Intellectual Problem of Alternative Time in 20th Century Georgian Novel

(by Mikheil Javakhishvili’s Novel ”Jaqo’s Dispossessed”)


                                                                      Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;

                                                                        Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as 

                                    I also have been fully known.

 (1 Cor. 13: 12-13)

 What is “now” and what is “then”? Where is “now” and where is “then”? If “now” is “here” and “then” “there”, who is the subject that exists in the space limited with the coordinates “now” and “here” and adjoins, with the boundary zone of cognition, the space defined by the coordinates “then” and “there”. Who is he? An indifferent individual, stubbornly hardened within the frame of existence allotted to him, or a homo sapiens possessed with search, who clearly feels the necessity of transformation, seeking to break loose from the fragile parameters of reality. One is temporally rigid – a subject for whom the now/here reality is a given condition, and adroitly fitting to it the purpose of existence, while the other is a temporally flexible subject who voluntarily or involuntarily breaks the standard rhythm of real time and consciously or by inertia moves towards the boundary line beyond which the mysterious then/there lies. They are irreconcilable: the former is a defender and champion of real time, and the latter - a victim and opponent; accordingly one is a dictator, and the other a captive. What will the denouement be like? Has this struggle a victor – a struggle that is waged in the name of time and whose quintessence is the conceptual opposition of now-here/then-there.

   I believe, this is the main theme of “Jaqo’s Dispossessed” (1924), the brilliant novel by Georgian classic writer, Mikheil Javakhishvili. There are several different options of reading this most important Georgian text of 20th century, but from my point of view, this is the great Georgian book, standing on the crossroad of realistic and modernistic traditions, tended towards the anti-utopian genre. One of the main arguments is the temporal structure of the novel, which corresponds to the generic canon of anti-utopia[1]. The basic definitions of the temporal and chronotopical frame of anti-utopia are: the plot of anti-utopia is settled between the coordinates of “Heaven” and “Hell”; the direction of anti-utopian world is spread towards the valuable broad, which must be overcome by the nonconformist hero of anti-utopia; the general paradigm of anti-utopian time, as well as space, is vertical; the main temporal and chronotopical oppositions of anti-utopian text are the binaural oppositions: now/then,  here/there, down/up.

Anti-utopian genre typically offers the subjective chronotopical system, which is quite vivid on the level of anti-utopian meta-text and is providing inter-generic determination of anti-utopian genre: social anti-utopia, fantastic anti-utopia, eschatological anti-utopia. This last one is the perfect example of an inner, subjective relation towards the time-space categories. M. Javakhishvili’s novel  “Jakho’s Dispossessed” can be read in the frame of eschatological anti-utopia: the writer lived and worked in the epoch of Soviet Totalitarianism, protested against the communist rule and was executed by Stalin’s regime. The central concepts of the novel are: the search for a loosed individualism and for an abandoned belief; the desire to escape from the brutal reality through suffer and torture; seek for generic roots and spirituality; going away from “this” reality through inner threshold and liminal dimension; activation of inner temporal energy to move to the alternative temporal model. The paradigm of time in the novel is clearly subjective, expressed in its eschatological understanding, where eschatology deals with the problems like: the problem of the beginning and the end; the problem of development of cataclysms, which may follow the end of the “Caesar world”; fear, remorse and expectation felt by a man, striving to the main moral values of human soul – purification, freedom and rescuing. That’s what made difference between the eschatological anti-utopia and the other types of anti-utopia: it expresses not just a political or social protest against the realized utopian totalitarianism, but an inner thought, an inner understanding of the world, an inner solution of the principle problems as well, otherwise, an individual way of life and death. Rites of literary transformations are reachable through the special forms of artistic time and space, invented and developed by the author. The liminal state is a place of special, mostly sacred time and space, set apart and separated. The mythic journey and the corresponding rites usually rely on the symbolism of death and birth, fraught with conflict and often cosmic score. All rites of passage are the passages of death and rebirth leading participants into another, alternative form of the existence. This complicated subjective structure of time transition, where one can clearly observe the transformation of the protagonist from the estate reality towards the alternative existence, is brilliantly illuminated within the frame of eschatological anti-utopia in general and within the named novel of Mikheil Javakhishvili.




