Chronotope in Ilia Chavchavadze’s Prose.

Analysis of Five Novels

 Main Conclusions


The paper “Chronotope in Ilia Chavchavadze’s Prose. Analysis of Five Novels” is devoted to defining the structural-aesthetic function of artistic time and space in realistic prose and revealing its peculiarities in the works of I. Chavchavadze, a realist writer.

            The problem is stated in the introduction, light is shed on the history of the question, the significance of a clearly-expressed structural function of the artistic temporal-spatial chronotope specific to realistic literature. It is noted that a chronotope characteristic of realistic literature did not restrict itself to intra-plot problems alone; it found itself in direct correlation with epochal problems, i.e. with the process of actualization of social-national and ethic-philosophical character, taking place in reality. This trend in realistic literature led to the unity of the processes of two powerful streams: a) global perception of time and space at so-called “world standards” and b) the unity of the processes of psychological sublimation of time and space.  The former was defined by the interrelationship of the time and reality, specific to the literary work, and the latter by the specificity of the chronotope concentrated immediately on the literary work. Clearly enough, their means of expression also became different: global, large-scale perception of time and space in realistic literature was expressed by temporal-spatial orientation, while the process of its psychological sublimation by the structure of the artistic chronotopic system. It is pointed out that in the works of Chavchavadze, who was a maitre of Georgian realistic literature, in particular, in his prose works of our present interest, both aspects of the perception of time and space are dosed synchronously, and are distinguished by highly interesting diversity.

            In the first chapter of the study: “Temporal-Spatial Orientation of the Narrative”, light is shed on the specificity of the temporal-spatial orientation, which in Chavchavadze’s prosaic works is distinguished by an interrelation of time and space and artistic time and space. The following views are stated:

1. The author’s time and space, or the author’s chronotope, represents a modified variant of real-objective time and space. The author’s position with regard to perception of artistic time and space demonstrates the dependence of real and artistic temporal-spatial layers, which determines the degree of temporal-spatial correlation of the processes occurring in reality and the events reflected in the artistic micro-universe. In Georgian realistic literature and, obviously, in Chavchavadze’s works, the regulating function quite clearly devolved on the author’s time and space: by regulating the process of narration it orders the relationship that exists between real-objective time and space and the artistic-imaginary time and space, only in a way that is acceptable and comprehensible to the author’s world view.

2. The temporal-spatial orientation of narrative distinguishes the narrative made by the first person from that made by the third person. In the former case the text rests on the narrator’s temporal-spatial field, and in the latter the narrator’s temporal-spatial field is limited to the function of the chronotope of an outside observer. The functional non-uniformity of the narrator’s chronotopic system determines the non-uniformity of the interrelationship of the artistic and real temporal-spatial models.

             My conception is confirmed by a detailed analysis of the temporal-spatial orientation of the narration specific to Chavchavadze’s prose works:

            In his “The Traveler’s Diaries” the interrelationship of real and artistic temporal-spatial layers takes place directly, in conditions of narration by the first person. Narration is personified. The author’s temporal-spatial field comes close to the artistic temporal-spatial field, but the sharply expressed artistic-conventional atmosphere and grammatical tense forms do not allow complete isomorphism.

            In Chavchavadze’s “Story of a Beggar” the author’s time and space integrates three temporal-spatial models: conceptual, real and real-perceptual temporal-spatial models. The crossing of real and artistic spatial parameters is expressed by the crossing of vertical and horizontal spatial models, where the vertical spatial model expresses the opposition of the character’s spatial models, while the horizontal spatial model, the opposition of the character’s and author’s, or that of artistic and real spatial layers. The spatial opposition represented in the horizontal spatial model adjusts perfectly to the author’s world view stand. The problem of the person’s solitude and his relationship with the outer world is posed acutely. The relationship of the real and artistic temporal parameters is also oppositional: the author’s time is in dual opposition to artistic time: it is in opposition to the character’s “small” artistic time and to the character’s “great” artistic time. These terms are introduced by me. The opposition of temporal layers corresponds to that of spatial ones, or to the specificity of the horizontal spatial layers. The relationship of real and artistic time-spatial layers, recorded in Chavchavadze’s “Story of a Beggar”, impressed with two-way opposition, expresses with especial precision the author’s civic and world view stand.

