WiP talk: Benjamin Sutcliffe: Russophonia and Reconciliation in the South Caucasus Literary Anthology

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 19th and final talk of the Spring/Summer 2023 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

Russophonia and Reconciliation in the South Caucasus Literary Anthology A Time to Live

Benjamin Sutcliffe, Miami University of Ohio

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

10:30 am to 12:00pm EDT

Hybrid: The talk will take place in hybrid format in-person at CRRC Georgia and online through Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwrdO2vpzkiHdB7z4FFXl9phY7zC8aW5s5V

In 2003 Georgian author Guram Odisharia and Abkhaz cultural figure Batal Kobakhia published the literary collection A Time to Live (Время жить), which contains stories of the conflicts marring the South Caucasus from the late 1980s to today. The volume, published in Russian, involved authors from Abkhazia, Ossetia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Odisharia notes that this is a collection published by and for readers in the South Caucasus. Prominent writers such as Fazil’ Iskander, Daur Nachkebia, and Odisharia himself contribute short stories.

A Time to Live focuses on dialog and empathy, concepts echoing values of the late-Soviet intelligentsia as well as the five national cultures in the collection. This volume’s use of Russian is also important. As Tamar Koplatadze suggests, too often the role of Russian in the Caucasus underlines the postcolonial problems facing the region. Naomi Caffee, Kevin Platt, and Mark Lipovetsky define Russophone writing as literature in Russian by non-Russians and often published outside of the Russian Federation. This prose is geographically and culturally diverse and at times resists Putin’s distortion of the “Russian world” for political purposes.

Twenty years after the publication of A Time to Live, ongoing violence in the South Caucasus and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine suggest that the editors’ hopes for peace were naïve. However, Odisharia and Kobakhia’s volume, which resulted in three subsequent collections, remains a model for using literature to mitigate conflict in the South Caucasus. This project is supported in part by a Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training grant administered by American Councils.

Benjamin Sutcliffe is Professor of Russian and a Faculty Associate with the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University. He has published The Prose of Life: Russian Women’s Writing from Khrushchev to Putin and, with Elizabeth Skomp, Ludmila Ulitskaya and the Art of Tolerance. His monograph on Iurii Trifonov and Soviet culture will be published by University of Wisconsin Press this fall. Sutcliffe is beginning research for a book on contemporary Russophone prose in the South Caucasus.

Works-in-Progress is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place office of CRRC at Chavchavadze Ave. 5 and online. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talks will not be recorded, and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing recordings as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.