Political and social motifs constitute the main story of the novel “Jaqo’s Dispossessed” in the same way as the description of the sanatorium for TB patients is for the author of the “Magic Mountain”, or the story of Swann is for Marcel Proust. The principal character of “Jaqo’s Dispossessed” is Time, a head-on clash with which cardinally determines the fate of the characters – not their life but their end and sentence.

            Who is the main character of the novel, Teimuraz Khevistavi? An indifferent individual or a homo sapiens possessed of search? Temporally rigid or temporally flexible subject? A dictator chained to objective time or its captive? A dark target of death or Sartre’s rebel radiant with the “light of reason”.

            The point is that Khevistavi is an unequal mixture of all these components - a complex literary hybrid, to the moulding and moral shaping of each of these components the novel of up to two hundred pages is devoted.

            From the beginning Khevistavi stands out by several specific features: in the first place he is “Khevistavi”, or, in translation from Georgian, “the head of a province”, in which the emphasized word tavi (“head” in Georgian) may be conceptualized, on the one hand, as leader, and on the other, as the origin or source. Conceptualization of tavi as origin renders understandable one more significant feature of the character. According to text, “Teimuraz is  ”Nakatsari (“former man” in Georgian), Natavadari (“former prince”), Namamulevi (“former landowner”), Namogvatsari (“former public figure”) and Navekilari (“former Lawyer”)” (Javakhishvili 1959: 238)[2]. The prefix “na” and the corresponding suffixes “ari” and “evi” in Georgian language point to the past of the facts. In other words, going in the reverse direction, we find that Teimuraz once was a man, master, prince, landowner, public figure and lawyer, and today he is none of these. This picture is somewhat completed by the author’s indication: Teimuraz Khevistavi is the last scion of the house of the Khevistavis. On the basis of the foregoing we may conclude that Teimuraz Khevistavi is a character imprinted with the sign of time – a character who carries in himself the origin, continuation and end. All spectra of time are represented in Khevistavi’s person, or he is an individual determined by time, caught in the pincers of time, an individual confined within the limits of time. The author’s task is clear: Teimuraz must either yield to the dictates of time, or cling strongly to the values encoded genetically in him and, at all costs, cross the boundary line of cognition. But self-knowledge is a concluding stage of developments – the last boundary, as it were – preceded by complex stages of captivity, quest for salvation, rebellion and clash with death.

            Teimuraz Khevistavi is a prisoner of time – of objective time determined by definite quantitative and qualitative indices. From the quantitative point of view, the time span of the novel counts several months, of which two fall to active happenings. As to the qualitative indicators of objective time, it is expressed in clearly determined form. The time embracing the novel has a past, present and future. The existence of the past and passive presence is indicated by petrified epithets: Nashindari (the fictional name of Khevistavi’s family village), Napudzari (“former house” in Georgian) , Nakhutsari (“former priest”), Nauplari (“former blessed place”), Namouravali (“former manager), where the prefix “na” and the corresponding suffixes “ari” and “ali”  in all these words, as in above mentioned words,  points to the past. The ghost of the past wanders permanently in the novel, showing up from time to time like Khevistavi’s lost heirlooms. The past weighs on the present like a stone, the denizens of the latter moving towards the future like a flock of sheep. The future is defined as Soviet collectivism: “I believe in the force of our working people and in its future” (Javakhishvili 1959: 349). Thus, the future worked out by the collective consciousness typical of the anti-utopian world, obeys the objective regularity of time and, obviously, it cannot satisfy the inquisitiveness of a character that questions the truth of time. It is the feeling of an uncertain future that gives rise to Khevistavi’s conflict with time: the past, placed on the shop counters, is the end of Teimuraz’s future illusions. Time is on sale: “Some were leaving the arena of this world and were selling their past, while others were coming from a new world and buying their future. Teimuraz too was daily selling his family and history. From day to day he burnt the hopes of the future and with head hanging low, broken heart, searing soul, sluggish and tripping, he was descending the thorny ladder of life” (Javakhishvili 1959: 262). Future is a strange and incomprehensible notion. “Yesterday” is a functionless value, “tomorrow” is a failed prospect. Then, what is “today”? The blinded time, like a scarecrow set in the corner of the kitchen-garden of the Khevistavis, pushes Teimuraz about like a cloth doll, giving him no respite. Khevistavi, once an active public figure, “unquestioned judge and knower of everyone and everything”, now with his past lost and with no future, found himself face to face with the relentless machine of time. The roar of its uncontrollable engine made Khevistavi lose faith for good: “This world and Teimuraz Khevistavi gradually came to hate each other, as the stubborn father came to hate his prodigal son who showed disobedience, ingratitude, presumption and haughtiness and dared to stand on his own feet and follow his own path” (Javakhishvili 1959: 257). Teimuraz, “on whose neck life hung like the stench of a dead puppy” (Javakhishvili 1959: 257), crestfallen, succumbed to the dictate of the times, sinking up to his mouth in the whirlpool of indifference: “Teimuraz appeared to have ceased fighting. He committed his hateful self to the stream of hateful life, eagerly awaiting the delightful end” (Javakhishvili 1959: 267). Time gained the upper hand over Teimuraz. Khevistavi, once wielding influence – a man, prince, landowner, public figure and lawyer – became a disgraced prisoner of time, a province governor that had lost his function, a former man, former feudal lord, former prince, former landowner, former figure and former lawyer, on top of which fate destined him to barrenness and childlessness, turning him to a last Mohican of the house. Teimuraz is the prisoner of the spherical prison of time, with all the exits closed, with the character of Jaqo Jivashvili set over him as jailer and counselor.