            In the story “Is a Human a Man?!” the narration is in the third person and the author’s time and space offers a unity of real and conceptual temporal-spatial constructions. I have defined the relation of the author’s time and space to artistic time and space as a crossing of dots and lines of temporal-spatial layers. Against the background of such relationship the degree of compatibility of the author’s world view and creative principles with the developments described in the work are evinced clearly while the process of aesthetic cognition in conditions of conceptual time and space is in direct relationship with the process occurring in the real temporal-spatial environment.

            In the story “On the Scaffold”, the author’s time and space extend not only in real time and space but in the intonation of artistic word as well. Through the intonation of literary speech a precedent is created of defining the author’s chronotopic model. I think this detail is a highly interesting variant of large-scale perception of time and space.

            In “Widow of Otar” the relation of artistic and temporal-spatial layers takes shape against the background of the author’s real time and space original style of narration.

Thus, the temporal-spatial orientation of narration, which defines the specificity of the modified variant of the author’s chronotope, sheds light on the specificity of the relation between real time and space and artistic time and space, determining the global character of the functioning of time and space.

In the second chapter of the study – “Artistic or Plot Time and Space” – the specificities of the process of psychological sublimation of time and space are defined. The process takes place immediately in the artistic temporal-spatial micro-world, taking shape within the artistic chronotopic system:

1. The concept of artistic chronotope is defined. Artistic chronotope is conceptualized as a formal-semantic category specific to literature, uniting the categories of artistic time and artistic space, ensuring their inseparability in literature.

2. Artistic time is conceptualized as a time of aesthetically valuable happenings. Its typological characteristics are also defined and their relation to the characteristics of real time: artistic time is a fictive-imaginary time, multidimensional, reversible, unordered, movable or static, interruptible or continuous. It is characterized by certain duration; it may be finite or infinite, closed or open.

3. It is believed that the diversity of typological features characteristic of artistic time determines the structural non-uniformity of artistic time. From the structural point of view, artistic time distinguishes two types of sequence: the sequence “early-late” and the sequence “past-present-future”, where the former reflects the quantitative aspect of the duration of artistic time, and the latter the qualitative aspect. Significantly, the category of future time, which by itself is a rather ambiguous temporal unit, and in an artistic text is assimilated only with forecast, wish or hypothesis, is distinguished in realistic literature with maximum functional significance and exists in two forms: either as an inevitable result, or conjectural possibility.

Having analyzed the specificity of realization of the quantitative indices of artistic time in Chavchavadze’s works, I have arrived at the following conclusions:

1. The relation “early-late”, denoting the quantitative indices of artistic time, is linked to the point of conventional countdown, the so-called concept of “vector zero” that defines the sequence of actions;

2. Chavchavadze’s prose works retain the main characteristic typical of the “early-late” category: each subsequent development is linked to the preceding one;

3. The relation “early-late” offers a quantitative variety: sequence and non-sequence, where sequence unites two streams – strong and weak sequences. Under strong sequence happenings are not delimited by temporal pauses, in conditions of weak sequence a pause between happenings is attested.

4. Chavchavadze’s works may generally present a sequence of happenings, while individual sections of narration may offer a realization of non-sequent structure, and vice versa. In his “The Traveler’s Diaries” the sequence is strong and the formula of quantitative indices has the form “early-late”; in the “Story of a Beggar”, “Is a Human a Man?!”, “On the Scaffold”, and “Widow of Otar” a system of non-sequent developments is in evidence: in the “Story of a Beggar” the relation “late-early-late” is found, in “Is a Human a Man?!” “late-early-late”, in “On the Scaffold” “early-late-early-late”, in “Widow of Otar”  “late-early-late”; yet each of them contain invariants of a sequent system as well.

5. One regularity takes clear shape in Chavchavadze’s works: the exact fixation of temporal pauses is in direct dependence on the process of the transformation of the characters.

6. The specificity of the quantitative indices of artistic time is defined by three typological characteristics: reversibility, disorderliness and discontinuity.

An analysis of the specificity of the qualitative indices of artistic time presents a different picture:

1. In the first place, I believe that definition of the categories of the present, past and future should be carried out without any assimilation with the author’s or reader’s temporal planes.

