and scope The Eighth Life absolutely fits the classic idea of the Russian novel.) For those who feel like reading a big Russian novel, but think, for whatever reason, that Tolstoy, Dostoevsky et al might be a bit too much hard work at the time - even if they have been told "War & Peace isn't difficult, it's just long" - The Eighth Life is perfect. (For the second time this year, I wish I'd read Doctor Zhivago; it's probably a useful point of comparison here, as it would have been to a section of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller.) I suspect my reading speed varies between styles of prose more than does many of my GR friends, but I probably wouldn't have read a quarter of Tom Jones in the time I read the entirety of The Eighth Life, both books being around the same length. If you think you couldn't read a 900-page novel, or not since LOTR when you were a teenager, this might be one that could prove you wrong and boost your confidence.
Allende and Russian classics might be the fairest and most flattering comparisons, but The Eighth Life took me back to the way I felt at maybe 12 or 13, racing through the likes of Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart and Kane and Abel, the sort of escapist page-turning sagas that kids who are big readers often consume at that age, among the first 20th century adult novels some of us Gen X'ers read in full. It was wonderful to read again in such a way and at such a speed.
Among the criticisms I've heard of The Eighth Life on GR have been firstly that there isn't enough about Georgia, and too much about Russia - however, I found a lot more in it about Georgia than I expected after hearing that. Some of it is quite subtle and I wonder if it helps to have some roots in a Slavic culture to spot them. Though there is also an abundance of Georgian food, details of climate, of contrasts with Russia both temperamental and political - and towards the end there is plenty about the 1990s civil war and unrest in Georgia. (More than I remember ever taking in from the news at the time - one of the curiosities of this novel for me was that details of events I was definitely old enough to remember from news were less familiar than those from earlier decades.) It is probably inevitable to include a lot about Russia in a story of a well-connected family from another Soviet republic during the communist era. Even aside from the practicalities of war call-ups and political administration, it means the book's structure reflects the Russification and cultural imposition during this period. The second criticism was historical inaccuracy - Roman Clodia earlier pointed out a couple of examples in status updates. This is something I always take seriously in novels that aspire to good quality and prizes. As I enjoyed The Eighth Life so much, I was almost inclined to excuse it because it didn't name Stalin and Beria and was therefore arguably a fictional but very similar world (like some of Isabel Allende's fictional dictatorships) - but towards the end they are named. One or two usages about habits or place-names in England grated slightly - I think "Seven Sisters" means a down-at-heel part of North London to rather more people than it means the cliffs on the South Coast - but more often than not, the UK scenes were believable as set here. For much of the novel, I'd been contemplating boosting my rating up to 5 stars, despite the inaccuracies - but the overoptimistic last few pages made my mind up to leave it at 4 stars. [November 2020: I'm boosting it to 5 stars rounded up from 4.5, because it was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year; I am now clearer that I don't really like the practice of lowering a rating based on a very small proportion of a book; and I'm currently minded to give Pillars of the Earth 4.5 rounded up to 5 - I can't very well do that and leave The Eighth Life on 4 when 'objectively' it has fewer flaws.]
If so minded, one could criticise it for being yet another novel that romanticises the pre-revolutionary Russian bourgeoisie and upper class and their suffering after the revolution, neglecting the experience of the poor. Though it at least does so in the escapist mode of popular fiction, which can be easier to draw comfort from than from the sort of contemporary middle class novel that thoughtlessly assumes everyone /the reader can afford lifestyles that actually need at least £70k and have characters swanning off on journeys whenever they feel like it. And I think there is something to be said for these post-revolution shabby-genteel characters as useful identification figures for anyone who is downwardly mobile, and might also be looking at a future of wearing ten-year-old clothes and shivering winters whilst wearing hats and gloves indoors. Which is now rather more people than anyone thought until very recently. There can be comfort in romanticising things, as fans of the likes of I Capture the Castle will remember.