            Jaqo is the banner-bearer of objective time, confidential person of time, its dispenser and, hence, dictator, object of universal reverence: “The world knows that Jaqo Jivashvili is so solicitous of our poor and destitute peasantry as a good family man cares for his hearth … who can count how many wrongs of our village were put right by Jaqo, how many poor widows and orphans he helped – Ivane fawned. We hope that Jaqo, who has sown so much good, will not back down in the future either and will render us aid as of old. Then long live our new master of our village, the new aznauri[3], Jaqo Jivashvili” (Javakhishvili 1959: 294). According to the genre law of anti-utopia, Jaqo was not elected as leader by anybody: Jaqo is leader because by overcoming all written and unwritten norms he strives for leadership. With similar precision does Jaqo obey the pathos of “self-becoming”, typical of anti-utopia, realized in the motif of hereditary anonymity. Unlike Teimuraz Khevistavi, who “for up to ten centuries was reared in cotton and brocade, is refined, worked upon, whittled and polished” (Javakhishvili 1959: 298), Jaqo is an orphan, “reared  in inaccessible mountains and dense forest. He is a savage leaving a dark gorge, who only ten years ago saw a tile roof and knife and fork, clock and picture, collar and handkerchief” (Javakhishvili 1959: 299). Jaqo is a typical anti-utopian kinless person - a character from nowhere. Ossetian hat, Ossetian chokha[4] Tatar socks, Dabakhanian  shoes, Georgian sword and Russian rifle make clear his indeterminate, mixed descent. Jaqo is a Sharikov[5], created artificially by the times, serving his creator with dog’s fidelity.     

