For the first time in the post-Soviet space, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature are co-hosting the International Comparative Literature Congress. The Congress has brought together about 2,000 delegates, among them literary experts, critics, culturologists, translators, publishers and writers from almost all over the world. The plenary speakers of the Congress usually represent the leading literary centers of the world. This tradition was not broken in Tbilisi either - during five days, scientists from the Universities of Princeton, Cambridge, Tokyo, and Ljubljana will present their papers. During this time, Tbilisi will become a city of literature.
“It is a great honor for us to have an opportunity to hold such a large-scale congress, which is being held for the first time in the region. We think that not only this will help our writers, poets, critics to make Georgian literature and poetry more visible in the world, but, in general, it is necessary for the positioning of the country,” Rector of TSU, George Sharvashidze said.
The forum, which dates back to the 1960s, is held every three years, usually in powerful countries and leading university centers. At different times, the Congress had been hosted by Venice, Tokyo, Paris, Vienna, Macau and other cities. Tbilisi joined their ranks in 2022.
The final official decision of the Council, according to which the proposal from Georgia won, was made in 2019. It is really an event of great importance and great confidence, since the Comparative Literature Congress is considered the largest and most competent scientific and cultural forum in the field of literature and criticism.
“This is a great victory for the Georgian school of literary studies. The congress will allow Georgian literary experts and writers to internationalize their works and take them outside the borders of Georgia, which is now a matter of primary importance for Georgian writing and culture, in general. Internationally recognized critics, translators and writers are attending the Congress. I must name the French author, Jean-Luc Coatalem, who will be awarded the Goncourt Prize in Tbilisi, and Iman Humaydan, who is already known to Georgian readers and who will offer a very interesting lecture within the framework of the Congress,” Professor Irma Ratiani, director of the Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature at TSU, noted.
Iman Humaydan, a Paris-based Lebanese writer, visited Georgia for the second time. She noted that she already feels at home in Georgia. The Lebanese writer hailed Georgian hospitality and people-to-people relations, adding that this is what literature and only literature can do.
The first International Congress of the AILC-ICLA was held in Venice (Italy) in 1955. Last year, it was hosted by Macau, China. The decision to hold the Congress in Georgia was preceded by long negotiations. Despite the high competition, Georgia won among many countries.
“The key goal of this Congress is to study the literature of small nations amid globalization. Therefore, of course, this is very important for Georgia. Georgian literature, as the literature of a small nation, is very important for the treasure of world literature, and at the same time, I would like to highlight the issue of Abkhazian and Ossetian literature separately,” Jaba Samushia, TSU Professor and Head of the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation, noted.
The theme of the 2022 Congress is: “Re-Imagining Literatures of the World: Global and Local, Mainstreams and Margins”. The topic was well adapted not only to the problems of Georgian literature and literary studies, but also to the international standard. The uniqueness of the Congress lies in its scale.
The format of the Congress envisages both interdisciplinary reports, as well as conducting various workshops and thematic meetings to better familiarize with and popularize local writing and culture.
Participants from almost all countries of the world are registered for the congress. The congress is being held in a hybrid format: part of the delegates arrived in Tbilisi, and part will join it online.
Sandra Bermann, President of the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA), also arrived in Tbilisi to participate in the Congress. The ICLA President noted that she is looking forward to learning a lot about literature that she has not heard about yet, adding that she has general information about Georgian literary culture.
The Congress should become an important landmark event in the scientific and cultural life of Georgia, as it has happened many times in the case of other countries and cities. “It is a great honor for us to host such a high-level scientific and cultural forum. The country with such old and rich traditions, Georgia and its capital Tbilisi will certainly take a worthy place in the history of the Congress,” Giorgi Tkemaladze, chairman of the Tbilisi City Assembly, said.
Centuries-old Georgian writing has a lot to say to the world’s literary community, and the essence of this message can be formulated as follows: the literary map of the world cannot be completed without Georgian writing. Holding the 2022 Congress in Tbilisi will significantly increase the scales of internationalization of Georgian literature.
“I have the honor to make a speech, to talk about war literature, peace and war; how all this was reflected in Georgian literature, especially recently, when there is a war between Russia and Ukraine. The planet has become a faster receiver of information and, at the same time, literary works are being written faster. Literature has a great potential to promote all progressive ideas, to stand up with people, protect their rights. Literature remembers time differently. Especially wins the literature that is not politically motivated, but talks about people,” Georgian writer Guram Odisharia said.
The Memorandum of Cooperation on joint holding of the Congress was signed by TSU Rector George Sharvashidze and International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) President Sherman Wilcox in 2020.
The Congress has been co-organized by International Comparative Literature Association, Georgian Comparative Literature Association, Tbilisi State University and Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature.
The Congress has been supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall, Tbilisi City Assembly, Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation, Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia, National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, Ilia Chavchavadze House-Museum in Saguramo, National Tourism Administration, as well as international organizations operating in Tbilisi and public agencies.