Numerous people online recommended The Eighth Life before it was longlisted for the International Booker, and they were right. It may be a novel more of story than ideas or analysis, not highbrow (though historically aware) but I think this is pretty much the perfect winner for this year, or the current months. (I hope they award a winner on the normal timescale, as many more people are reading books currently, rather than waiting until the autumn like the Women's Prize, by which time many people will be tired of indoor pursuits.) The last few pages detract from the novel's current timeliness - first published in 2014, they seem to imply that at least some people and some countries have transcended the great upheavals of the 20th century into a new era - and are not merely in a lull between the earthquakes of history, which, to take a longer perspective, are always happening. But those are a few pages out of around 950. At a time when millions of people have no choice but to spend all their days at home, hearing stressful news, a giant and effortlessly engrossing novel would be welcome to many (other than for those busy with young children). It transports you back to the feeling ofchildhood/early teenage reading, which, as I have found over the last nearly-a-week, is perfect for recovering from a flu-like illness; a more obviously difficult book could be tiring. It doesn't kid you with a pre-lapsarian world of carefree consumer lifestyles, which some readers may view with withering scorn now, knowing that a rival has been brewed to the Great Depression of 90 years earlier. Yet the historical novel offers reassurance of a sort: we at least know what is going to happen on a macro scale, because it has already happened and people lived through it - and this novel doesn't flinch from the grimness yet also shows magic and comfort both in its characters' life experiences and as a reading experience.
(Read & reviewed late March 2020)
NB If you have already shelved/reviewed The Eighth Life and can't find it from clicking through here, that is because some other editions are currently separated awaiting merges by super-librarians. The shelvings are still attached to those other editions.
***I just discovered that this book is finally being translated to English (long overdue in my opinion!!) and I am besides excited!!! This is my ALL TIME favorite book in the Historical Fiction genre, and I can't recommend this book enough!! I read this book in Polish and I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for this book to be translated in English so that I can share it with my English speaking friends. Please read it and share your thoughts with me, I would love to see what all my Goodreads friends think of this book :)
Als ik mensen (in de praktijk: vrouwelijke collega's) een leestip geef, is het 9 van de 10 keer deze dikke pil. Het is één van de indrukwekkendste en mooiste boeken die ik ooit heb gelezen. En het deelt de eerste plaats in mijn Fictie Top 10 met Max, Mischa en het Tetoffensief van de Noorse auteur Johan Harstadt.
Dat ik direct voor dit boek ging vallen lag niet voor de hand: het telt 1300 pagina's, is een familie-epos dat meerdere eeuwen bestrijkt en is geschreven door een vrouw.
Van de 300 boeken die ik de laatste 25 jaar heb gelezen waren er maar zo'n 25 geschreven door een vrouw. En toch ben ik geen typische mannenman: ik heb geen favoriet automerk, ik kook graag, draag geen inktcreaties op mijn lijf en woon met 3 vrouwen in één huis.
Dat dit boek in de vorm van een familie-epos is geschreven, was dus geen pré. Zo ben ik al een paar keer begonnen en tussentijds gestopt in Liefde in tijden van cholera van Gabriel Marquez. Het gepuzzel met stambomen, namen en lijntjes, tot voor kort had ik er weinig mee.
Al deze bezwaren verdwenen als een rondje wodka in een Russisch café nadat ik de eerste pagina's van dit boek had gelezen. Het verhaal over de levens van 8 Georgische vrouwen is zo rijk en meeslepend dat ik het boek een paar maanden overal bij me droeg. Ook vond ik het niet erg om tijdens het lezen zo nu en dan de stamboompagina te raadplegen.
Ik ben mijn oud-collega Lotte nog steeds dankbaar voor deze gouden tip!
