Sandro Tsirekidze's View on the Genre of Miniature

The literary miniature has a certain storyline pattern. It is not as large-scale as a pattern of a short story or a novel. The storyline of the miniature is rather simple, though it does not unfold gradually as this happens in a story or a novel, but does this via a short narration and a writer's skilfulness. Despite the laconism, it creates a certain illusion regarding the time and the space filled by pauses and subtexts. It is one of the essential features of the miniature. Therefore, Sandro Tsirekidze's following opinion is not accidental: "The miniature is written by dots. It requires to be drawn with subtlety and measure... where the miniatures are considered, there a colored roundabout of the life should revolve so slowly, as nowhere else” [Georgian miniature prose, 1992:13].

 However, as Sandro Tsirekidze wrote: "The form of the miniature was not born in Europe. Its cradle, like those of many other forms, was firstly rocked in the East" [Tsirekidze, 1919: 21].

  The roots of the literary miniature should be searched in the ancient times. The basis for the creation and further development of this genre was made by the samples of the folk oral speech, short fables and other folklore compositions. As numerous scholars argue, its homeland is Persia i.e. the miniature actually originated from the Persian literature.

It is interesting to consider Sandro Tsirekidze's literary views (particularly, his opinion regarding the genre of the miniature) in more detail. Tsirekidze, who was a loyal adherent of the aesthetic principles of symbolism, ascribed a particular importance to the rhythmic prose. In this regard, he considered the miniature as a perfectly suited form and a popular literary genre. He expressed satisfaction, because "this form became the most beloved form of Georgian fiction writers" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:140]. At the same time, he was unhappy with the fact that it was not appropriately appreciated by some of his contemporaries.

The writer does not link the origin of this genre to the modern epoch or to any literary movement. He writes with certain downheartedness: "In the twentieth century everything must have a cause and the miniature has also been ascribed one. Its genesis has been related to the appearance of electric trams. It is said: Europe faces the era of electricity and engines. The pace of life has accelerated greatly there. Nobody has time for long stories or great paintings. It is natural that miniatures are written instead of novels in Europe. It is also said: Our life is still quite slow. The miniature is regarded as anomalous here. We still need to write novels. It is not right" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:140].

  According to the above mentioned, Sandro Tsirekidze argues that the connection of the genre of the miniature with any literary grouping is a mistake. He categorically states: "The miniature is just a form like a novel, a triolet or a sonnet. The school is mainly characterized with a writing style, not by a form. Sonnets were written by classics, by Parnassians, by symbolists and no one thought of squeezing the authors of sonnets in a single circle, under a single name. Petrarch, Prudhomme and Mallarmé are not "sharing the school" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:145].

  Tsirekidze links the development of this genre in Europe to Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Catulle Mendès, Oscar Wilde and Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. He connects the same development in Russia to Ivan Turgenev and Aleksey Remizov. However, Tsirekidze believes that the form of the miniature did not originate in Europe  -  its cradle, similarly to the cradles of other forms, was initially rocked in the East. He also notes that this genre is best known in painting and adds: "The Persian miniatures have been glorified for a long time. Their miniaturism as well as microscopism could be born in the East. A large picture must be painted with a broad, bold stroke. This is possible in the fast countries. The miniature is written as a dot. It requires unhurried, measured drawing. The miniature needs the leisurely Persian drawing under the shadow of a sycamore at noon. The miniatures for Gelati Gospel were created within the calm walls of the monastery. Where the miniatures are considered, there a colored roundabout of life should revolve so slowly, as nowhere else: a miniature form is a legitimate offspring of the East and it is just travelling in Europe" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:147].

That is how the essential character of the genre is defined by Sandro Tsirekidze. There is no doubt that he reveals some characteristic features of the miniature. In Sandro Tsirekidze’s opinion, the path of miniaturism is a difficult and an intricate path. He compares it with a rope bridge - the successful walking on it is not merely the fate of the elite, but is also the demand of the time, because saying in a "long" way, accompanied by comparisons and descriptions of things, does not satisfy an individual laden by the culture.

  A metaphor is gradually appreciated and the path of miniaturism may lead us from a novel to its title. We may start writing titles instead of books. The signs of this have already appeared in our literature. Here we may quote Valery Bryusov: "Oh, cover thy pale feet"[1].

  The Russian futurists almost approached an ultimate end of this path: they went beyond the titles and were selling bundles of blank sheets as books.

