Poetics of Grigol Robakidze’s Novels

It is known that mythological discourse - mythological paradigms and mytho-poetic expressiveness create the basis of Grigol Robakidze's poetics. In this connection it is interesting to recall here the following statement formulated by Robakidze himself in the letter - "The origins of my creative works" (it should be noted that the letter itself is of conceptual character and can provide a key to the understanding of Robakidze's works):

The one who doesn't know much about symbol and mythos fails to appreciate properly my creative works. Here I mean a scholar, not a reader. Through immediate experience the reader can often understand better the work of art than the scholar equipped with scientific apparatus" [Robakidze's coll.works...1996: 81].

Proceeding from this, the poetics of Robakidze's novels is a priori based on the dialectical relationship between the inner and the outer. In particular, the historical-empirical reality reflected in the novel (the outer) implies in itself its metaphysical and mythical roots (the inner) and vice versa. The narrative aspect of the novel is marked by a permanent interchange of the empirical and transcendental, physical and metaphysical, historical and mythical; they develop into each other and are mutually consequential, making up a single dialectical whole, which in the texts of Robakidze's novels are first of all achieved by the poetic reception of mythical archetypes, i.e. through their own mythical tropology.

This correlation of the inner and the outer can be applied to the characters of the novel as well as to their interrelationships: they are empirical and at the same time mythical beings, the mythical and metaphysical self underlying their empirical and physical self. Mythical paradigms can be discerned beyond the empirical and daily relationships of the characters. For instance, an ordinary love story of the protagonists Tamaz Enguri and Nata in the novel The Killed Soul given in time and space must be at the same time understood as a mythical, out of time and space love story inasmuch as the tropological basis for their relations is, on the one hand, the mythical paradigms of Ishtar-Tammuz and, on the other hand, Adam-Eve [Janjibukhashvili, 2003: 133-139]. Here the poetic image of the beloved (Nata) appears already as a symbol of the transcendent paradisal being and the love for her allegorically personifies a path of initiation through self-knowledge to the establishment of spiritual perfection and divine existence. Here it should be mentioned that Robakidze's mythical tropology is mainly based on Biblical, pre-Asian-Iranian and, of course, Georgian myth (see The Snake Skin, The Killed Soul, Megi - a Georgian Maiden, The Call of the Goddess, the fragment of the novel Palestra).

From the viewpoint of mythical archetypes in the novels of special significance is the remark made by Robakidze himself where he directly indicates about his own creative method, i.e. the correlation of the inner and the outer:

"My novel "Megi" is an attempt to personify the Colchian mythic woman Medea into a real maiden. Ivlite is the same as Dali, Dali is the same as Ivlite. Kavala is the same as Amordzhali Amorzhali is the same as Kavala" [Robakidze's Collection...1996:233; Bakradze, 1999: 103].

Thus, it can be said that the narrative aspect of Robakidze's novels is marked by a permanent interchange of the empirical and transcendental, physical and metaphysical, historical and mythical.

Therefore, it is not accidental that the weltanschauung, philosophy and aesthetics of Robakidze's novels are based on J.W. Goethe's teaching on proto-phenomena (Urphänomenlehre), on the one hand, and on F. Nietzsche's concept of eternal return (die ewige Wiederkehr), on the other hand (although the Nietzschean concept is fundamentally altered and interpreted anew exactly in the light of Goethe's concept of proto-phenomena), because these concepts of German philosophers implicitly imply mythophilosophical interpretation of being. In the essay "My Life" Robakidze writes:

"Goethe's teaching on proto-phenomena has become the basis for cognition of objects for me. Isn't the vision of reality in the dynamics of the process formation and wholeness and not in separate moments _ an ultimate goal of a writer (emphasized by me _ K.B.) and thinker? [...] Not an eternal return of an individual to itself but an eternal return to itself in n individual. Later this notion was applied in my novel "The Snake Skin" (and not only here but in all Robakidze's novels_ K.B.)" [Robakidze, 1994: 226, 228].

The same intention is developed in the essay Urangst  und Mythos (Proto-Fear and Myth) from the collective works of ontological essays Demon and Mythos (Germ. 1935):

 This kind of understanding of an eternal return seems quite incorrect  (i.e. Nietzchean _K.B.): not an individual eternally returns to itself but the eternal returns to itself in the individual, i.e. proto-origin. It is the proto-mythos of all phenomena in this world. But how can this supe-r phenomenon be cognized? - Only through the contemplation. However, the gift of contemplating the objects through mythical vision has been long lost and mortally cold notions finally failed here. Fortunately, in this respect, one big exception still exists in the West: Goethe" [translated by the author of the article,- K.B.] [Robakidze, 1935:38].