2. The qualitative indices of artistic time are defined not by one but several starting points, which are due to their multi-dimensionality – an important characteristic of artistic time.

3. Realistic prose reveals a very specific regularity of the definition of planes of artistic time: the time planes identified in the entire model of artistic time – artistic present, past and future – are concentrated, from some one ideal-ethical standpoints, around the central events, the so-called “occurrence-nucleus”.

4. The occurrence-nucleus does not imply granting privilege to some temporal planes. It may belong to both artistic present and artistic past. In Chavchavadze’s prose works central happenings are quite clearly identifiable, that can be safely considered starting points delimiting the three planes typical of artistic time.

In “The Traveler’s Diaries” the meeting with Lelt-Ghunia emerges as occurrence-nucleus, belonging to the plane of artistic present. In the “Story of a Beggar” the episode of killing of Datiko by Gabriel belongs to the plane of artistic past. In “Is a Human a Man?!” the wedding of Luarsab and Darejan also belongs to the plane of the past. In “On the Scaffold” the episode of the hanging of the unknown young man, is defined as the artistic present, and in “Widow of Otar” the episode of the death of Giorgi, occurrs in the plane of artistic past.

5. The presence of the basic starting points implies the existence of other micro-temporal planes and starting points.

The structural integrity of artistic time implies the synthesis and wholeness of its quantitative and qualitative indices.

As to artistic space, it is conceptualized in the study as an illusory-imaginary world that creates a background for action in the work, maximally close to reality. It is noted that realistic literature has offered us a novel version of conceptualizing artistic space, which may be formulated as a conception:

1. Artistic space has evinced not only further complexity of structural content but deepening of its functional significance. The function of artistic space has gone beyond aesthetic limits alone and, as aesthetic background, it has emerged as an indispensable component of solving most involved ethical-philosophical problems.

2. The complexity of the functional mission of artistic space has made for its complete intensification in time. Thus, research into the specificity of the artistic spatial models existing within realistic literature is unfeasible without bearing in mind the specificity of artistic time of the work and its artistic chronotopic system.

3. The principal spatial models, defined in Chavchavadze’s prose works: road, village, household church, road-side inn, landscape background – are conceptualized only in relation to artistic time and the artistic chronotopic system.

In the third chapter of the work “The Artistic Chronotopic System” it is noted that the artistic chronotopic system, specific to realistic literature, has been equipped with the function of reflecting the psychological sublimation process of time and space. Such an important structural-aesthetic function has come to light against the background of merger of non-homogeneous chronotopic constructions. Three basic chronotopic models have been identified in Chavchavadze’s prose works: individual chronotope of the characters, the chronotope of the road and meeting and perceptual chronotope.

The Individual chronotope of characters is distinguished for the following peculiarities:

1. Each independent model of an individual chronotope unites differing planes and layers of artistic time and space.

2. In “The Traveler’s Diaries” time-and-space, specific to the character / traveler, has been singled out, which I have structurally delimited from the time and space of thought specific to the author, defined as a process characteristic of the subject’s mind. The relation of the chronotope of Lelt-Ghunia to that of the traveler has been attested.

In the “Story of a Beggar” an extremely close link of the characters’ transformation process with models of artistic chronotopes has been revealed; a precedent of the creation of an absolutely extraordinary spatial contrast has been recorded; the so-called “construction of equation” has been identified in the shape of “love”, which has slipped out of the mould of artistic time.

The chronotopic system found in “Is a Human a Man?!” has been defined as an abstract-static chronotope, unifying everyday life and biographical temporal-spatial layers and a quasi-idyllic micro-world.

In the story “On the Scaffold” a chronotope mixed with an adventurous element took shape, noted for special temporal rhythmic and spatial dynamism. An in-depth time and space specific to the unknown youth has been singled out separately.

In “Widow of Otar” I considered the method of defining the character’s spiritual state only by temporal or only spatial characteristics as typical of a localized chronotopic system.

3. Cases of spatial analogy are evidenced in Chavchavadze’s prose works, but use of analogous spatial models at the level of various works does not imply an analogy of their structural and aesthetic functions.

