Gogoladze Tamar                                                                                                                                                                      # 4

On the History of the Travel Diary in the Georgian Literary Texts (1713-1862)

Up to the 18th century and the very end of the baroque era the fate of the Georgian authors (mainly king-poets and royal court men of letters) had been closely linked with the social and political developments in the country. Their heartaches and woes are reflected in their works, mainly in their poetry. By that time diary-type notes (if existing) had not been preserved. Their poetry is a (nonchronological) diary of a kind while the authors' life are recorded by the chronicler.

Having long been declared an indepedent genre, "diary"-type works are an object of in-depth study by all European literary criticism nowadays. Two types of diaries are distinguished: literary and non-literary or "real". Scholars such as G. Hoke, V. Gerzman, K. Iust regard diaries written only for the author as non-literary or "real". as their spiritual repository, a chronicled calendar of their private life (Khvedelidze 1990:316)

This type of diary is not intended for publication. It contains the author's private experience, a chronicle of his life. Whereas literary is a diary if it is meant for the general public and prepared for publication (though it can be a model of the first-type diary, the author may decide to publish it later). At this stage the diary often becomes stylized by the author himself, with artistic techniques and transfers to fantasy sphere extensively employed.

These two types of diaries may encompass the so-called travel diary with the author's notes entered into as he travels. It can be meant for publication, be stylized, decorated with artistic colours and represent a "literary travel diary". It can equally be a record of the author's impressionsor one saved for publication at a later date, the so-called "real" diary.

The so-called "travel sketch" (a journalistic genre) should also be pointed out here. It is written to the editorial staff's order or, at the author's discretion, definitely for publication, being chiefly built on associations.

Travel diaries are often mixed up with the so-called memoir or documentary prose though we cannot exclude that a travel diary can be memoir-type (i.e. a later recollection with the extension of the notes made earlier) and documentary, depicting the universe in a documentated way. The Georgian literary criticism has expressed quite a vague idea about this issue: Diary - daily or periodic notes of private or autobiographic character of systematic observations, research, expedition, travel by the author. The form of diary is also used in fiction (Duduchava 1966:29)

Here the main point of departure is the diary itself which can also be a travel one. Its use in fiction is just a technique. Diary - a daily account of the author's feelings. The compiler of the diary can be a master of artistic eloquence, a great public figure, an ordinary intellectual...

There is another type of diary as well which goes beyond the mentioned limitations and the diary material turns into a generalizing event, a means to convey the public life...here a concrete fact is levelled with a general one to lay a foundation for autobiographical and travel genres and other types of works (Chilaia 1971:117)

Diary - the author's daily or periodic (the period of time being usually short) notes rendered in the first person; unlike from a memoir, it is an addendum to what is depicted. That is why a diary is characterized by bearing a date and being simultaneous with it. Diary in fiction: 1. a genre type of artistic prose...2. a stylistic and compostional technique (Chilaia R. 2003:37-38). “Travel - a documentary narrative by which the author conveys his travel impressions, observations, and adventures as seen and experienced. A work of travel genre may be of both scientific and artistic nature. Sometimes this form is also employed in writing to create a work of narrative genre" (Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms 1966:83).

“Travel - in dealing with travel genre content two factors are to be taken into account:

a) travel as an artistic literary genre;

b) travel as a variety of work of historical and publicistic genre”. (Chilaia 1971:269)

Neither of the two definitions mention a "diary" and lierary and non-literary genres are mixed up.

Unlike from these R. Chilaia's encyclopaedic guide "Literary Criticism" provides the following definition: “Travel - a literary genre with a traveller's account, usually consisting of a description, narrative and discussion by the author.There are two types of travel: 1. When the author is a traveller himself and hence an information interesting not only from a literary standpoint; 2. Artisic work with a plot and composition construed in the form of areal travel description, predominantly of epic genre but there can also be travels written in a dramatic form” (Chilaia 2003:110-111).

The authors of all the three opinions proceed from the priority of literary nature in the writer's notes though R. Chilaia actually points out literary and non-literary travels, considering them to be of epic genre.