There’s something so satisfying about getting immersed in a big family saga. At over 930 pages, “The Eighth Life” may look intimidating from the outside and I had a few false starts reading this novel but as soon as I got caught up in the many stories it contains I stopped noticing what page number I was on. The novel recounts the tales of multiple generations of a family in the country of Georgia over the 20th century following them through the Russian Revolution, Soviet rule and civil war. Ever since reading the novel “Soviet Milk” and finding out more about the Latvian strand of my family history I’ve been interested in the effects the Soviet Union had upon Eastern European countries. Haratischvili’s novel gives a wide-scale perspective on this time period and region paying special attention to the negative effect these political changes had on the lives of a variety of women. Comparisons have been made to “War and Peace” and “The Tin Drum” but, from my own frame of reference, I'd liken it more to “Gone with the Wind” crossed with “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.
Es un SEÑOR LIBRO 👏🏼 Una saga familiar que abarca 6 generaciones con un marco histórico que abarca desde la revolución rusa hasta la actualidad. Muy bien documentada y con una narrativa impecable y muy emotiva . Personales muy bien delineados , entrañables e inolvidables . Es una genialidad de libro!! Que no les de miedo el grosor (más de 1000 páginas) , porque créanme que vale todo la pena ❤️
Llevo varios días pensando en que voy a decir al final de este libro... Y no se realmente como hablar de el. Cada subrayado que he puesto es una ínfima parte de todo lo que me ha sorprendido esta lectura. La historia de la URSS, la de Georgia, la de occidente, dan contexto histórico a las vicisitudes de una familia durante los cien años que abarca la narración. Es una lectura llena de emociones extremadamente bien narradas, llenas de frases que tienes que releer por el simple placer de hacerlo. El lugar en el que nacemos, la familia, el entorno... Determina nuestra vida. Y a veces todo lo que hacemos para cambiarla no resulta suficiente. Estamos destinados a repetir historias familiares? Estamos obligados a ayudar a nuestra familia así se convierta en nuestra desgracia? Puede el amor superar las barreras de las guerras? Hasta donde llega el poder cuando estas en la esfera política? Que estamos dispuestos a perdonar? Qué hay de verdad en los relatos oficiales que nos cuentan los gobernantes? Hasta donde se nos puede llegar a manipular? .... Me ha gustado muchísimo este libro. Se, a pesar de que no me gusta volver a leer libros que ya he leído, que lo volveré a leer. Que me ha dado mucha pena terminarlo. Que me va a costar mucho encontrar otra lectura al nivel de esta.
Ich kann gar nicht in Worte fassen, wie sehr ich diesen Roman ins Herz geschlossen habe. Jedes Wort, jeder Satz der 1280 Seiten waren für mich pures Lesevergnügen.
Beginnend mit der Geburt Stasias, Tochter eines angesehenen Schokoladenfabrikanten, im Jahr 1900 in Georgien, entwickelt sich die Geschichte zu einem Epos über sechs Generationen und acht außergewöhnliche Leben, den ich nie wieder vergessen werde. Es sind nicht nur die stark ausgearbeiteten Figuren, sondern auch die brillianten und klugen Weisheiten der Autorin, die den Roman anlehnend an der europäischen Geschichte so kraftvoll und zu etwas wahrhaft Außergewöhnliches gemacht haben.
Ich werde definitiv noch weitere Bücher von Nino Haratischwili lesen und kann euch diesen Roman einfach nur empfehlen.
Now winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2020
Christine’s old television set was on in the next room, and I could hear a bad Mexican actress in a bad Mexican soap, underscored with bad, kitschy Mexican music, telling a bad Mexican actor that she would love him forever and wait for him forever on their favourite hacienda, but she had to marry José Gilberto, because she had no other choice.
This is clearly a book that has given many people a lot of pleasure, but it just wasn't for me at all. Objectively this may be a brilliantly constructed, enthralling story, carefully translated, but subjectively I couldn't connect.
At its heart is a tangled, anything-but-nuclear, family melodrama that was already reminding me of an over the top soap before I came across the throwaway reference from the text above.
