Booker International Longlist 2020: The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili
Book 2 and due to time constraints and availability this one has been read and reviewed by panellist Tracy alone. What did she think of this?
Details from the Booker Site: At the start of the 20th century, on the edge of the Russian empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste…
Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband Simon to his posting at the centre of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. But Stasia’s will be the first of a symphony of grand, if all too often doomed, romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.
Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.
Nino Haratischvili was born in Georgia in 1983, and is an award-winning novelist, playwright, and theatre director. At home in two different worlds, each with their own language, she has been writing in both German and Georgian since the age of twelve. In 2010, her debut novel Juja was nominated for the German Book Prize, as was her most recent Die Katze und der General in 2018. In its German edition, The Eighth Life was a bestseller, and won the Anna Seghers Prize, the Lessing Prize Stipend, and the Bertolt Brecht Prize 2018. It is being translated into many languages, and has already been a major bestseller on publication in Holland, Poland, and Georgia.
Charlotte Collins studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and worked as an actor and radio journalist in Germany and the UK before becoming a literary translator. She received the Goethe-Institut’s Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize in 2017 for Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award. Her other translations include Seethaler’s The Tobacconist and The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells.
Ruth Martin has a PhD in German literature and philosophy from the University of London. Her recent translations include Volker Weidermann’s Dreamers, Michael Köhlmeier’s novels Two Gentlemen on the Beach and Yiza, short fiction by Joseph Roth, and essays by Hannah Arendt. She has taught translation to undergraduates at Birkbeck and the University of Kent, and is currently co-chair of the Society of Authors Translators Association.
Tracy’s Thoughts: The Eighth Life is a family saga set in the country of Georgia, starting pre-SSR, and ending post-SSR. The writing is gorgeous and sweeping, like Tolstoy. It also reminds me a bit of A Little Life by Yanagihara, with a touch of melodrama that adds to the story. The saga is told to Brilka, an early 21st century teen, in hopes that she will know the family’s history and not repeat the mistakes.
The story brings in a touch of magic in the chocolate that cannot be resisted and may be cursed. It also brings in some real life characters, though identities are protected if they have interactions with the main character: the family. Each unforgettable family member is realistic, with relatable, though sometimes misguided, dreams and goals.
This was approximately 900 pages- certainly a time commitment. But it was one worth making. This is actually a chunkster that I would be willing to read again, and it had me researching Georgia, the time periods, and the real people that made the history happen.
Character development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
The Eighth Life 18.5
Faces on the Tip of my Tongue 14.17