Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where to Write a Novel in Tbilisi

While half my life seems to involve hunting with a story-shaped net, the other half requires the grisly skinning of such experiences: transforming experience and knowledge into poetry and narrative. (The half of my life that involves getting excited about this guy belongs to my grad-school-applying alter ego). My life tends to run in cycles: a few months of years of intense, overwrought experience, followed by a period of frenzied reading and writing to put my emotions into intellectual context, followed by the hard  but oh-so-aesthetically-pleasing work of writing a novel.

The writing, I've found, is often the easiest part, when done in an appropriately literary and inspirational setting. I've been lucky, over the years. A large part of my most recent overlong, footnote-replete manuscript* was written this spring at this cafe in Trieste, which has rather set the standards for all literary excursions.

But enough about other cities! The question is, if you're an ink-stained scribbler in Tbilisi, where on earth do you go to write a novel? Somewhere decadent, bizarre, haunted by literary ghosts (and possessed of good coffee!) Naturally, in its gleefully chaotic way, Tbilisi has a cafe-option for every novel you could dream of writing!

The haunted, meditative, Proustian narrative of longing and regret
Near Opera, Lagidze Street (across from the opera house)

Looking rather like an Aubrey Beardsley drawing, this multi-leveled coffee-house is an ideal venue in which to ruefully meditate on your sexually ambiguous lost love, rhapsodize about ruined city streets (and how they remind you of your sexually ambiguous lost love), drink lime tea, and mourn the slow but oh-so beautiful decline and decay of Old Europe. Also, less poetically, where yours truly stumbles out of bed for an 11 a.m. khachapuri brunch.

The Slightly Colonialist Travel Narrative
Caravan, Purseladze St.

Care to sport a panama hat and type furiously about your time in the Foreign Office, various feats of espionage, inter-war encounters in Lybia or Damascus, and how that chap Russell got you in with his sultry foreign wife in Alexandria? It's East-Meets-West at Caravan, a literary art-cafe near the art nouveau cinema on Rustaveli Street.

The Postmodern Hypertextual Piece of Meta-Fiction
Pur Pur, Gudiashvili Square

Rather expensive (though not as needlessly overpriced as the shallow expat-traps on Chardini St), Pur Pur nevertheless offers a 10 lari lunch menu and/or reasonably priced leaf teas. But, rather more importantly, it's a topsy-turvy, senseless, postmodern, chaotic wonderland of repurposed items (including lampshades that look like courtesans' skirts), light, and color. I tend to avoid the evening crowd of people far cooler than I, and come in the afternoon instead.

Special mention: The Iranian Tea house.
Mostly unmarked and menu-free, this carpet-piled tea house on my street in the Old Town features a lovely woman who plies with with Iranian tea and baklava and gets terribly flustered when I fail to finish a second cup!

Of course, I'll be spending most of the next few weeks in Tbilisi working on my extended essay (on Hegel's use of Romantic narratology to divinize history Trinitarian-ally. Say that three times quickly!) But if I've missed anywhere important, or blindly pointed you in the direction of an infamous tourist trap or expat holding pen, let me know in the comments section!

*The Great Franco-Italo-American Novel! Possibly the only Franco-Italo-American novel.

1 comment:

Saint said...

I need to discover a couple of those places.

Might I also suggest Dimello, across from the Populi on Kazbegi in Saburtalo? Around Kazbegi 40ish, I think... It's hiding behind a bus stop and has lots of beautiful oak furniture. And good cappucino, something not commonly found in Tbilisi...