Originally published in German in 2014, this winner of the 2018 Bertolt Brecht prize weaves an epic family saga about a Georgian family whose tale begins in the early 20th century with a famous chocolatier. Remembered by a descendent living in 21st century Germany, the clan's adventures take them through the Russian Revolution, war, loss, love requited and unrequited, ghosts, joy, massacres, and tragedy.
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.
It is not idle hyperbole to say The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili is the War and Peace of the 20th century, as well as the best piece of international fiction in the 21st ... Haratischvili’s massively sprawling tale of one Georgian family’s harrowing experiences in the Red Century joins the ranks of the best historical sagas in literature ... Replete with rich and deeply drawn characters navigating the maelstrom of revolutionary Russia and the horrors of Stalin’s Soviet Union, the novel begins with women and ends with them, as well. Haratischvili does a great service in portraying the experiences of women in war, as well as the price many paid for the men they chose. There are gut-churning episodes, to be sure, but most of Haratischvili’s female protagonists find a way to push forward through unimaginably bleak scenarios. One quibble is that many of her male characters often lack the mental fortitude and emotional intelligence of their female counterparts, coming off as extremely fragile and weak willed in too many instances ... Overall, The Eighth Life is a 944-page opus that grabs you by the head and heart from the first page and refuses to let go. Readers will enjoy this delicious blend of family and 20th century history-in-the-making as seen through the eyes of several generations. After the last page, you will wish there were more… just like that last piece of chocolate. Highly recommended.
... 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.