            It is not difficult to perceive the satanic traits in Jaqo’s appearance and conduct and habits which, for their part, render understandable the mythological aspects of the character of Teimuraz, revealing the true essence of their opposition: Jaqo’s outward appearance is rather unprepossessing: “The head and face, lacerated by several scars, were covered with such dense bristle standing on end, as though an enormous hedgehog rolled in tar had crawled up Jaqo’s shoulder-blades. The bush of black bristle reached the eyes, and from that scrub only ox-eyes, protruding horse teeth and squashed nose were visible. Span-long moustaches lay like worn brooms on his cheeks that looked like bowls turned upside down, while his ears gazed serenely and haughtily on handles of the saucers”(Javakhishvili 1959: 234).   In Georgian Christian view, tar is considered to be the indispensable attribute of hell, the domain of the devil, to say nothing of such obvious characteristics as extreme earthiness, ruddiness or the abundance of flesh and excessive hirsuteness. Maximalian Rudvin notes: “The devil may appear in many colors, but black is the principal among them. Black points to his place in the world. Flesh stresses the devil’s sinfulness, hirsuteness his kinship with the animal world” (Rudwin 1931: 35). Jaqo “is a sharp-toothed and merciless beast”, “insolent and oafish, stupid and uncouth, characterized by extreme duplicity and rare ability of transformation. Beginning with the Eden and the primordial sin, the devil has been considered the embodiment of perfidy and treachery, which finds reflection in the texts of the Gospel too: “Your father is a devil …. He was a murderer from the beginning, and is not rooted in the truth, there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking his own language for he is a liar and the father of lies” (St. John 8.44). Jaqo, while being the servant of Teimuraz Khevistavi, deceives him purposefully and in earnest, be it in the account of the annual income and expenditure, the yield of the lands or relations with the peasants, robbing the so-called master outright. Deceiving Teimuraz, tormenting, ridiculing him gives Jaqo satisfaction and self-confidence. Jaqo’s aim is to take full and indivisible mastery over Teimuraz, his house, land, property, and even wife – beautiful Margo, and to turn him from Khevistavi into a “Brinka”, from master - into a servant and migrant: “You, Teimuraz, are not a prince, but a Brinka, Brinka; Jaqo tried to persuade Teimuraz. Now this Brinka was a relative of Jaqo – sunken, ugly, pitiful and wretched in everything” (Javakhishvili 1959: 292). The transformation of Khevistavi into Brinka no doubt heralds the quasi-integration of Khevistavi in the mass imprinted with the anti-utopian mark. Jaqo’s satanic energy is primarily directed at the destruction of man’s personal merits, from the physical as well as moral and spiritual standpoints. Immersed from head to foot in grease and oiled Jaqo always stinks: He stunk so that his smell, when he entered Teimuraz’s house, at least for three days remained in the rooms, and Jaqo, grown rich, carried about that dizzying stink (Javakhishvili 1959: 364). Stink, in this case, is a realization of a metaphor, where figural stink joins physical stink, suggesting the non-holy spirit of Satan. If “the devil has assumed many forms and worn many cotumes”, or “can manifest himself to the eys of man in any form which exists” (Rudwin 1931: 35), then Jaqo’s episode of the so-called transfiguration is fully understandable, in which, through transfiguration, Jaqo tries to conceal his real face: he washed his hair, brushed his teeth, picked his ears, shaved his beard, smoked a Sokhumi cigarette instead of the stinking pipe, bought new underwear and akhalukhi, and tried to learn to read and write. But the transformation was seeming – nothing changed in reality: “the shaggy-haired bear resembled a monkey”.

            I think, here a more far-reaching conclusion can be made: if Jaqo’s transformation is seeming and false, the transformation represented by Jaqo is also falsified. Objective time lacks the capacity of qualitative transformation, being a set of objective developments: “Today I am being deprived of, tomorrow you will be deprived of” (Javakhishvili 1959: 423), shouts Jaqo, rejected by his yesterday’s eulogists – “today I take from you, tomorrow your turn will come” (Javakhishvili 1959: 424). “Wait Jaqo! My time will also come” (Javakhishvili 1959: 426), he threatens. This is Caesar’s world - a world where time of the clock acts and is driving events and humans in one direction: variability here is only conditional, variability does not alter the essence of time.

            Teimuraz’s relation to such time is highly complex: first with childish obstinacy, then with an adult’s conviction, he fights the time expressed by a demonic archetypal model, with which he is closely fettered. A graphic projection of the captivity of time is the character’s circular movement which, I believe, echoes the myth of the Wandering Jew not only graphically but conceptually as well. This is the plot of the myth:

“The Savior, on his way to the Calvary, stopped at the house of Ahasuerus for a respite. But the latter dealt with him roughly, not allowing him to approach his dwelling. “I shall remain and take a rest, Jesus said, - and you shall go. Indeed Ahasuerus at once set out and has never stopped since” (Batyushkov 1892: 676). For his sin, Ahasuerus is deprived the privilege of dying and is doomed to eternal wandering until the Second Coming. Ahasuerus is a character carrying a mythological punishment, while his immortality is a curse, torment brought about by senseless, destructive monotony. No matter how much Ahasuerus wanders, it cannot change his own lot. Because of this, according to some versions, the bare-footed and bearded Ahasuerus constantly moves round a pillar, asking the question, “Is a man bearing a cross not coming?”