  The writer tries to find some sort of justification of this extreme viewpoint and puts forward the following argument: “If an author sums up an entire work or a book in a title, then the title is the main point of the creative work. According to his words, "the culture and whole art of a poet will be initially imprinted in the title. We should look for the faces and names haunting a poet in his title” [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:149].

  Baudelaire: “Flowers of Evil”, “Don Juan in Hell”, “Parisian Dream”, “The Little Old Women”, “Crowds”, “The Widows”, “A Jester”, “A Hemisphere in a Tress”, “Invitation to the Voyage”, “The Gifts of the Moon”, “The Litanies of Satan”.

  The author can be recognised even in these casually selected titles - the author that looked at the world from a new angle and brought the new names. Jules Laforgue’s irony and boredom as well as his Sundays are well illuminated in his complaints: “Complaint of the Organist at Notre-Dame de Nice”, “Complaint to the Provincial Moon”, “Complaint of Tall Pines in the Abandoned Villa”,  “The Funeral March about the Death of the Earth”, “Winter Nightfall”, “Litany of the New Moon”, “The Solo of the Moon”, “Sundays”, “Kind Autumn” and all together “The Fairy Council”. If Laforgue left only the titles as his legacy, his poetry would not be less valuable or comprehensible for us.

According to Tsirekidze’s viewpoint, it is possible to write special researches about each author on the basis of mere titles. The researches will present the emotional dynamics of a writer, his/her mood and intentionality. Such an approach is also justified by the fact that in the modern times book depositories cannot hold the published literature. It has become increasingly difficult to remember the names of the writers. Even getting acquainted with the contents of their books is beyond the scope of one's life. As the writing manner changes, the approach to reading may also change. Therefore, Tsirekidze thinks that in future the knowledge of mere titles will be enough for any erudite.

Tsirekidze argues that our literature is poor in the titles containing an interesting and a broad information. They are rather infrequent and accidental. In this regard, he links particular innovations to the members of the "Blue Horns" and believes in the future progress.

Generally, Tsirekidze discusses the traditions of the rhythmic prose (or as he calls it, the poetic prose) in the Georgian literature and expresses dissatisfaction, because "the Georgian poetic prose has not been able to find a reader and Dekanozishvili's miniatures are lost on the pages of the daily press", while in Europe and in Russia miniatures strongly resonate and small forms of prosaic genres evolve side by side with big ones. Tsirekidze gives examples of Stéphane Mallarmé, Charles Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde from Europe as well as Andrey Bely from Russia. He considers the works by Niko Lortkipanidze, Aristo Tchumbadze and some others as good samples of the Georgian rhythmic prose.

 In 1922 Sandro Tsirekidze publishes the article "The Rhythm in the Prose" in the newspaper "Bakhtrioni" (No 21). It is made of the textual fragments, which perfectly illustrate the author's attitude towards the rhythmic prose. Sandro Tsirekidze presents the rhythm from a broad perspective and generally considers it as a "primary jewel" of the art. He believes that unlike the rhythm of a poem, "the dozing rhythms of prose are different" and "the repetition of specific patterns of word sequences in a sentence creates the rhythm, which is long, but subtle" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:140].

  The rhythm brings the poetry and the prose closer to each other, as it “creates the illusion of an eternal closeness and a measured inertia, directs the soul towards loftiness, boundlessness and the passage of borders. Besides, "the prose likes a rule more than a poem –  exceptions from the rules. There is an uncanny beauty in an unexpected break in a smooth flow of the rhythm". Therefore, Sandro Tsirekidze demands that "a pale grace of the rhythm concealed in the prose must enter the literature."

He discusses the issue of the rhythmic alternation and the intensity of certain groups of sounds. In this regard, he ascribes a great importance to the rhythm and states that "the rhythm of intensity and colouration of consonants is silent, pale and calm like the pearl". At the same time, he asserts that everybody is not capable of perceiving this rhythm: "One needs to have a cute auditory perception to hear a quiet and a gloomy flow of consonants: the sounds of the same intensity and similar tonality meet each other in the ups and downs of the neighbouring sounds and recur a seesawing soul via a straight line of a musical leitmotif" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1987:107].

When we talk about the rhythmic prose, it is impossible not to recall French symbolists Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé, who boldly addressed this type of the prose and did that with a great success. The more so that, as we have already mentioned, Sandro Tsirekidze himself points to their contribution in this area.

  In general, many researchers note the influence of Baudelaire and Mallarmé on the creative work of the Georgian symbolists. As early as in 1922, Valerian Gaprindashvili in his letter dedicated to Sandro Tsirekidze and published in the fourth issue of "The Barikadi" noted: "No doubt that Tsirekidze graduated from the school of Baudelaire and Mallarmé, for example, in his superb “The Sleepwalker” is felt a distant influence of Baudelaire's “The Gifts of the Moon" [Georgian Literary Essay, 1987:116].

