By Ahmed Latif
David Kldiashvili was a Georgian writer of the late 19th century and the early 20th century. His works enshrined the delicate satire and the depressing degeneration of a society in flux. Samanishvili's Step-Mother, published in 1897, is soaked in despair and unbearable laughter. His prose was joyous even in tragedy. He depicted the corrupt elites and the constant struggles of the peasant class. It was this reality that led to the Bolshevik Revolution and it was these depictions that garnered him acclaim later from the Soviet Union.
Kldiashvili’s story about a struggling family satirizes, with great sensitivity and empathy, the futility of our actions and ultimately the unpredictability of our lives. Kldiashvili by no means trivializes the hardships of his characters; but he gives the reader a laugh amongst the tears of the characters.
The story was infused with a nostalgic tone and a repentant, almost subdued sense of hope. The way Kldiashvili words it — which in this case is as important as the plot — you feel the intimacy of the familial conflict, the region’s political strife, and the ironic idiosyncrasies of culture and class. The characters are both individually and collectively mourning their past and worrying about their future. We cry over and laugh at the things we cannot not control and we worry over the things we ought to control but rarely do.
As I was reading Samanishvili's Step-Mother I could relate to the un-relatable miseries of the characters. I have never achieved such a degree of tranquility with my mind at peace after reading about characters’ lives falling apart. I was particularly interested in which characters railed against the helplessness by unleashing chaos and which ones accepted the helplessness by becoming emotionally aloof. Kldiashvili’s writing is powerful without being preachy and lighthearted without being light.