To return to Teimuraz Khevistavi. He gradually, step by step, comes close to Ahasuerus’s mythological archetype. The “former prince”, rejected and crashed by life “first sold several sets of clothes, turned the rest inside out, the left-hand pockets becoming right-hand ones; later, when starching collars got expensive, he wore them unstarched; finally he did away with collars and the tie, put on a gown, girt himself with a belt, stopped trimming his beard and came to resemble a bankrupt Jewish pedlar” (Javakhishvili 1959: 262). Teimuraz, who had come to resemble a Jew, and the world finally lost interest in each other, “they failed to align and adapt their hearts and souls, both spoke different languages, as it were, as if they were imbued with spirits and characters of different countries and epochs, that is why one’s “God’s grace” seemed to be “God’s wrath” to the other, which the latter’s grace was taken for a worm by the former” (Javakhsihvili 1959: 263). The opposition: God’s grace/God’s wrath, grace/worm clearly demonstrates the conceptual opposition of the novel: Teimuraz Khevistavi vs the country, where the shelter granted by the country, Jaqo Jivashvili’s household (that of Teimuraz) appears to be the starting-point of Teimuraz’s absurd wandering. Teimuraz put several books and some necessaries in a shoulder bag” (Javakhsihvili 1959: 277) and moved to Jaqo’s place. Here, the motif of “Jew” is doubtless complemented by the motif of the “shoulder-bag”: with the bag on his back and resembling the Jew, Khevistavi prefers to find refuge with Jaqo: “I have had enough of sacrificing to our people, what have I received in return? A beggar’s bag and refuge with Jaqo” (Javakhishvili 1959: 311). However, in the course of time, understanding the gravity of his situation, the humiliated and beaten “former master” seeks to escape from the obtaining situation, to somehow rid himself of the total terror of the time, find a way out; in other words, the character sunken in the whirlpool of indifference, instinctively starts to look for a way out. In the process of his quest, the outer and inner projection of the mythological punishment wreaked on Khevistavi takes clear shape. He begins to move in order to survive, but his movement is cyclic. Like Aristotle’s motion of heavenly bodies, Khevistavi’s movement too is an adequate phenomenon of the real coordinates of time, which permanently returns the character to the starting point of movement. Teimuraz regularly walks out in quest of a way out, his route being: Gori-Nahsindari, Nahsindari – Tskhinvali – Nashindari, Nashindari – Levanasheni – Gori – Nashindari, Nashindari – unknown space – Nashindari. No matter where Teimuraz goes, he inevitably returns to Nashindari – under Jaqo’s roof, strengthening on the way the motif of “Jew”: to this commerce is added: “Commerce? I am at home with commerce. I have studied it quite well. I have worked in a bank and cooperative” (Javakhishvili 1959: 335), to the shoulder-bag a stick and beard were added: “Teimuraz turned round and wended his way. A small box hang on his back and he held a stick in his hand” (Javakhishvili 1959: 419). Objective time flows in parallel to aging: “Several months later, Khevistavi, aged like a man of eighty, came up to the same Nashindari. The fighter who left the place boasting, returned to Jaqo Jivashvili like a faithful dog. His head was covered with a fragment of his hat. His toes showed from the torn sandals and he was wearing a patched English greatcoat. Bent in his waist, he hardly dragged his shattered body, using the thick stick as a crutch. His white beard bent against the concave chest of the eighty year-old man” (Javakhishvili 1959: 427). The image and motif of Ahasuerus are completed: Teimuraz Khevistavi, like the Jew endowed with the gift of trading (according to some versions, Ahasuerus was a trader), with a bundle on his back and stick in hand, he moves permanently on an absurd line tied like a magic circle: no matter where Teimuraz goes, he still returns to Jaqo. Why?

Teimuraz radically differs from the savage Jaqo. “Like a weak flower, he was gentle and handsome, elegantly built and sculpted, but lean and bony, with thrust-up shoulders and sunken chest, myopic and bald, resembling a scalded plucked hen, tired of scholarship, wilted, squeezed out and melted former man” (Javakhishvili 1959: 234). Teimuraz was a scion of an ancient Georgian house, heir to renowned ancestors. “The whole Tbilisi knew Teimuraz, he was a decent, staid, clever and eloquent public figure” (Javakhishvili 1959: 242). For his distinct erudition, intelligence and eloquence he was called even a living encyclopedia. From the external as well as intellectual and outlook points of view, Teimuraz is an antipode of Jaqo. Furthermore, with the stressed lightness, and pallidity of his body, Teimuraz is imprinted with fresco lightness and airiness. Then what links Teimuraz to the earthy, ruddy Jaqo? Why cannot he rid himself of his (Jaqo’s) hateful company? Time is an inevitable link between Teimuraz and Jaqo – time that made one a dictator and the other a captive; it (time) showered one with power, and the other with the curse of Ahasuerus. Time intertwined Teimuraz and Jaqo. The latter is a temporal double of Teimuraz.

