The Georgian ‘characters’ date back to the 4th century AD – the 33 artful, sweeping letters of this unique alphabet, which was recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Under the tagline ‘Georgia – Made by Characters’, the country now intends to introduce the stories and works written in this script, and also the characters behind them: the authors, the artists and the Georgian people. Today, Georgia presented its concept for its appearance as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse and gave first insights into the comprehensive literary and cultural programme of events.

“Georgia is one of the oldest cultural nations in the world, and has an incredible wealth of cultural treasures for such a small country,” said Mikheil Giorgadze, the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection for Georgia. “We are delighted to be able to present our unique cultural identity in Germany in 2018, as Georgia celebrates the centenary of its independence. We want to make ‘Georgia – Made by Characters’ a celebration of Georgian literature, culture and creativity.”

“Georgia is able to look back over a literary history spanning 15 decades and an exciting history. This cultural heritage provides a source of inspiration which contemporary writers still draw on today. At the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2018, visitors from around the world will, for the most part, encounter for the first time the agile and lively literary scene from this Caucasian country,” said Juergen Boos, President of the Frankfurter Buchmesse.

During the Soviet occupation from 1921 to 1991, Georgian literature was translated sporadically. Since its independence, Georgian author and publishing scene managed to resume its great literary tradition, while also establishing its own identity. Since 2010, more than 65 Georgian books have been published in German-speaking countries with the aid of the Georgian National Book Center. A further 90 new translations are planned as part of Georgia’s appearance as Guest of Honour. The palette ranges from classical to contemporary authors and includes narratives, epics and anthologies of Georgian poetry, non-fiction, children’s and young adult literature, thrillers and a collection of critical essays.

The Georgian literature is versatil and an exciting synthesis of oriental and western influences – open to innovation and yet, at the same time, autarkic. One of the most important literary works from Georgia is the epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli (1172–1216). Modern Georgian literature is based on the tradition of many centuries. “It developed step by step alongside modern world literature, and conveys a clear image of the character of the nation that produced it,” explains Medea Metreveli, Project Director Guest of Honour. “As the Guest of Honour, we want to present our response to the challenges of the modern world – the response of a country as small as ours, which wants to share its historic and cultural experiences with the whole world."

One of the best-known authors at present is Aka Morchiladze, the most-read contemporary author from Georgia. Five of his books alone will be released onto the German market until Georgias Guest of Honour appearance 2018. Zaza Burchuladze has already attracted attention in Germany with his book Touristenfrühstück (engl. translation: Tourist Breakfast), and will publish a new novel next year. Probably the best-known female author here in Germany is Nino Kharatishvili. The Georgian national, who now lives in Hamburg and writes her books in German, provided interesting insights into the history of and life in Georgia in her highly acclaimed book Das achte Leben (Für Brilka) (engl. translation: The Eighth Life (For Brilka)). She sees Georgia's position as Guest of Honour as a major opportunity: “It could prove worthwhile expanding European literature to include Georgian literature, because diversity, the co-existence of the diverse as an idea, that, for me, is what defines Europe, and what, unfortunately, is frequently called into question nowadays,” she said at the presentation of the Georgian concept for its appearance as Guest of Honour.

Throughout next year, the Georgian literary scene, with all its diversity, will be presented in Frankfurt and exciting insights into Georgian literature, culture and its way of life will be provided through a range of readings, workshops and conferences. Georgia’s Guest of Honour appearance will be supplemented by a comprehensive supporting programme of exhibitions, musical events, theatrical performances and film screenings. This will bring together the best of its prehistory, antique and contemporary art, photography, architecture, design, typography, film and illustration.

Around 500 readings and events in the German-speaking regions will coincide with Georgia's appearance as Guest of Honour. 70 authors from the Guest of Honour country will visit around 30 cities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, including some 20 literary festivals, such as the lit.Cologne, the Harbour Front Literaturfestival Hamburg and the Literaturtage Zofingen.

Georgia will be launching its cultural marathon at this year's Frankfurter Buchmesse including the Guest of Honour handover ceremony with British-Georgian singer Katie Melua, discussions on the German-Georgian Year of Friendship 2017 and a series of events at which Georgian authors and critics, such as Lasha Bugadze, Zurab Karumidze, Salome Benidze, Nestan Nene Kvinikadze and Beka Adamashvili will talk about both classic Georgian literature and the latest modern publications with German presenters.