Proceeding from this, the primary task of an interpreter is to assume as a basis of one's own hermeneutical interpretations in the texts of Robakidze's novels Goethe's teaching on proto-phenomena, namely and in the light of this theory Nietzche's concept of eternal return interpreted by Robakidze so as to "avoid any kind of misunderstanding" if we borrow from F.Schalermaher. Namely, under  "avoiding of misunderstanding" I mean the danger, some hermeneutic inaccuracy when Robakidze's creativity may be treated only as the so-called blood-and-soil literature (Blut und Bodebdichtung) due to the fact that one passage of Robakidze's life, namely for primitive interpretational approach his residence and creative activity in the years of 1933-1945 in Nazi Germany and novels published there in that period (moreover that the majority of his works of that time were published in German) can appear quite sufficient to refer Robakidze's creativity to the so-called blood-and-soil literature. Obviously, in this case a true interpreter must dissociate oneself from time-space interpretation of Robakidze's texts: specifically I mean here the interpretation of Robakidze's texts from the perspective of other ideologised texts, whether they are critical or positive ideologised reviews of Robakidze's texts created either in Soviet reality or Nazi reality.

An interpreter can avoid such misunderstanding only if the method of hermeneutic circle is properly used and while interpreting Robakidze's novels, the initial point will be the principles of the above mentioned philosophical weltanschauung of Robakidze's creativity - the concepts of proto-phenomena and eternal return, moreover that Robakidze himself emphasized this over and over again:

"Goethe's teaching on proto-phenomena has become the basis for cognition of things for me. Isn't the vision of reality in the dynamics of the process formation and wholeness and not in separate moments _ an ultimate goal of a writer or thinker? [Robakidze, 1994: 226].

Hence, in Robakidze's novels mythical paradigms and mythical tropology (mythical discourse in general) is not a merely tropological-metaphorical embellishment but rather the inherent ontology of the verbal artistic texts. That's why the poetics of Robakidze's novels is based on mythical i.e. proto-phenomenal paradigms from the very beginning, so that these proto-phenomena be profoundly comprehended through the power of poetic logos. Such literary text is not a purely aesthetic phenomenon but a living, magic text, ‘sacral' in essence, rendering the eternal, endless hermeneutics of being, its proto-origins. Here, Robakidze's literary text is established as a certain onto-text, which is not a text an sich, like, for example, the post-modern fictional ‘pure' onto-text with no, or almost no reference to being and its proto-origins; on the contrary, Robakidze's ontotext refers to being and its proto-origins, becoming its inherent part, ‘set' in it, integrated in it, and is itself manifested as being, through which the proto-phenomena of being can be comprehended alive.

Consequently, Robakidze's artistic objective is to animate metaphysical origins of being through his poetics and mythical tropology, and direct the reader's consciousness from the empirical reality to the mythical origins of being, causing permanent empirical exposure of the reader's consciousness to actual, live effect of the mythical, the proto-original. In his novels, Robakidze always attempts to make actual, live rendering of the material arrangement of being, its metaphysical-mythical fundamentals through his own tropology; he always tries to write ‘live'. Mythical paradigms and mythical archetypes perceived through Robakidze's own tropology, i.e. his mythical tropology serves as a literary method for these creative objectives and goals. As an example of all the above mentioned suffice it to mention at least the first chapter of The Snake Skin - "Ekbatana" or the second chapter of The Killed Soul - "The Eternal Feminine".

This original sacrality and liveness are characteristic of all of Robakidze's novels, which determine their reception as of certain onto-texts. In view of their mythical discourse and mythical-poetic tropology directed to the perception of ontological proto-origins of being through the prism of an actual historical-empirical reality, Robakidze's novels, I believe, are a different type of modernist novel - an ontological novel. Such ontological novels are Das Schlangenhemd (The Snake Skin - Geo. 1926, Germ. 1928), Megi - Ein georgisches Mädchen (Megi -A Georgian Maiden - Germ. 1932), Der Ruf der Göttin (The Call of the Goddess - Germ. 1934), Die Hüter des Grals (The Guard of the Graal - Germ. 1937) and Die gemordete Seel (The Killed Soul - Germ. 1933, Geo. 1989).