Becoming aware of the absurdity of Ahasver’s lot, teimuraz repeatedly clashes with relentless time: “Only Jaqo was a newly born man of a new type, only he had muscles appropriate to the time, sharp claws and steel teeth. With these claws and teeth Jaqo will conquer the weak earthworms, will subdue an unbridled beast” (Javakhishvili 1959: 337). Albert Camus calls the fateful clash of personality with the reality determined by objective time “clash of human cry and the quiet that drives the world mad” defining it as a “split between man and life, between actor and decoration” (Camus 1996: 8). “We may sincerely acknowledge”, Camus wrote, “that there exists a direct link between this feeling and the drive towards non-existence” – (Camus 1996: 8). Let us leave the existentialists alone and revert to the text of “Jaqo’s Dispossessed”. In the process of the character’s clash with reality one more double is born – another Teimuraz – two mirror-image ghosts of Teimuraz – a shadow, his alter ego, who actively interferes in the relations of Khevistavi and time – the relation being aggravated as its is. In other words, this shadow performs the role of a kind of intermediary between man and life, even incomprehensible and intolerable for him.

The emergence of a double is related to Teimuraz’s moving to Nashindari – the period when his captivity – from invisible – turned into an obvious fact: “Jaqo’s refugee guest brought a new habit from town, which unnoticeably and gradually developed and intensified: talking with himself, discussion, debate, argument” (Javakhishvili 1959: 318). The double is the fruit of the internal determination of Khevistavi’s personality and chronometer of objective time, the emergence of which is an especially significant component of Khevistavi’s wrestling with time, a barrier set up artificially by the writer, which gives clear shape to the internal conflict, projection of the internal debate and vacillation: “Didn’t I tell you that it has devoured and put an end to me. My recovery is difficult – a black mist on the eyes – a black gall in the heart, and a black darkness in the soul – this is the Khevistavi of today” (Javakhishvili 1959: 330) – one Teimuraz laments, “Oh, God, sublime! I wonder when spiritual peace and joy will return to me?!” (Javakhishvili 1959: 330), - the other dreams; “Let it be so. About some they will say, he passed away”, about some, “found his rest”, about some, “he died”, about me they will say “died like a dog” (Javakhishvili 1959: 331), one Khevistavi is agitated, “But, I, Teimuraz Khevistavi, do not intend to die yet! Do you hear? I do not want to die, I said!” (Javakshishvili 1959: 351), shouts the other; “then let God give long life to a madman defeated like me, who dug a grave for himself, give him long life and … give him rest” (Javakhishvili 1959: 351-52), one Teimuraz yields, “I have been bent, they may break me, but they shall never subdue me, never, do you hear? Never, I said! When the time comes, I shall say my word. That time will come, will come, I said” (Javakhishvili 1959: 351), - the other fights back. From a character possessed with instinctive quest Teimuraz passes to the phase of a “rebellious captive”, while the shadow of death is waiting at the crossroads of rebellion and submission.