   According to A. Gomarteli: "The miniatures of Sandro Tsirekidze remind us (in their style and lyrical quality) of the poetic prose of Baudelaire and Mallarmé... We can rightfully say that the French symbolists’ intent is realised in the poetic prose of Sandro Tsirekidze. The sleepwalkers convey the movement of his soul and the drift of his dream. Poeticism is achieved through the subtlety of a phrase – achieved deliberately, without any internal metre and intense rhythm" [Gomarteli, 1991: 6].

The writer consistently adheres to Baudelaire's opinion expressed in the preface to his “Paris Spleen”, where he states: "Which of us has not got an ambitious dream of the creation of a miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhythm or rhyme, supple enough to suit lyrical movements of the soul, undulations of a dream, the flip-flops of consciousness?

 It is from being in crowded towns, from the crisscross of their innumerable ways that this obsessive dream is born. Dear, have not you attempted to translate into song the strident cry of a glazier and to express in the lyric prose all the distressing possibilities his cry sends even to the dormers through an upmost haze of the street?" [Baudelaire,1991:6].

As we can see, Sandro Tsirekidze's theoretical view on the miniature reveals an obvious affinity with Baudelaire's opinion, which is not accidental. Valerian Gaprindashvili noted: "Tsirekidze has turned a novel into the miniature". Presumably, a fine illustration of this is his miniature “The Novel”, which, in accordance to A. Gomarteli’s remark: “reflects Sandro Tsirekidze's theoretical view of the fading away of the epic genre and points towards the writer’s desire to establish the genre of a mini-novel”. Indeed, this miniature is relatively large compared to others, but the story, divided into a sequence of fragmentary phrases, re-establishes the integrity of the epic picture only in the imagination.

  The miniature, as a genre, was a natural element of Sandro Tsirekidze's creativity. He strived for its establishment not just through his artistic practice, but also through the theoretical endeavours. His contemporaries were able to see this and highly appreciated his efforts, even though this form was not too popular in the Georgian prose of that time and had opponents. In the letter dedicated to the writer's death, Shalva Dadiani noted: "He was a true miniaturist in the highest meaning of the word. He avoided large stones, the marble or the bronze in order to carve out his work, but his sad reverie cut in the noble jet stone, his sorrowful damask patterning the glittering golden surface, the amber, the pearl and other small metal chunks lined like virgins on his ornaments and made the great work of art, the airy creation of a delicate vessel” [Georgian Literary Essay, 1986:137].

Equally worth mentioning is Ali Arsenishvili’s article published in the magazine "Kavkasioni" (No 1-2), which characterized Sandro Tsirekidze's oeuvre. Ali Arsenishvili compared the appearance of Tsirekidze’s miniatures in the Georgian literary life with the acute feeling of blessed minutes, when "the master’s soul jiggle firstly a dozing spirit of a greedy pursuer of beauty". Thus, Sandro Tsirekidze's "tapestry-like webs brought sudden joy to his first readers by their pallid obscurity", but the brevity of his life did not allow him to fully develop his mastership. In his belief, the writer struggled “to discover the boundaries of the prose and the poetry... he strived to lift the heaviest and the most complicated problems of literature by his weak shoulders", which were not destined to be achieved. However, “he left to us his poetry remained as a broken endless longing for a fairy tale".

Ali Arsenishvili's letter reveals the assessment of Sandro Tsirekidze's role in the development of the Georgian miniature prose. However, some of his views are not shared, namely, "a futile hope of being satisfied by a mere title".

  One of the best representatives of the genre of the miniature - Sandro Tsirekidze - enriched the Georgian symbolists’ theoretical views on literature and art via his essays. On the one hand, he continued the traditions of the Georgian classical prose. On the hand, he introduced new poetic concepts that differed sharply from the traditional artistic thought.

  Sandro Tsirekidze considered Vazha-Pshavela as the founder of the Georgian miniature and wrote that "Vazha-Pshavela was the first among us, who followed the path of miniaturism". S. Tsirekidze considered Niko Lortkipanidze and Jaju Jorjikia as miniaturists of modern times. His views on the genre of the literary miniature are very important, because he lucidly set out the artistic-aesthetic principles of the genre and attempted to demarcate miniature from other small prosaic genres.


[1]Translated by Babette Deutsch and Avraham Yarmolinsky.


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