“When I was preparing a journey to Georgia in 1983, Elke Erb and Adolf Endler recommended that I should visit that curious dissident, Giwi Margwelaschwili, an author who was writing there. Giwi welcomed me at his ‘Wartburg’ in Tbilissi with swing music by Benny Goodman. A ‘Wartburg’, as I learned myself from reading Giwi’s autobiograhical novel, ‘Captain Wakusch’, is a dwelling with every type of inadequacy […]”, as the east Berliner expert on Russia and Georgia, Ekkehard Maass, has written.
Giwi Margwelaschwili, a son of Georgian emigrants, was born in 1927 in Berlin. His mother died when he was four years old. His father taught Philosophy and Oriental Studies in Berlin and worked for the Georgian emigrants’ newspaper ‘Caucasus’. In February 1946 he was, together with his father, whom had been elected as chairman of the Georgian emigrants’ colony, abucted by the Sowiet secret police NKWD from the western sector to the eastern zone. After being separated from his father, who was shot in the gulag, and after six weeks custody in a bunker, Giwi Margwelaschwili was sent to the Sowiet internment camp in Sachsenhausen. In autumn 1947 he was transported to Georgia. With the help of strangers he could study German and work as a German teacher at the ‘College of Education for Language Studies’ in Tbilissi. During this period his first novels and writings on phenomenological philosophy were written.
In the sixties he received a visit from Heinrich Böll who was impressed by the first volume of ‘Captain Wakusch’ (‘In Deuxilland’, 1991, ‘Sachsenhäuschen’, 1992), but who could not help him further. In 1971 he was called to a Chair at the Institute of Philosophy at the ‘Georgien Academy of Science’. In the seventies he was, because of his contact with Wolf Biermann, refused permission until 1987 to travel abroad.
In the period of perestroika it was made possible for Giwi Margwelaschwili to visit the GDR and West Germany on several occasions. There followed publication of his extensive literary output. In 1991 the first volume of his autobiographical novel ‘Muzal. Ein georgischer Roman’ was published. Among other things, the book is inspired by Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. The novel, which is considerably influenced by critical political discussions is interspersed with humour so necessary for survival. Both protagonists in the novel are “reading characters” from a Georgian poem and are quoted while being torn from the course of the action in order to live on in the reader’s imagination.
Besides collections of his philosophical work, Giwi Margwelaschwili has published poetological writings, for example ‘Gedichtwelten-Realwelten’ (1994) on the occasion of a poetry reading in Bamberg. In 1994 he received German citizenship. He has been awarded an Honorary Scholarship of the Federal President. He is also member of PEN.
In December 1995 Margwelaschwili was awarded the ‘Honorary Literature Prize of Brandenburg’ for his collected works and the Goethe Medal in 2006. He lives in Berlin.
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