Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Tamaz Chiladze, author of "The Brueghel Moon"

“Ultimately, the function of literature is to intensify mystery, not to solve it, isn’t it?”—Tamaz Chiladze

Tamaz Chiladze, The Brueghel MoonThe following is an interview with Tamaz Chiladze, author of The Brueghel Moon.

The novel is part of Dalkey Archive’s new Georgian Literature Series:

Question: Are either of the protagonists—Levan and Nunu—in any way based on you, or on your own experiences in relationships?

Tamaz Chiladze: For me, Levan and Nunu are quite real—they’re flesh and blood people. They live their own lives, have their own relationships, but neither has any similarity to my person or my personal life.

In general, characters are born, and are not so much based on the autho’s personal experience, but are more dependent on readers and their life experiences. I believe authors are more interesting and involving if they are able to relate their narrative to that of the reader. The link between them, their common, shared stories, play an important role in establishing this contact. I could also add that, in a sense, the process of reading is an act of discovering oneself, of bringing oneself alive.

I doubt I will sound original if I say that literary characters not only enrich mankind ethically, but increase its numbers worldwide.

Q: The novel deals with psychiatric issues such as depression, psychosis and psychiatry itself. What motivates you to communicate such things? Do you seek to represent a relationship be­tween psychiatry and literature or the act of writing?

TC: I’m not at all sure what inspired me to write the novel. I think there is hardly a writer who has managed to avoid depressed states or psychosis. They just can’t, and this is particularly true in our mod­ern times. Sadly, depression, neurosis, and psychosis have become quite typical, as if they are the normal conditions of our existence.

A writer helps readers to overcome their solitude, anxieties and fears. In this sense he acts like a priest or a doctor. But because he has sinned himself, in fact, a writer cannot be a priest. Neither can he be a doctor. He is better suited to the role of patient, especially considering how many times his aching, torn heart has been darned with the thread of hope. I would say a writer is the last surviving representative of the ancient caste of clairvoyants or oracles.True, no one seems to heed him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t telling the right stories or saying the right things.

In any case, my novel has nothing to do with psychiatry as a branch of science. Ultimately, the function of literature is to intensify mystery, not to solve it, isn’t it?

Q: Similarly, do you think the novel represents some kind of causal relationship between mental illness and love?

TC: None whatsoever. There is no causal relationship between then.However, Marsilio Ficino, one of the greatest minds of the early Italian Renaissance, considered love to be “divine madness,” but in his case it is the word “divine” that bears significance.

Q: From chapter three onwards, you talk about and approach fan­tasy and science fiction. What place or function do you think fantasy has in contemporary fiction? How does this relate to Georgian culture and mythology?

TC: Fantasy and science fiction carry the same importance and function now as they did in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and Herbert G. Wells. I don’t suppose the genre has developed dramatically since these three, great writers. However, technological advances have enriched and diversified this kind of literature, which,for its part,has equipped modern writers with a certain knowledge and given them more courage, but I doubt all this has led to the production of high-quality works, marked with originality.

Frankly speaking, the genre isn’t one of my favourites and I hardly read modern sci-fi writers. I suspect that old age has something to do with it. Apparently, old age is characterized by a fantasy of its own!

However, it would be wrong to talk about the importance of fantasy only in terms of the works written in these genres. In Georgian literature, which covers fifteen centuries and can boast noteworthy achievements in the past few decades, fantasy penetrates literary works mainly through fairy tale and myth. The cradle of fantasy is a fairy tale, which, in a way, has always reflected general nostalgia for the future—as if people had lived in the future rather than in the past.

Q: Leading from this, the novel’s narrative crosses several timelines,perspectives and even worlds; what was the intention behind the sub-plot of the astrophysicist and the “Visitor”?

TC: I’m not at all sure how the fantasy narrative crept into my novel,or how the astrophysicist and the Visitor’s love motif wormed its way into the main plot, or even what determined their relationship.

The creative process is full of unexpected things. It often hap­pens that the text seemingly gets an upper hand, starts to con­trol the writer, in a way gets hold of his initial plan. As a result,many actions or episodes in the novel are unexpected, even for the writer.

A literary text is similar to a living being, complete with its own logic. World literature abounds with examples of a writer being obliged to divert from his initial creative plan, sometimes even cardinally change it.

I’m not trying to avoid a direct answer to the question. I just cannot give a decisive answer. It’s possible that the relationship was determined by the profession of one of the protagonists. Sad­ly, I cannot say anything more about it.

Q: What made you decide to write each chapter from a different character’s perspective as the book progresses? Is this to create a sense of confusion in the reader as to what is real and what is fantasy?

TC: It wasn’t my intention to “confuse” my readers. Besides, it’s practically impossible to confuse sophisticated readers who have dodged the traps laid by Joyce and Faulkner. Basically, I don’t suppose it’s a good idea to deliberately send one’s readers into a state of confusion.

I cannot speak for my readers, but I think it’s me who is confused, probably because very often (and not only when I write) I hardly notice where the line between the reality and fantasy lies. But is it only me who feels similarly addled in our modern times?

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