Georgia – In the mountains of poetry

Nasmyth, Peter Georgia – In the mountains of poetry (Curzon, London 1998) ISBN 0-7007-0955-X

Nasmyth, Peter Georgia – In the mountains of poetry (Curzon, London 1998) ISBN 0-7007-0955-X

A delightful recounting of the author’s exploration of Georgia, both before and after independence in 1989 

This was one of the first books about Georgia that I bought, shortly before my first visit to the country in 2000, and it is one of my favourites. Like the author (and perhaps like many others who are drawn to Georgia), I think that Georgia, its people and its culture, have a special quality which sets it apart from other countries – and I view this book as the author’s attempt (in 296 pages of text) to define what that quality is.

The book covers the period from 1987 to 1998, during which the author visits and explores different parts of Georgia – so that the book combines history (both ancient and modern), geography, culture and many incidents during the author’s own travels. In other words, it is in the mould of the classic travel book – and I consider that this book is now something a classic itself.

I will reproduce one short piece from the book, simply because I have recalled it on numerous occasions when faced with situations in Georgia similar to that which the author faced – when he was handed a huge drinking vessel and required to drink from it:

“Holding the solid gold chalice, staring at the terrible liquid (bearing an eerie similarity to British floor-cleaner), listening to another long toast in the strange, soft-sounding language, my mind raced through every possible excuse to avoid this refreshment […] I had no choice. Lifting the chalice […] I tipped the contents into my mouth and gulped. My throat roared out as burning red-hot knives seemed to shoot down to my stomach, then fire out tiny missiles and bomblets throughout my abdomen. With eyes bulging and watering I concluded it also tasted like floor-cleaner. Then to my horror David refilled the cup and handed it straight back …” (page 161)

Review by Anthony Stobart (December 2016) 

Note: this review is of the first edition of the book. A revised edition has also been published.

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