The Eighth Life (for Brilka), originally published in German in 2014, has the heft and sweep to overturn...misconceptions, while introducing the uninitiated to a beguiling culture. A subtle and compelling translation by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (on the heels of a Georgian version earlier this year) should make this as great a literary phenomenon in English as it has been in German ... Niza’s narrative is an imaginative feat to set against the historical gaps and silences left by state propaganda and trauma ... Moments of melodrama are balanced by the novel’s psychological acuity ... Niza’s carnivalesque 'carpet' is knotted together with the aid of such literary conventions as a family recipe for hot chocolate as accursed as it is addictive, and a grandmother visited by spirits. Yet these devices seem less convincing than the finely plotted correspondences and illuminating historical grasp. Patterns in the blood-red rug leap out at the reader long after this momentous book is closed.
... with all its exciting intricacies and the moving depth, The Eighth Life is not just the story of the trials and tribulations of one Georgian family over the red century ... Haratischwili is too astute a writer to imply that people have more power over history than history has over us. And her characters are not only shaped by history, they are also shaped by how others perceive and decide to tell their stories ... Haratischwili writes about women’s pain and anger in a way that is original in scope and yet echoes the themes of other contemporary female writers ... the transitions between the sections don’t feel harrowing. The stylistic progression is as natural as the passing of the years and the way characters’ taste in fashion and music begins to change with the times ... ultimately, regardless of the pain we often inherit, I think that The Eighth Life offers a more positive reading. It’s not about what others have made of us, but much more about the idea that while we cannot truly resurrect or correct the past, the present is still available.
Although it moves from tragedy to chaos to upheaval, across a 'red century' that 'cheated and deceived everyone,' The Eighth Life is a true supra of a novel—a lavish banquet of family stories that can, for all their sorrows, be devoured with gluttonous delight. Despite their burdens of grief, fear and anger, Nino Haratischvili’s characters—six generations of one Georgian clan—come to exuberant life ... Her huge novel (running to more than 900 pages) shows a double face, its crushing pain and loss nonetheless conveyed with an artful storyteller’s sheer joy in her craft ... translated...with unflagging zest and ingenuity over an array of voices and styles ... Haratischvili’s verve, pace and cunning mean that this giant fresco hardly ever dawdles. Even in the depths of war and dictatorship, her women retain a measure of agency and choice ... Haratischvili never stints on drama and surprise ... Tumultuous life...tumbles from each page.
... just as I was jotting the familiar tropes 'ripping yarn,' 'fairy tale' and 'soap opera' in my critic’s notebook, something rather extraordinary happened. The world fell away and I fell, wholly, happily, into the book...The fulcrum tipped, the clichés I had ascribed were now overwritten with new ones: poignant, heart-stopping, sublime ... Haratischvili is acute on the push-me, pull-you complex of Georgia’s relationship with Russia ... Haratischvili writes compellingly from inside her characters’ heads, but from time to time she pulls back, admitting to her reader that she dare not trespass too far into interior hinterlands. Her misgivings subtly afford her characters privacy for the most intimate of deliberations, the fine lines between betrayal and hypocrisy. Here lie the powerful silences of unspeakable traumas and of culpability too, the 'blanks' of 'all those who have been forgotten' ... The book concludes with a devastatingly brilliant announcement of hope.
... very much a novel of the century and specifically of the Georgian experience for those hundred-plus years ... It becomes a lot to pack in, and occasionally is awkward, history forced into the narrative ... The historical markers do help anchor the arguably somewhat unwieldy story, giving readers a hold along the way, but The Eighth Life really is better when it is family-focused, almost outside of time ... Haratischvili's book is huge, but she struggles to contain -- or include -- all of this, and things begin to feel a bit hurried and stuffed-in here; the novel is only really saved when she gets back on track in the penultimate (but actually final) part, the seventh book, in which Niza tells her story -- and, specifically, her struggles to bring Brilka (back) into the fold ... Haratischvili can get heavy-handed, down to the details ... a paced novel, relentless in story, the chapters further divided into short sections making for a quick -- but not hasty -- succession of action. In many respects, The Eighth Life is in fact a potboiler -- a well-crafted one, with little let-up ... The novel begins to lose a bit of its hold in near-contemporary times -- the number of characters and threads, as well as the tumultuous post-Soviet Georgian history, becoming a bit much for Haratischvili to handle; it even threatens to become an historical epic trickling to a bit of a tepid end. Instead, Haratischvili not only salvages the story but finishes off the work-as-a-whole in surprisingly better fashion, making more of the story in making The Eighth Life more than just a historical family epic ... At times the melodramatic bits can get annoying, but Haratischvili always presses on so fast and offers so much more that it's an almost impossible to resist page-turner ... It's not quite the 'Georgia'-novel one might expect -- Haratischvili gives the history-overview as she races along, and she does do some of the settings well, but doesn't quite capture life beyond the family, with a very few exceptions; this is very much an inward -looking, character-driven and -focused story. But there's so much of everything that readers get their fill of Georgia and darkest Soviet history, too ... is, oddly, not quite the novel it seems to want to be -- that Soviet, century-spanning panorama-novel -- but is all the more successful in its limited sphere. Its success -- and the novel is unquestionably a success -- lies beyond any contain-a-whole-century-and-nation aspirations. It is littered with flaws -- rarely major ones, but certainly quite a few small annoying ones ... simply sweeps the reader up and along; it is a very, very good read.
