Carnival of live and dead characters
Review by Nino Kajaia of the novel-menippeah ‘The Knight at All Times’ (Tbilisi, Bestseller Publishing, 1999) by Mikho Mosulishvili
On December 28, 1998 “The Knight at All Times” - action novel-menippeah by Mikho Mosulishvili was awarded with first prize of the literary competition of Tbilisi City Hall, Management of Youth Affairs and the Union of Bookfans “Bestseller”.
This extensive work (approximately 95 700 words) reflects spiritual state of Georgia during the last two centuries (1801-1993), and it’s read with inextinguishable interest. The author together with the protagonist of the novel, Vache Andronikashvili is looking for The Knight at All Times, and the reader also is looking for him.
The genre of the novel as identified by the author as menippeah. Menippeah is a variant spelling of Menippea, referencing the Menippean satire in classical literature and in the literary theories of scholars including Mikhail Bakhtin and Northrop Frye. These scholars mentioned it as the generalization of the Antic genre Menippean satire.
Menippean satire or Varon’s satire is the genre of Antic Literature and is characterized by the confluence of philosophical discussions and parody satire, and regard to the form, it is characterized by free fusion of prose and poetry. The nomination is associated with the famous philosopher and satirist of the III century BC Menippus of the Gadara.
According to literary critics, the difference between menippeah and menippean satire is that menippeah covers the literary events of different ages – short stories of the Renaissance, satire and philosophical stories of the Middle Ages. The satire of Antic novels is expanded in the novels of Francois Rablais and Jonathan Swift, and menipean elements are found in the literature of the XX century (Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Mikhail Bulgakov, Thomas Pynchon and others).
The novel ‘The Knight at All times’ is a mixture of eccentric and scandalous events that ends with Carnival - one of the main character of menippeah - which brought together the living and the dead.
Novel time - background covers Georgia's spiritual adventure in XIX-XX centuries. This a small country aspiration for independence from the Russian Empire; or this is the adventure of a family, the story of Andronikashvili’s seven generations from Russian Empire's annexation (1801) until Abkhaziane war (1993).
The author's narrative is based on approved historical references and sources, and it follows the testimony of chronicles. So the reader has a convincing feeling of real events. Not only the historical and fictional characters, but the gravestones have spoken and we see the scenes of the heroic past lively.
The novel is built on cinematographic principle of the parallel narrative: it describes the persecution and destruction of members of the secret organization “Giorgi” in 1983 by State Security Committee (KGB) officers; on the other hand, there are tragicomic or dramatic episodes of seven ancestors of Papua Andronikashvili, and we see what happened to this noble Georgian family after Russian Empire invasion (1801) in Georgia.
Local or worldwide memorable stories are described by the skilled writer, who feels perfectly nuances and their capacities. Good example of above is the passage with terrible story of beheading of the priest Zirak, Gija and Datia. Unmerciful attorney of KGB enjoys the spectacle: he forces his subordinates to roll the heads downhill to see which one is faster and to amuse himself. Mihko Mosulishvili acknowledges, that this is the real story – the same terrible fact took place in the village Arashenda, when the Bolsheviks conquered Georgia for second time in 1921, and it happened to the ancestors of the author...
The depressed hero of Abhkazian war (1992-1993) Papua Andronikashvili decides to commit suicide and the imaginary, strange guest – archimandrite Iostos Andronikashvili prevents him. Cleric brings his descendant the book, written by himself – “The Chest of Mystery” and tells him the ancestors’ order – to postpone the suicide until he finds The Knight at All Times.
From this moment the novel continues in two dimensions: on the one hand further developments can be considered as an image of objective reality, and on the other as the shifts in Papua Andronikashvili’s soul. He is the only man, who stayed alive in the novel – and the protagonist is visited by already dead ancestors and their contemporaries.
The Chest of Mystery, created by sinful hand of archimandrite Iostos is binded organically in the plot of the novel. The patrimonial chronicles of Shishioni, or Andronikashvili are told in different languages. According to the book, the eternal existing is ordered by god on the generation of shishions with green eyes and the book tells that the age of domination of the Scythians is to be ended by seven generations of Shishions (Scythians were called the Russian invaders in Georgia).
In 1983 the secret organization “Giorgi” and the members of this organization set a goal of freeing their homeland from the rule of Russia through the peaceful disobedience. Their conspirative activities – editing of the journal “Amirani”, preparation for spreading leaflets and the secret meetings did not escape from the watchful eye of KGB, based on distrust and seeking the victims. The loyal officials of expansionist policy of the orthodox Russia value the personal benefit and career more than the independence of the insulted country, so they guard and pursue the young people, who dream of freedom of their homeland, the KGB officers plan their arrest and enjoy the results of their gendarmes activities in advance. Immoral and greedy Russian doesn’t disdain anything, struggling explicitly or implicitly against the people who seek the ways to freedom.
In the vision of dying Vache, who climbed on the eaves of the abandoned church and was shoot by KGB snipers seven descendants of great and incomparable warrior Mahkaz Andronikashvili merged into a single entity and fought the biblical dragon...
Only after viewing the enchanting and fantastic carnival (where the Russian writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy demand from Georgia to liberate Russia from colonial oppression (we are dealing with a situation typical of the carnival, when the opposite is true), the reader finds himself the main character of the novel – yes, in the novel the reader is The Knight at All Times, who has to fight the biblical dragon – or to try to overcome the evil in his own soul and if he can’t win, at least to weaken it. This is the most important idea of the novel.
Princess Aneta Andronikashvili (?-1916)