Issue 4, 2011. August-September

   

BUILDING GEORGIA'S IMAGE ABROAD

Redjeb Jordania and Tamara Megrelishvili at Prospero's

As more and more Georgians settle abroad, the Diaspora's potential to popularize its distant homeland is increasing. One of Georgia's most famous émigré sons, Redjeb Jordania, is bringing stories and images of his father's homeland to readers around the world through his books of short stories.

Georgia's culture - its glorious heritage of art, literature and music - will keep émigrés coming back and encourage them to teach others about their distant homeland, says Redjeb Jordania - the émigré son of Georgia's first president, Noe Jordania.

For Jordania, his father's stories of his native village in Guria created a magical land he later weaved into the mosaic of his short stories. Available in English online and at Prospero's Books in Tbilisi, Escape From The South Fork: And Other Stories include tales from Georgia, France and elsewhere.

Born in Paris after his father was forced to leave Georgia following the Bolshevik invasion in 1921, Jordania grew up listening to tales of life in an idyllic Lanchkhuti at the turn of the 20th century.

The images of his father's homeland, coupled with a love of Georgian music and culture, helped forge in him a core identity as a Georgian, albeit one who could not travel home until he was over 70 years old.

"You are always Georgian, you are from Georgia and when it became possible, naturally - I had heard everything about it and dreamt of it and here we are," he said during a visit to Tbilisi in May.

"I grew up with the impression that Lanchkhuti was the most important place in Georgia, if not the world - even though I was living in Paris."

That 1991 trip inspired him to write his book of memoirs at age 71. He went on to publish two books of short stories, some of which are based on Georgia.

The work has made him a literary ambassador for his father's homeland - a role Jordania said he did not plan on, but is a natural part of being an émigré.

"Let's say that anyone from any country who has a certain amount of authority - even if he or she doesn't want to - becomes a representative of their country," he said.

"It happens automatically."

The growing Georgian Diaspora will increasingly take up that role, he predicted, noting that even the third and fourth generation feel a connection to their ancestral home, thanks to Georgia's powerful cultural heritage - especially its music and language.

"In many ways it is a good thing for Georgia that there is an increased Diaspora," he said.