Mixed in is a century or more of Georgian history, which might have been fascinating were it not for the fact that the history referred to is typically at world level - I really don't to be told about the second world war. There is perhaps some inevitability there in that two key Soviet figures, Stalin and Beria, were Georgian, but that doesn't really explain the inclusion of events that don't even impact the characters. Why tell us:
It continued to be a momentous period for the world: people were getting themselves in a state about the oil crisis, the Watergate scandal, Pinochet’s seizure of power in Chile, but these historic events were so far removed from us that they might as well have been happening on a different planet.
The Georgian history only really comes to life when the Soviet Union falls, and Georgia enters its own struggles and in one c10 page passage about live in the Soviet Union which begins:
For Daria and me, the Soviet Union meant: constant funeral marches and processions as aged gentlemen of the Communist Party were carried to their graves; carnations everywhere, macabre spectacles broadcast on all the television channels. For us, the Soviet Union meant: endless summer camps, Pioneer neckerchiefs. Tea plantations, apiaries, and kolkhozes.
but for me it was too little. too late, coming c700 pages in.
Incidentally Stalin and Beria are referred through throughout, one joke in the closing pages aside, as the Generalisimmus and Little Big Man. Slightly oddly Beria is both the historical figure and a fictional character in the novel, caught up in the melodrama, having a (coercive) affair with one character, and illegitimately fathering another.
Я не буду ставити оцінку цій книжці, бо визнаю, що не можу аналізувати її з точки зору якості письма, стрункості сюжету тощо (не те щоб я це для інших книжок робила гг) з двох причин. По-перше, мені надто глибоко несимпатичні усі (може за одним винятком) персонаж_ки включно з оповідачкою (в якій я бачу голос авторки), і тому досвід читання був таким собі. 1000 сторінок про людей, яким ти не співчуваєш (ну тобто мені дуже шкода було частину з них, бо вони пережили жахи - про це далі, але прямо важко емпатувати таким неприємним людям). По-друге, ця книжка тотально похмура. Тут буквально жодного промінчика світла крім може! потенційно! На останніх парі сторінок. Імперіалізм, війни, репресії, дуже-дуже-дуже багато сексуального насильства (практично усіх не фонових персонажок у книжці гвалтують бодай раз) і насильства взагалі, ненависть, цькування, жахливе ставлення до дітей, дисфункційні родини. Я не годна таке читати, якщо чесно, а через пункт перший ще й не розумію, навіщо - бо це історія про те, як з людьми стаються жахливі речі, які її ламають, а ті, у свою чергу, ламають інших, і це замкнене коло побутової і політичної жорстокості і болю (яке, знов-таки, гіпотетично, має нарешті шанс розірвати оця от Брілька, про що ми дізнаємося на останніх 5 сторінках. Крім цього, мені також неприємний підхід авторки до опису історії. З одного боку, вона досить детально зупиняється на фактах, які мені здаються загальновідомими (наприклад, хід другої світової) чи перехід влади в СРСР від генсека до генсека, але з історії власне Грузії (а не союзу загалом) в книжці абсолютний мінімум. Мені здається, якщо поміняти назви страв і географічних об'єктів, дію можна перенести в будь-яку країну колишнього СРСР без втрат для сюжету. Плюс ці епіграфи з російських поетів у більшості розділів!!! Дуже бісить. Здається, що оповідачка (у якій я, повторюю, вбачаю альтер его авторки) лишається дуже глибоко радянською людиною, і не змогла це get over. Підсумовуючи, я точно не буду відроджувати когось читати цю книжку чи казати, що вона погана (до слова, переклад чудовий!), але для мене цей читацький досвід був точно не найкращим.