In our opinion, prieminence of the diary in defining the genre must not exclude its defining as literary and non-literary as well, inasmuch as human diary is in itself less interesting for literary study whereas that of an author or writer, be it intended for publication or recording of impressions, may contain a valuable material for the wrier's biography or for the history of the object described. Moreover, a "travel diary", implied as his own descriptive record of happenings, can be conveyed by artistic means. Notes made in time and space are the point of departure here, being noteworthy from both from historical and literary standpoints. Therefore, we have selected "real" travel diaries written by two authors of different epochs, one of whom travelled to Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, while another in the '60s of the 19th century. Among them are literary and non-literary diaries written by the clergymen, tradesmen and authors (Rafiel Danibegashvili, Timote Gabashvili, Giorgi Avalishvili, Grigol Orbeliani and Ilia Chavchavadze).

Several factors have determined our selection of S.S. Orbeliani ("Travel to Europe") and Giorgi Eristavi ("My Travel to Europe"):

a) both travel works are diaries with impressions recorded or extended slightly later but vivid and convincing;

b) both works seem to have been meant for publication (the first - for a regular one, the second, at the author's discretion, saved as a source for some future work), i.e. both are non-literary or "real" travel diaries necessary and indispensable for describing their sociological, psychological and intellectual opinions;

c) both diaries are renderings of their European impressions with their beginnings and end parts linked with Georgia and Turkey;

d) both diaries are deficient: S.S. Orbeliani's "Travel to Europe" lacks the beginning (Travel to France) while G. Eristavi's "My Travel to Europe" has no end part (Travel to Italy);

e) the original copy of the the first is lost, that of the second has been found by S. Radiani in 1935-1936 after searching in the archives of G. Eristavi's son David.

S. Orbeliani's "Travel to Europe" has been sufficiently studied by literary criticism. The scholars stress the signifiance of the notes made by the author, a clergyman dispatched to Europe in pursuit of political ends (K. Kekelidze, A. Baramidze, G. Leonidze), in providing valuable information about the towns, churches and monasteries, architechture, relics, history and archeology, paleontology, zoology, botany, climatology, ethnography, societies, statistics and commerce of the countries in question. It is natural that this had been preceded by diaries about and descriptions of Georgia itself by foreign missionaries (Pietro della Valle, Vericelli, Sillo, Avitabille, Clemente Galiano) which were, probably known to Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani. That is why his notes did not grow out of nothing, having itself,become a source for study by scholars from different fields. Besides, as a result of natural or political cataclysms over the centuries, what is described in the diary might be an exceptional source, as noted by Korneli Kekelidze: Since the beginning has not been preserved, we do not know how Saba entitled his work; the title we come across in manuscripts was thought up by the rewriters, therefore the title "Travel to Europe", as this work is refered to  today, is conventional (Georgian... 1966:469).

In his notes S-S.Orbeliani goes into detail about the weather, travel sites, surroundings as seen not only by a clergyman but by a layman as well. His interests are again linked with finding the ways in foreign lands to save his country and this main stand can be traced throughout this diary. The text of the "Travel" has been preserved only in the form of two defective manuscript, See Saist. saet. #93,759. Unfortunately, both versions contain only the second part of the work. the first part has not been found to this day. This is the same form as it was published with cardinal errors in the "Tsiskari" magazine. See "Tsiskari" #14, 1852. Here the text starts from "The Town of Genoa on June 24, 1714.” (The Wisdom... 1928: CXVIII)

G.Eristavi was obviously familiar with S-S.Orbeliani's "Travel". This is  evidenced by his publication in the "Tsiskari" magazine and by his wish 10 years later to visit the same countries (France, Italy).

For G. Eristavi Europe is not confined to only "France". In his letter G.Leonidze about S-S  Orbeliani he stresses the fact thatEurepe used to be referred to by Georgians as the "land of the French" and Europeans as "French" (The Wisdom... 1928:CIV).

G. Eristavi is already much aware of what "Europe" is. That is why his list of the countries he travelled to also includes Britain, Germany, Switzerland, the Daniube state while passing through Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Wallachia (Romania).

What itinerary had S-S. Orbeliani based his travel on is difficult to ascertain. The more so as he was accompanied by an European  clargyman named Richard. Besides, though every scholar unanimously notes the formal reason for S-S. Orbeliani's travel to Europe, the fact of the political developments in the then Georgia can also be traced:In the August of 1713, he fled to Europe - reads a postscript in the lexicon. (The Wisdom... 1928:CVI) For S-S.Orbeliani the reason for his travel is crucial:"Holy Father, inasmuch as thy son, a steadfast Christian, had thrown up his work for ye to do, overwhelmed became I forthwith by the thought that everyone would do a deal with me. Delay would do no good to King Vakhtang, thought I, since his was an evil abode (Georgian... 1983:192).