For Teimuraz’s empirical double life is not worthwhile, his everyday routine is so senseless that even suffering becomes useless: “Nothing was left to a once careless Teimuraz, neither a little property, nor the name acquired through so much labour, nor his ancestors’ house and outbuildings, nor his soul renovated for a couple of days, nor the once faithful wife, nor the people’s respect – nothing, nothing!” (Javakhishvili 1959: 389). “Enough for Teimuraz the ascent of the Calvary, enough! Teimuraz has had enough of this world’s anguish and stirring of spirit” (Javakhishvili 1959: 390). The way out is death, the inevitable end of man’s existence in time. The ancient civilizations, nations, peoples, “all were devoured and digested by time, and there is nothing immortal vis-à-vis death. In comparison with it, even God is powerless” (Javakhishvili 1959: 322), Teimuraz’s alter ego, chained to the earth drums into his head; death will sever Teimuraz for good from this worldly hell, suicide will save him from suffering …Then why does Teimuraz, who has plunged into a whirlpool, cling to the small rock jutting out? Why does he call the passers-by to rescue him? Why does he struggle for life? Death is the executioner that pedantically carries out the sentence of time. If the suicidal empiricist gains the upper hand, Teimuraz is threatened with disappearing without a trace, he will vanish, be destroyed, but if he escapes from the claws of death – a weak hope of survival still flickers. Death is the boundary - a boundary that makes real time understandable, and supra-time eternity possible. The analogy is again recognizable: if we consider Ahasver’s punishment as the hardest road leading to repentance, then the survival of Teimuraz is a tight-rope to be walked to salvation. Teimuraz must survive. This is his valuable double, the half filled with the blood of his ancestors; clashing with death face to face, he hesitantly, yet still begins to think about immortality – perhaps from Brinka he may again turn into Teimuraz, from a former man to a man, into a God’s image …. Though little by little, stage by stage, an unknown fragrance is still shed in the disgraced soul of Teimuraz “They divided my garment between them and cast lots for my tunic” (Javakhishvili 1959: 373). Progress is highly recognizable: Teimuraz not only clearly understands his alienation from the environment – “I too am an emigrant, he thought, an emigrant in my own country, a foreigner among my own fellow men” (Javakhishvili 1959: 375), but he feels that “he has broken with the sinful world and reached the heavenly father, whom he had been looking for some time and called on him” (Javakhishvili 1959: 374). The Lord’s word balms the beaten soul of Teimuraz; shaken with the parable of the adulteress, he feels an astonishing relief. This relief is regret – regret and sadness pulls him high, to heaven. Faith imparts the highest sense to his hitherto useless knowledge: the knowledge acquired from books on politics, history, physics and agronomy in Teimuraz’s conscience begins to spread valuably in the calm of the faith coming down from God[6]. The sun looks into the sunless flower – Teimuraz’s soul, a way of salvation takes shape, however, Socrates’ injunction “know thyself” is not easy to fulfill for the split Khevistavi. His internal conflict, the struggle between the doubles enters a decisive phase, and reminds me of the Gospel’s episode the attempt of Satan to tempt the Saviour: If one Teimuraz takes the road of repentance, the other pours out poison and venom, if one Teimuraz loves Margo boundlessly, and shoulders the burden of being her “spiritual husband”, “spiritual brother”, the other hates and loathes the unfaithful wife and her effeminate husband, if one looks for faith, the other intends to “get as strong as Jaqo”, if one Teimuraz cognizes the Lord’s word, the other composes ten commandments appropriate to the time. Who will win? Teimuraz fettered with the objective indices of time and spiritually wounded or Khevistavi with faith given to him, filled with repentance who has come close to the boundary of self-cognition?

Through valuable projection of memory in the present, Teimuraz cognizes his genetic roots and believes in the power of his own spirituality. I think that from this standpoint, the culminating scene of the novel is the episode in which he relieves “Margo doubled under a heavy load”, putting it on his own back. This is a relief for Teimuraz, his silent joy, cognized happiness in the face of which time is helpless and, hence Jaqo is helpless, everything empirical, real, objective is helpless. Teimuraz is not any more “an extreme radical and narodnik[7] by conviction”. He is now an individual standing at the threshold, a thoughtful character moved to a different, an ambivalent, liminal dimension. Through activated inner temporal energy, he consciously moves to the alternative temporal model of real time. Expectation has doubtless become Teimuraz’s goal of life: the expectation of Margo, the expectation of repentance, the expectation of purification, the expectation of God, which is an unquestionable precondition for his communion with eternity. Eternal supra-temporality is Teimuraz’s freedom – a freedom towards which he must move with internal pilgrimage, “with litany, hope and tears” (Javakhishvili 1959: 444).

Teimuraz’s night prayers resemble the mysterious nights of Gethsemane and, if we take artistic transformation to be the principal merit of the genre of novel, the concluding paragraph of “Jaqo’s Dispossessed” is proof of the extreme transformation of both the character and the temporal paradigm of the novel:

Teimuraz, comforted again looks out.

Again the dark tower is rising up in the dark space

From that tower the candle of light is again seen.

Teimuraz Khevistavi again turns back and smiles with relieved heart;

The dog’s caresses are not seen anywhere.

Neither their stench wafts to the former man who has been given hope.

Again the former husband awaits the former wife.

Teimuraz Eristavi awaits again like Shio

Mghvimeli the stylite” (Javakhishvili 1959: 444).

