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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Journey to Karabakh

Aka Morchiladze

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To purchase Journey to Karabakh

Title: Journey to Karabakh
Author: Aka Morchiladze
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 159 pages
Original in: Georgian
Availability: Journey to Karabakh - US
Journey to Karabakh - UK
Journey to Karabakh - Canada
Journey to Karabakh - India
Reise nach Karabach - Deutschland
  • Georgian title: მოგზაურობა ყარაბაღში
  • Translated by Elizabeth Heighway

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Our Assessment:

B : decent little slice of the times (early 1990s in the Caucasus)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 27/1/2014 Lucy Popescu

  From the Reviews:
  • "Gio’s rite of passage through geographical and emotional conflict is as entertaining as it is illuminating about ethnic tensions in the region. His increasing cynicism and despair is also emblematic of Georgia’s own strife as various factions fight for control." - Lucy Popescu, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Journey to Karabakh is set in and around Georgia in just-post-Soviet times, in early 1992, just after the first democratically elected president of the newly independent state, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, had been chased out of the country after a coup d'état. The narrator of the novel is twenty-four-year-old Gio, still more aimless youth than any sort of adult -- he too has no idea when a friend asks: "What the fuck's a five-year plan ?" making clear both the disconnect with Soviet times and how Gio's generation is living pretty much just for the day. With the woman he loves, pregnant Yana, having been removed from his life by his domineering father, Tengiz Mikatadze, Gio is even more at sea than usual. Over the years daddy has bailed him out of lots of situations too, but this crushing interference reminds Gio just how little control he has over his own life.
       Without his girl, Gio lets himself be talked into his friend Goglik's plan, to go on a drug-run, to pick up a pile of marijuana and bring it back to Tbilisi. They go on their merry way, into Azerbaijan, and soon get lost and before they know it they find themselves in the contested (then and still now) region of Nagorno-Karabakh -- "Six kilometres from the front line, boys", and pretty much the last place they should want to be. They get themselves picked and then locked up -- a situation that isn't too scary until the shooting begins. Gio finds himself separated from his friend and shifted from one form of what-seems-like-captivity to another -- though since everyone is pretty friendly and they treat him well he's not exactly sure what his situation is -- hostage ? prisoner ? guest ?
       Gio admits:

I've never really had any kind of goal at all. I've never given anything enough thought, I don't think, probably because whenever I started thinking seriously about something, other people have messed it all up for me.
       Dad Tengiz certainly seems to have a domineering-meddling touch -- though on the other hand, Gio also seems to have long been able to play fast and loose, safe in the knowledge that Tengiz would fix any trouble he got himself in. Now, on his own in territory that, if not outright hostile -- neither the Armenians nor the Azerbaijanis have much of a problem with the Georgians (as they do with each other) -- is certainly foreign, he's forced to take some initiative of his own. He's unsure about what he's doing -- just like he's unsure exactly what situation he's gotten himself into -- but he wants to get back home, and he wants to get his car back home (even in its shot-up state ...), and he'll do what it takes.
       Journey to Karabakh is sort of a voyage of discovery, a maturing process for Gio -- even if that doesn't work out ideally: "They tell me my journey to Karabakh changed me", he acknowledges, but it's not like it really helped him get his act together. Indeed, his 'escape' just leads him back to the stifling old environment ....
       The story makes for an interesting slice-of-the-times picture of the just-post-Soviet Caucasus, in a turmoil that nevertheless barely seems to touch the narrator -- travel involves constant checkpoints, he mentions frequently being hauled in by the police even before his adventures in the near-abroad, yet barely anything seems very threatening. Even the incidents with the bullets flying seem to be related with little more than a shrug.
       Gio seems to be a metaphor for Georgia itself -- a fledgling state, its fate still inextricable from the other nearby statelets, a domineering father-figure still very much in control, like Soviet/Russia, any future still only very vaguely defined -- and greater powers keeping him from a true fresh start (as girlfriend Yana was pregnant when this began, which certainly could have led to his staking a claim for a new beginning all his own).
       Like its story, Journey to Karabakh is an interesting transition-piece -- but it does already feel a bit dated.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 February 2014

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Journey to Karabakh: Reviews: Other books by Aka Morchiladze under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Georgian author Aka Morchiladze (აკა მორჩილაძე; actually: გიორგი ახვლედიანი) was born in 1966.

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