4. The relation of landscape background as a spatial model to artistic time has been delimited. If a detailed description of objects scattered in the landscape space is not followed by plot-related valuable variability, the passage is dislocated from the mould of artistic time, but if the variability and dynamics of the characters’ actions is related to the registering of the variability of the landscape environment, then the landscape background, as a spatial model, becomes more intensive.

The road and meeting chronotope, closely linked to the individual chronotope of characters has evinced the following specificity in Chavchavadze’s works:

1. Road is conceptualized as a large-scale spatial model, and meeting, as is characteristic of it, as a temporal model.

2. Three important aspects of the motive of meeting: structural, emotional and compositional, and the peculiarities of their realization took shape.

3. In Chavchavadze’s works, especially in “Widow of Otar”, not only the artistic but also partially and fully metaphorized models of the chronotope of the road and meeting were identified.

Accordingly, not only their real and artistic, but symbolic function too was registered. In “Is a Human a Man?!” the precedent of internal structural incongruity of the road and meeting chronotope was noted;

4. The chronotope of the road and meeting is marked by a quantitative index of artistic time, stability of the “early-late” relation and non-homogeneity of the qualitative index of artistic time. The chronotope of the road and meeting is related to differing semantic-emotional motifs.

In Chavchavadze’s the “Story of a Beggar” and “Is a Human a Man?!” perceptual chronotope is presented in its extreme form of manifestation – dream.

            The concept of perceptual chronotope is defined in the present study, and its peculiarities are noted in Chavchavadze’s prose works.

1. Perceptual space is diverse, time-multidimensional, retrospective, interruptible – at times dynamic, at others static, depending on the subject’s emotional factor. Therefore, perceptual time and space makes full not only the subject’s present but his experience and imagination as well, or those components that determine the emotional individualism of a concrete work.

2. The emergence of a dream, or perceptual time and space, heralds the cessation of the functioning of artistic time and space.

3. As a realist writer, Chavchavadze brings in the dream chronotope with a clear purpose: it is a better means of showing the author’s world view position. Whereas in the “Story of a Beggar” and “Is a Human a Man?!” the existing perceptual chronotopes, whose artistic and aesthetic function as independent temporal-perceptual parameters is limited to reflecting the profoundly psychologized world of the character, the structural-compositional function is defined for realistic literature by a significant characteristic. In “Widow of Otar” an incomplete model of a perceptual chronotope is notable.

The important chronotopic models, identified in Chavchavadze’s works are closely interconnected, justifying Bakhtin’s view:

“Chronotopes merge with one another; they coexist, get intertwined, alternate with one another and oppose one another, or are in more complex interrelations…. The general nature of these relations may be defined as dialogic (in the broad meaning of the term). But this dialogue does not belong to the world described in the work. It stands beyond the world described in the work, though it defines the work as a whole. It (the dialogue) belongs to the world of the author (as the creator of the work), the listener and the reader” (Bakhtin, 1986: 284).

Because of this, with a view to structural perfection of the present study, I considered it advisable to discuss the reader’s chronotopic model as well. In chapter four of the work, “The Reader’s Chronotope”, the general character of the reader’s time and space is defined:

1. Perception is an indispensable condition of the existence of any creation of art, in particular of a literary work. The process of perception is not uniform, due to the peculiarities of the object to be perceived, and to the non-uniform maneuvering of the receptive temporal-spatial layers of the perceiving subject.

2. Nineteenth-century realistic literature, that was the text to voice social-national, ethical and philosophical problems, seeks to place the reader’s reception process in a definite channel, or has recourse to the device of rhetoric. Within the realistic literary law the reader is thought of as an interlocutor engaged in active dialogue with the author – an intellectual partner who listens to the author and whose support the author always needs. Therefore, realistic literature, and clearly enough, Georgian realistic literature too maximally activates the relationship between the author and reader at the level of text.

3. The relation of the reader’s chronotope to artistic chronotope may or may not be evidenced. In Chavchavadze’s works both versions of relationship between literary work and recipient are present. Despite the relational invariance, the perception process integrates three important elements: the author’s chronotope, artistic chronotope and reader’s chronotope.

Thus, the present work has discussed the specificity of artistic time and space and its regularities, generally in realistic literature and, in particular, as exemplified by Chavchavadze’s works, it is hoped to rouse the reader’s interest.

                                 Translated from Georgian into English by Ariane Chanturia


  Irma Ratiani