The image of Shio Mghvimeli as a fresco is an analogue of the supra-temporal, infinity, eternity. In Z. Kiknadze’s view, “The cave, rather a pit, vertical hollow, where Shio chose to stay immovable is an antipode of the pillar that Symeon turned into his abode. Furthermore, this vertical cave is Jacob’s ladder to him that must take him to the kingdom of heaven, and its darkness to light that does not turn to night … cave, every hollow – is an expression of the mysteries of the ground and everything that occurs in the ground, is inaccessible to the eye. Man cannot see how a seed dies and decays, and how a new life is born in this dying and decay, in its transformation… Shio goes into the depth, he sows himself like a seed that (i.e. physical body) must produce a spiritual fruit” (Kiknadze 2001: 178-179).

Teimuraz too sows himself, sows in order to shine.

“When Saturday turns to night

Sunday will dawn…” (Javakhishvili 1959: 376),

Teimuraz sings.

Sunday is a doubtless proof of the magnificent resurrection of the Lord and victory of time: “Man’s path crosses torment, the cross and death, but leads to resurrection. Resurrection heralds triumph over time” (Berdyaev 1995: 151), eternal place after war, infiniteness, in which “there will be no time”.




 Then, what is the “present”? And what is “after”? Where is the “present” and where is “after”? The conceptual opposition at present-here/after shows not only the cosmological model of conceptualizing the world but the place and function of man in this model. Whereas to Hellenic Greeks the boundedness “at present-here” was an identical concept of really flowing time, and “after-there” of eternity, Christian thought impartial eschatological depth to the problem, defining it with certain categoricalness: the Caesar’s world fettered in time is finite, the Lord’s world lit up by supra-time eternity is infinite. “That is why we do not waver; indeed, though this outer human nature of ours may be falling into decay, at the same time our inner human nature is renewd day by day. The temporary, light burden of our hardships is earning us for ever an utterly incomparable, eternal weight of glory, since what we aim for is not visible but invisible. Visible things are transitory, but invisible things eternal” (2 Cor. 4: 16-18). “Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the spirit” (2 Cor. 3: 17-18).

The effort of the writer, active in the period of totalitarianism, is always directed towards transforming the countable and measurable parameters of objective time into an inner fabric of time where the process of individual cognition of the temporal world will consciously change into its rejection or contradictory perception of time. Death is inasmuch an end as a final limit beyond which a duration, free of time, lies. Time for them is an internalized form of the outer world rather than an abstractly flowing infiniteness. Time is the prerogative of a subject – of one who does not wish nor can become mixed in the mass, a person who selflessly defends the insulted honor of “I” within a world defined by the pronoun “we”, of a writer who ardently strives towards a different dimension filled with mystery and lying beyond – to an alternative world where there is no fear and suffering, captivity and death, or where there is no time.   




Batyushkov, F. Wandering Jew // Encyclopedic Dictionary. Brokhgouse and Efron Publishing House. Vol. XIV. Sankt-Petersburg, 1892 (in Russian);

Berdyaev, Nikolai. The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar. –Moscow, Respublica Press, 1995 (in Russian);

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe), 1996 (in Georgian translation);

Javakhishvili, Mikheil. Jaqo’s Dispossessed // Javakhishvili, Mikheil. Selected Works. Vo. II, 1959 (in Georgian);

Kiknadze, Zurab. Three Dimension of  Ascetic // Journal Sjani. Vol. II, 2001 (in Georgian).

Rudwin, Maximilian. The Devil in Legend and Literature. –The Open Court Publishing Company, 1931;

The First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians // corinthians.htm

The Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians // 2 corinthians.htm


[1] About the anti-utopian genre see: Baker, R.S. Brave New World: history, science and dystopia (1990); Weber, E. The anti-utopia of the Twentieth Century in: Utopia by George Kateb 91971); Kumar, K. Utopia and Anti-utopia in Modern Times (1991); Ratiani, I. Text and Chronotope (2010) an etc.

[2] Translations of Mikheil Javakishvili’s original text from Georgian to English belongs to  Ariane Chanturia.

[3] “Noblemen” in Georgian.

[4] Caucasian coat

[5] Main character of Bulgakov’s “Heart of a Dog”.

[6] For a differing view on this question, see A. Bakradze. What is being a Tatkaridze? Critical Anthology, Merani, 1977, Tbilisi

[7] the name for Russian socially conscious members of the middle class in the 1860s and 1870s.



Translated from Georgian into English by Ariane Chanturia     


  Irma Ratiani