... vast yet elegant ... rendered soberly and robustly from the original German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin – and it demonstrates a technical mastery, impressively sustained. Of particular success is Haratischvili’s juxtaposition of historical processes alongside the all-too-human cost of tyranny. So often her protagonists are subjected to the ever-blackening realities of their existence without losing sight of hope or dignity. What might risk slipping into overwrought melodrama is here presented with a detachent that ultimately increases the emotional impact. This effect is bolstered by the myriad historical details – snatches of popular songs, poems, revolutionary slogans – that pepper the novel and were garnered from the two years of research that Haratischvili conducted in Russia. One criticism is that the author can be a little too preoccupied with national stereotyping...At times like these the novel can read a little like a Georgian primer for the uninitiated ... is more than a family saga: it is an ode, a lamentation, a monument – to Georgia, its people, its past and future.
No one emerges well—but the episodic recounting of the 20th century from a Georgian perspective that’s woven through this novel emphasises how they’ve been crushed by history with a capital H. That’s interesting, particularly when we touch on little-known events, and, for instance, a less charitable view of Mikhail Gorbachev. Yet it’s odd how infrequently Nino Haratischvili...achieves a sense of place in her epic tale; her interest remains with the interior angst of her characters, to the detriment of the bigger picture of her settings. As we move through the decades, The Eighth Life becomes rather baggy, and the appeal of its soap-opera-ish melodrama starts to wane. It’s a novel that aims for exhaustive and ends up rather exhausting—but you do learn a lot about Georgia.
The novel covers more than a century; each of its characters are developed through the extensive internal monologues. All roads lead to Brilka, who runs away to Vienna in an attempt to reclaim some of her family history; she prompts Niza to preserve everything she knows for her niece, resulting in this sprawling epic of love and loss ... Though oftentimes bleak, The Eighth Life is an expansive and hopeful tale centered on family touched by war and revolution.
[An] elegant epic ... Each of the seven sections focuses on one life, the saga stretching from link to fascinating link as if they were jewels on a charm bracelet ... Ms Haratischvili’s writing is lyrical, but she does not gloss over the compromises people make to survive. Above all, The Eighth Life is an unforgettable love letter to Georgia and the Caucasus, to lives led and to come, and to writing itself.
... a novel which is as unrelentingly critical of every aspect of the revolution and its outcome as a Richard Pipes history of the era. Indeed the author would seem to be nostalgic for the time of the czars and much of the early part of the novel is seen from the vantage point of those who had much to lose ... This is a long, rewarding novel, written in clear, unadorned prose which is distinctly pre-modernist, with a linear, unhurried narrative style, ably translated through a collaborative process. It all makes for an engrossing book. Haratischvili has created a fascinating cast (and it’s easy to imagine it as a television series) whose lives illuminate some of the greatest events of the 20th century.
This novel has generated substantial industry buzz and international critical praise. Both are justified ... this is not a Russian epic, it is a Georgian epic, and this distinctively flavors the narrative ... Haratischvili has a compelling, clear-eyed perspective on her homeland. Though far from polemical, the novel should be required reading for those lacking the historical and ideological understanding of what socialism does to those forced to live under it. Stasia is perhaps the most vivid, but each of the multitude of unique characters is similarly vibrant and entirely real, their lives resonant. Don’t let the page count deter; The Eighth Life—the story of a family, a country, a century—is an imaginative, expansive, and important read.
If it’s a family saga you’re seeking, look no further than this grand tale, ably translated by Collins and Martin. The author gracefully interweaves the historical backdrop of her novel with the lives of her characters, thus adding depth to her story. Heartily recommended.
... ambitious ... There is a fairytale quality to the first half, a vast distance between the narrator and the stories she is retelling. Characters are largely one-dimensional, explained in long passages of exposition. They resemble small figurines the narrator is moving about on a play stage, with sweeping generalisations and very little concrete detail ... The backdrop of this saga’s climax is the fall of communism, the ensuing corruption and alienation of the government from the people of Georgia, the secessionist wars in Abkhazia, the economic crisis and nostalgia for the USSR. This is where Haratischvili hits her stride: the characters become more complex and the tensions less operatic ... Haratischvili explores a fascinating and turbulent period of Georgian history that has received little attention, but there are so many competing elements to The Eighth Life that dilute the story ... It takes almost 1000 pages to meet the character Brilka who the narrator is addressing, and when we do there is no revelation. The secret chocolate – like communism – fizzles out ... will certainly sweep some readers away, but the story skims the surface of lived experience. Within vast swathes of history there is only a smattering of insight into how it felt to be there.
... an exceptional, deeply evocative saga of an elite Georgian family as they endure the 20th century’s political upheavals, from before the Bolshevik Revolution through the post-Soviet era ... In heartfelt prose, Haratischvili seamlessly weaves the political upheaval around the characters into the love and loss in their lives. Haratischivili’s epic portrait of a close-knit family doubles as a stunning tribute to the power of resilience.