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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Zaza Burchuladze

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Title: adibas
Author: Zaza Burchuladze
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 110 pages
Original in: Georgian
Availability: adibas - US
adibas - UK
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  • Georgian title: adibas
  • Translated by Guram Sanikidze

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Our Assessment:

B : a bit thin, but creative approach makes for fairly successful and entertaining work

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       adibas is set in August 2008, as the South Ossetian crisis escalated into full-scale regional war between Russia and Georgia. Life in the Georgian capital Tbilsi goes on more or less as normal for the narrator and his acquaintances in adibas, but the shadow of the conflict looms very large, from armored vehicles taking up positions on the streets to overheard radio and television bulletins about the fighting that crop up throughout the text. The narrator, Shako, barely addresses the war directly, yet it's always there in the background (even more obviously for Georgian readers, for whom the date 8/8/2008 still resonates very strongly).
       adibas presents a Georgia, and a lifestyle, that is caught up in imitating the West. Shako and his acquaintances are much like trend-setting modern consumers everywhere, and many of the modern accessories, from iPods to mojitos, feature here; the characters Skype, too, and contemporary pop culture and marketing are pervasive, right down to the Hannah Montana stickers. But this Georgia is also a fraud, an imitation-West -- hence 'adibas' rather than 'adidas'. Throughout the novel Burchuladze cleverly uses these alternate-fashion labels and doctored logos -- 'Everlost', 'Emporio Armeni', and even a variation on McDonald's Happy Meals -- to hammer home both the superficialities of the brand name and the eager Georgian embrace of anything resembling it.
       A pervasive feeling of inferiority is intensified by the crushing might of Russia that looms so near, and so, for now: "Georgian self-esteem can't fall any lower". At least there are khinkali (ხინკალი), Georgian dumplings:

Those who think khinkali are just food are wrong. To a greater degree, khinkali is a phenomenon beyond mere food. Georgian DNA, Georgian spirit, Georgian insanity, Georgian folk tales -- that's what it is. You can't grasp it. Rather you should sense it.
       Typically, however, the new khinkali hot-spot in town is called (and themed) Blue Velvet (after the David Lynch movie) .....
       adibas is a short novel, presented in short, quick chapters -- a day in the life of Shako, more or less. He gets around, meets different people -- including the girlfriend he just broke up with (whose new lover asks him -- while they're already at it -- to film them having sex) -- drinks and eats. The chapters vary from straightforward narrative to one that's presented entirely in horoscope-form to a back-and-forth of texts to a scene written up in screenplay-form to a poem/chant. The variety -- and the hurriedness -- certainly means the story never gets tired or old, but it does make for an overall feeling of skimming the surface. This, too, is of course intentional: a book that features so much superficiality does well to have an air of the superficial too. And Shako (Burchuladze) is also self-aware in this regard -- to the extent of slipping in observations such as:
     I wish I could tell him something unbearably smart, something profound, Wittgenstein-style, but for that you have to be special, and I'm just a Georgian, a son of the Caucasus Mountains, which, in itself, equals a totally different mentality, sort of anti-Wittgensteinian.
       All in all, it's all quite cleverly and nicely done, offering a slice of (and a specific perspective on) contemporary Georgian life that actually serves as a decent introduction, while also resonating a bit more deeply as a creative spin on the modern-day-war novel. Parts may seem willfully experimental, but this livens up the text -- and somehow it all fits. adibas is very local, for better and worse -- but also offer a fascinating glimpse of this corner of the world.
       Despite its (easily forgivable) flaws, adibas is certainly recommended.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 January 2014

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adibas: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Georgian author Zaza Burchuladze (ზაზა ბურჭულაძე) was born in 1973.

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