Cuando lees un libro de esta categoría, del que dirías mil cosas, me resulta super dificil hacer una reseña sin que haya mucho spoiler, y es que este libro lo tiene todo; Por un lado tenemos una saga familiar, seis generaciones de mujeres, ambientada en Europa del Este en Georgia (aunque vamos a recorrer bastantes paises de Europa), desde el año 1900 hasta el 2006, cada una tendrá su vida, llena de historia, de dramas, de cosas buenas pero también malas. Todo comenzara con Stasia, la que será la tatarabuela de Brilka, la última de esta generación.
Por otro lado tendremos los principales acontecimientos de la historia de Rusia, la Revolución Rusa, el ascenso y la caída de la URSS, primera guerra mundial, la segunda, la guerra fría... toda un siglo de la historia, que no hará mas que enseñarte cosas, y no harás mas que aprender. Y claro, también estarán los hombres, hombres muy relevantes en la familia, como es el caso de Kostia ( hijo de Stasia), un personaje autoritario, con un carácter... que tendrás que conocer, uno de esos personajes, que no gustan, pero que son verdaderamente importantes en la trama. Tendremos aquellos rebeldes del estado, que harán que haya enfrentamientos entre hermanos e incluso exilios.
A todo esto, le podemos sumar celos entre hermanas, amores y desamores, sueños, amistad, amor... y por ultimo y algo que me ha gustado mucho, el toque que le da haciendo referencia al tatarabuelo, el fabricante de chocolate, con su receta, una receta secreta que ira pasando de generación tras generación, con la idea de que las personas que lo toman atraen el mal... y no diré mas porque es muy interesante. Un libro que de verdad, no tiene que asustar el grosor, porque es necesario, no sobra ni una página, una documentación politica e historica que es alucinante, con una pluma exquisita, y siempre con la esperanza de que a alguna de nuestras protagonistas va encontrar la felicidad, y quieres saber y saber hasta llegar al final.
Žinot, būna knygos, kai nuo pirmo puslapio pajauti, kad tai tavo. Čia būtent tas atvejis. Toks jaukumas užliejo vos paėmus į rankas šią storulę, kad net puslapių apimtis (beveik 1000) neišgąsdino. Galimybė, kad gali prailgti buvo didelė, nes sunku išlaikyti aukštą lygį toookios apimties kūrinyje, bet viskas buvo perfecto ir įdomu iki paskutinio puslapio.
Pasakoju apie ką. Istorijos šaknys nuveda mus į XXa. pradžios Tbilisį. Čia gyvena konditerio šeima. Ne tik gyvena, bet klesti. Gyvenimas puikus. Šeimos galva atradęs išskirtinį šokolado receptą ir juo lepina savo lankytojų gomurius privesdamas kone iki ekstazės. Stasia, dukra, yra ta, ties kuria pradeda raizgytis ilgos istorijos siūlas. Taip karta po kartos, žmogus po žmogaus, šokolado puodelis po puodelio mes audžiame įspūdingą šeimos kilimą. Mazgelis po mazgelio, raštas prie rašto prieš mūsų akis išskyla įspūdingas kūrinys.
Pasakyti, kad šis kūrinys man patiko, tai nepasakyti nieko. Išvis nieko. Dievinu šeimos sagas, bet dar nei viena nebuvo tokia stipri kaip ši. Tiek skirtingų ir unikalių veikėjų. Neeiliniai jų gyvenimai. Išskirtinės patirtys. Įdomiai suskambėjo sovietų sąjungos istorija, kuri įrašyta ir mūsų valstybės atmintyje. Rusų mentaliteto išskirtinumai, kurie tik dar kartą pasitvirtina dabar vykstančiame kare Ukrainoje. Nežinau, kokius stebuklingus žodžius pasitelkti, kad paraginti jus paimti į rankas šią knygą. Čia tikras lobis. Labai rekomenduoju.
This book was epic in every sense. It spanned generations of a Georgian family, the rise and fall of the USSR, unforgettable characters, tragic love affairs, and a magical chocolate recipe. At 934 pages, it was also epic in length, but I didn’t find any of those pages excessive or diversionary. This book was a big investment, but completely worth it.