The onto-texts of such type proceeding from their discourse a priori are distinguished by linguistic characteristics, namely by tending to magical poetic language.  The specific feature of Robakidze's tropology is just magic of the word on the basis of which metaphysical proto-origins is comprehended through poetic logos, procure with poetic word. Here the magic of the word should be understood not metaphorically but principally in the literal sense. It is this magic of Robakidze's poetic language that was indicated by German author Rudolf Karmann in his article "The Portrait: Grigol Robakidze" who gave conceptually correct and exact definition to Robakidze's creative activity: "Mythical realism of Robakidze's Creationist" ("der mystische Realismus") [Karmann, 1963:652]:

"This is (i.e. mythic proto-phenomenal way of thinking, - K.B.) what distinguishes him, the Caucasian, from all modern western writers and thinkers. (...) [Robakidze] puts into words what is immortal and lives in us. This is magic. (...) Therefore, the word must cognize it (i.e. eternal or proto-origin,- K.B.). It is only in the East that the magic of a word has been preserved, only it managed to keep the inner force of a word" [Robakidze's Collection... 1996: 381-382: Karmann, 1963: 653).

Here I would again like to stress that metaphoric paradigms in Robakidze's novels do not have pure metaphoric loading. Hence, we should not consider them merely as tropological embellishment of the verbal artistic texts. Mythical and poetical concepts given in the text are not simple metaphorical signs but first of all their artistic function is an indication to the higher than empirical reality, metaphysical reality which in its turn conditions the perception of the plots and characters of the novels as symbolic-allegorical artistic semiotic signs. Proceeding from Robakidze's creative method, these mythical paradigms must be integrated by the reader himself from fictional time and space into really perceived empirical time and space on the basis of which the reader must perceive these mythical poetic concepts and empathize as an indispensable and actually existed part of being.

Thus, the reader should perceive in "live" mythical paradigms of the artistic texts, as a real, living entities. In my opinion, this is how we should understand the artistic function of mythical paradigms given in Robakidze's novels. And the aesthetic and ontological objective of Robakidze's creative methodology is to direct the reader's consciousness to the metaphysical fundamentals of being and share with the reader's transcendental and metaphysical reality which is more than empirical and physical reality.

Hence, from the viewpoint of tropology the mythical paradigms in the novels are used not as "traditional" tropic-metaphorical semiotic signs but they represent certain onto-textual living entity on the basis of which the text of Robakidze's novels is established as a "live" onto-text. It is interesting to note that in the novel The Killed Soul the indication is given to this peculiarity of one's own creative method, namely in the passage when the author talks about  Tamaz Enguri's verses:

"In the beginning a word was elemental; it had color, scent, metal voice. There was a breath of first creation in everything. Metaphor was not a beautiful comparison, it mirrored objects. Each picture was enveloped in ancient history as if Gilgamesh's lost particles had been found. There was woman's love _ live and mythical woman as Isida's love... but with immediate reality (emphasis mine, - K.B.) [The citation is given according to A.Kartozia's translation ,-K.B.] [Robakidze, 1997: 431].

It is obvious here that in Robakidze's novels the "traditional" interpretation of trope is neglected, i.e. an outer embellishment of a text (metaphor) or as "conventional" symbolic allegorical semiotic poetic symbol. Here Robakidze offers his own tropology, tropological concept according to which poetic tropes simultaneously represent the outer symbols as well as the inner denomination. Thus, here we have an inherent wholeness of poetic symbol and poetic denomination. Here the sign doesn't mean an indication but denominator itself and vice versa, the denomination is not abstraction but the symbol itself. Consequently, in Robakidze' texts poetic symbol is not an indication to an object existed beyond or opinion beyond it (the inner logos) but the object itself, the reasoning itself (mirror of the object). Here Robakidze tries to present live poetic tropology in the texts of his novels: i.e. when metaphysical fundamentals of being on the basis of poetic symbol are rendered not indirectly but directly, according to Robakidze - "by the immediate reality" ("von unmittelbarer Wirklichkeit") which is termed by Karmann as mythical realism.

Thus, according to Robakidze, not poetic tropology should directly render metaphysical and transcendental relations and not the material arrangement, i.e. the poetic tropes themselves should be these metaphysical and transcendental entities, they themselves on the basis of mythical poetic language should turn into such entities.

This immediacy from aesthetic and ontotextual viewpoint implies real feeling of transcendentalism in a reader. And here, as was already mentioned above, Robakidze attributes an important role to poetic language, the magic of poetic word, magic in the literal sense and not metaphoric meaning. And through all this the text of Robakidze's novels is established as a certain sacral text. Particularly under sacral I mean such type of artistic text poetic discourse of which is also directed to the perception of metaphysical fundamentals of being, transcendentalism.

