Beka Adamashvili: ამ რომანში ყველა კვდება (Everybody Dies in this Novel)
The title of this book immediately suggests that it probably is not going to be entirely serious and, indeed, it is not. Rather it is a very funny and clever postmodern romp. We know it is postmodern because we are told this several times. We also know this as the first character we meet is Death who, poor chap, has problems sleeping. The danger, however, is that if he does fall asleep he will miss a key assignment. He still remembers when he had an appointment with Alois Hitler just before he had some rough sex with his wife Klara. Instead of Alois having the planned heart attack one tiny little sperm shot up to Klara’s womb and the result was young Adolf. Yes, it is postmodern and it is facetious. We know, for example, if we going to have parody and messing about with time and history, as we do, Schrödinger’s Cat will put in an appearance as, indeed, he does. By the way, this bok has some basic drawings, including some of Death’s collection of his greatest hits (e.g. The Titanic).
However, neither Death nor any member of the Hitler family are the key characters though Adolf does reappear. If you could go back in history and eliminate just one person, Professor Arno asks his audience, who would it be?. The most common answer is, of course Hitler. But why? As he points out Mao Zedong was responsible for more deaths and as I point out, so was Stalin. The reasons suggested are by no means all postmodern.
However, our key character is Memento Mori. He awoke one morning to find that he was a fictional character. The problem with being a fictional character is that what you do is at the whim of the author. The other problem is that he does not know anything about what he knows or thinks apart from what has already been said about him. If he thinks that he can act independently it was probably the author that made him think that he could act independently. There is also the problem that authors can kill you off, often in a brutal manner.
Memento Mori has a mission. He wants to save characters from dying. He tells Romeo and Juliet that there was no need to turn every problem into a tragedy. But it is hard work. Think War and Peace!
We meet some other characters. There is Matthew who wants to be a private detective who is investigating a possible theft from a local (i.e. Georgian) museum. (Why is it that people only visit museums abroad but rarely in their own country?)
It was only a matter of time before we got onto time machines as we do (thank you H G Wells). Indeed, it seems that it was our Memento Mori who introduced Wells to the idea of a time machine. MM tries it out by bringing back some butterflies from times past but it did not quite work out. So he plans on remodelling Wells’ Time Machine.
We now learn about a small planet called Kimkardash inhabited by scientists. They send down Kimkardashians to Earth. These include the likes of Christ and the two -bergs – Gutenberg and Zuckerberg.
However four of the characters – Memento Mori, Professor Arno (who is occasionally called Arnaud), Matthew and Leah, (see Genesis 29 in the Bible for more details) whom they recruit under somewhat false pretences set off on a journey through literature, literary hell and various strange stories. Dostoevsky pops up in literary hell while Shakespeare helps them out with an alternative telling of the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern story (no, not that one). We are told The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. We get one of those tales within tales within tales and then again in reverse order. We jump through The Game of Thrones, The Bald Soprano, Waiting For Godot. At one place, in just two pages we get Hemingway, Herman Hesse, Philip K Dick, Tennessee Williams, Prosper Mérimée, Thomas Mann, Cormac McCarthy, Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde.
Memento Mori tells us how he helped Robinson Crusoe, Little Red Riding Hood and the Count of Monte Cristo. We play with advertising and intertextuality – some of the characters are not sure what it is. We deal with the issue of the deus ex machina and the role of the gods.
In short this is a magnificent romp through literature, religion, myth, advertising, modern culture and much else. Some of the time you will wonder what is going on but no matter, you will soon move on to something else which is seemingly totally irrelevant and/or totally postmodern. Adamashvili clearly had great fun writing this and shows a wide knowledge for a young writer. And were you were worried about Death? Remember him? He appeared at the beginning. You will be glad to learn he gets a good night’s sleep.
First published in 2018 by Bakur Sulakauri Publishing House
First English translation by in 2023 by Dedalus
Translated by Tamar Japaridze