Un libro di 1150 pagine. Fino a circa metà lettura ho provato a trovare i punti deboli, le frasi a effetto, i luoghi comuni. Poi sono stato trascinato nel torrente della narrazione, nella bellezza e profondità del testo che per certi versi mi ha ricordato "Leggere Lolita a Teheran". Più di un secolo di storia di un paese (dallo sfascio dell'Impero Russo a quello del regime sovietico) descritti attraverso gli occhi, il pensiero, le aspettative, i sogni di sette generazioni di donne. La storia ha tutti gli ingredienti che mi piacciono, inclusa la cioccolata: l'aspetto sociale, politico, storico, l'introspezione, lo studio dei caratteri e il giusto bilanciamento tra tutti questi elementi. Ho trovato particolarmente convincente e toccante la descrizione del senso di inadeguatezza nell'affrontare il rapporto con sé stessi e quello interpersonale a tutti i livelli (in famiglia, a scuola, da piccoli e da grandi) e di come molti eventi ci coinvolgano e ci sconvolgano per essere o non essere intervenuti. Uno dei miei preferiti.. "La vita era veramente un tappeto di cui bisognava imparare a leggere il disegno? E perché io ancora non avevo imparato a farlo?"
(#gifted @thebookerprizes) Okay so. Okay SO. OKAY SO. This book. I’m going to need you all to put aside any qualms you might have about its 930 pages and just DIVE RIGHT IN to this beautiful, multigenerational family saga, history of 20th century Georgia, with a cursed hot chocolate recipe to boot! I can honestly say that 930 pages is STILL NOT ENOUGH. 😭 . Following seven generations of the Jashi family, mostly women, The Eighth Life (for Brilka) is written, you guessed it, for Brilka, by her aunt, both a family history and history of Georgia. I have to admit my knowledge of Georgia was very scant prior to this book, but Haratischvili has done the research and presented it for us in a comprehensive way that doesn’t detract from its incredible readability. There are facts and politics yes, but you will be ON. BOARD. TO LEARN. . As well as learning, you’ll also fall in love with this cast of characters. I think Christine’s section was my favourite, but although they are split into sections, everyone’s life continues to weave in and out of other people’s sections, so you never have to be apart from your favourite character. Every character, no matter how minor, is fleshed out - every lover, friend, colleague, has a backstory, adding to the intense richness of the text. . It’s such a special feeling to be able to watch these characters grow from children to adults, develop their personalities for better or worse. This is the kind of book that leaves you with an aching sense of loss when you finish it. It took me about a week to read and I still felt bereft when I closed it for the final time as these characters sink their teeth into you and refuse to let go. . And the translation - can we just slow clap it out for Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin? 👏 I genuinely have rarely read a smoother, more readable novel originally written in ENGLISH, never mind translated (although Haratischvili is Georgian she writes in German and lives in Germany). I devoured chunks of this each day, the prose is just beautiful, the factual parts delivered concisely and clearly, and the dialogue is lively and vibrant. PERFECTION. . Needless to say this has shot into my favourites for 2020 - maybe even THE favourite? Who can say. Please read it. We’ve got more time than we could possibly have imagined right now, there’s never been a better time to pick up a chunky book!
Dieses Buch ist wirklich gut geschrieben. 1280 Seiten durchweg interessant und spannend. Ich habe mich keine Sekunde lang gequält sondern das Lesen über den gesamten Januar hat mich zur Freundin der Familie Jaschi werden lassen. Diese Familiengeschichte entführt uns ab dem Jahr 1900 bis hin in unsere Zeit. Alle Figuren werden sehr plastisch gezeichnet und sind grundverschieden. Ich wußte vorher nichts über Georgien und habe dieses Land und seine Geschichte kennengelernt. Und ich hatte ständig Lust auf Schokolade.......