Robakidze himself perceived his own artistic texts as live, specific "sacral" texts where metaphysical origins of being is reflected and rendered with mythical realism, "immediate reality" on the basis of mythical tropology. From this viewpoint of special interest is the following Robakidze's statement which was rendered in the letter "The origins of my creative works":

"It is really very difficult to turn the selected object into a symbol.  It is far difficult to make the event into myth. How can it be found whether the artist overcome the difficulty? It is very easy. Let us say, you are reading a novel where quite an ordinary story is narrated. When on the reading you feel as if your own experience was narrated, there and at the same time _ and this is the principle thing _ when you can also feel as if the happening had already occurred somewhere and sometime _ know that the novel is mythical. Here is my concept. At my laboratory this concept is a method. [...] Do you know what the most visible products of this laboratory are? - Londa, Kardu, The Snail Skin, Megi, Caucasian Novels, The Call of Goddess, The Guard of the Graal " [Robakidze's  Collection... 1996: 85].

Hence, in my opinion Robakidze establishes his creative method based on Goethe's method of cognition the phenomena of organic nature and then he applies this method to his aesthetics. Consequently, poetics of Robakidze's novels is based just on Goethe's cognitive-contemplating method elaborated by him in his natural studies: namely, while perceiving empirical separate plant at the same time inner perception of concrete plant the "ur-phenomenon" (Ur-Phänomen), the idea of a plant, the first plant (Urpflanze). Correspondingly, in empirical forms of separate phenomena of organic nature Goethe contemplated simultaneously the "ur-phenomenon" of these phenomena. [Metzler...2004: 442-443].

Therefore, it is not accidental that Robakidze in his ontological essay The Urfear and Mythos thoroughly considers Goethian scientific method of organic nature phenomena and proto-phenomena concept [Robakidze, 1935: 38-42].

"The concept of proto-plant has solved the most important problems at once. For the first time in the world history the whole being on the basis of image-natural perception ("built und natursitshtig") has been cognized by mythical reality. [...]  The proto-plant is a mythical reality of a plant _ not a historical fact, single phenomenon, but cosmic which is manifested constantly. The proto-plant is sensual poetic image of a myth. [...] in this way the proto-origin is drowsy in each proto and the eternal is manifested in individual. And when the individual (das Einzelne) felt in itself the fertilized effect of the eternal (das Etsige) then it is a part of the eternal" [citation is translated by the author of the article,- K.B.] [Robakidze, 1935: 41, 42].

Therefore, in my view Goethian contemplation of the phenomena of organic nature and the method of cognition is further applied by Robakidze in his aesthetics and transforms this method into his own creative method and uses it as the basis for the poetics of his novels:

"Goethe's teaching on proto-phenomena has become the basis for the knowing of the objects for me. The vision of the reality in the course of the formation of the process and the whole and not in separate moments - isn't it the highest purpose of a writer (emphasized by me, - K.B.) and the thinker?" [Robakidze, 1994:226].

This creative method according to Robakidze's definition can be called a live featuring method of artistic knowing of the object for study with immediate reality.  And this is not mimetic, naturalistic, impressionistic, expressionistic or even symbolistic reflection but ontological when actual, live rendering of transcendental-metaphysical proto-origins is given on the basis of poetic language and tropology, otherwise, when empirical and transcendental entities in artistic text are rendered simultaneously and as a whole part. It is here that the major feature of the poetics of Robakidze's novels is manifested.

Thus, in view of their mythical and ontological-philosophical discourse, tropological specificity and the unique creative method that can be called a live featuring method, the texts of Robakidze's novels become established as onto-texts that are not self-referential and hence self-contained facts like texts an sich, but feature metaphysical proto-origins of being live with the help of poetic tropology and poetic language: i.e. these are the texts that convey the hermeneutics of being. Hence, the texts of Robakidze's novels should be treated as a hermeneutic onto-text referring to the totality of being, simultaneously reflecting the empirical as well as the transcendental, the historical as well as the mythical, the physical as well as the metaphysical. Through mythical tropology, this type of texts features empirical reality and at the same time implies comprehension of its metaphysical roots. Thus, in Robakidze's novels the degree of fictionality is reduced to the minimum, the text of the novels goes beyond the fictionality of verbal artistic texts and is established as a ‘live', ‘sacral' text. Therefore, owing to this very peculiarity, Robakidze's novels, and especially Das Schlangenhemd, have established themselves as a new type of the novelistic genre - as ontological novels.

  Here we should note that according to poetic language and tropology, the rate of magic Robakidze's novels, of course, differs from each other. For example, from this viewpoint The Snake Skin, which I consider the highest point of expression in Robakidze's artistic creative work, ranks over The Killed Soul.


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