But the author's vigilant and observant eye does not overlook the description of his meetings, nor the hospitality provided, without the notes duly recorded. ...but whatever I can do is that my writings will be truthful. Ye might think I can overdo it to earn praise. Believe ye should whatever I write seeks this in the least. If I had tried hard to do the undoable, I could have half-done it even then. As I failed to learn and write all, I had rather left a half unaccounted of (Georgian... 1983:201).

Here his covert desire is somewhat revealed: while thinking about the prospective reader of his notes, a need for credibility of his travel diary makes it even more real.

The author acts as an observer, his notes perhaps meant for as a certain guide for later travels, but his impressions are attended by so many signs of individual perception that it is obviously a diary all the same: With God's help, may it become better in my country after me. (Georgian... 1983:206)

It really being his wish indeed, G.Eristavi, accompanied by a relative and several acquaintances, travels to Europe, using Maisky's notes of 1751 as his guidebook. Maisky wrote about this church: it is known from the year 604 (Eristavi 1936:348) There is a pantheon built there as Maisky writes in 1751 (Eristavi 1936:354)

The auther often uses the guidebook but not in a compilatory way - he fills it with his own impressions.

S-S. Orbeliani does not seem to have been referring to any guidebook. It is rather a record of his own impressions, the author being sufficiently well prapered for his travel, what and how to see, what to describe, how to convey his feelings. G. Eristavi shows us the Europe as seen by an educated Georgian, much aware of the European culture.

As the "Travel" by S-S. Orbeliani lacks the part about France and that by G. Eristavi about Italy, we tried to concentrate our attention on the British impressions.

If Saba's "Travel" to Europe is: It is the first attempt at employing the travel genre in our literature and describing Europe (written in the form of a diary). (The Wisdom... 1928:CXVII)

G.Eristavi's " My Travel to Europe" is the first attempt by the 19th century Georgian author to write about his journey to Britain, as indicated by M. Odzeli: It would be expedient to recall here the Georgian travel genre literature as well. In the 1860s Giorgi Eristavi wrote about his impressions from the travel to Europe in his unfinished 'My Travel to Europe' after June 13,1862 in which the pictures of Britain flash through in passing (Odzeli 1998:57)

This is why the observations about the first Briton he meets before describing the country itself is so noteworthy. "That very Englishman, a tall, thin, clean-shaven, cold, as if insensitive, mute, unsociable man. Each time we used just to nod to each other. Stuart by name, as we found out".(Eristavi 1936:342)

G. Eristavi spent ten days in Britain (from  July 18 to July 28) coming from Paris (Calais-Douvre-Satomi [should be Chatham - S.R.]-Manchester[should be Rochester - S.R. ]-London-Richmond-London-Calais. The author takes interest in churches, monasteries (Westminster), buildings (which he disliked at first for being smoke-blackened), palaces (Hampton Court, "Crystal Palace" exhibitions, art galleries, theatres...

In his diary G.Eristavi notes about Britain and its political aims as well. While sightseeing in Trabzon, the author is drawn to a caravan on its way to Tabriz. It reminded him of a report by Vorontsov to the Emperor that it should be good if... "If he had built a road from Kutaisi to Trabzon as he used to say. The English would build a road from Trabzon to catch the Persian trade but if we had built it here we could catch that trade." (Eristavi 1936:334)

It seems that by that time G.Eristavi had been familiar with the British authors (Byron, Shakespeare), though not in the original (Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", "Hamlet", "Othello", "The Merchant of Venice"). He recollects this here and there in his diary. Of special interest is the description of the author's imigination while he was travelling by sea. "I went up to the deck all the same. The sea was too rough, the waves often reaching up to the deck. I kept sitting on a bench, as fearlessly as Childe Harold. The sea seemed to be seeking to wreck us, rising up as a tall mountain and striking now down, now from the side, like a wild horse trying to throw off its rider. (Eristavi 1936:336)

While travelling to Britain and other countries G.Eristavi points out the fact that thay are accompanied by an interpreter. The author and his fellow travellers seem to have been speaking French in the European countries.

In his travel notes S-S. Orbeliani often refers to the fate of captives sold from Georgia. There were some Tatar rafters, carrying captives from Imereti to sell them off in Constantinopole. (Georgian... 1983:244)

Likewise the abovesaid process seems to be continuing a century and a half later. G.Eristavi expresses his chagrin when telling one story (from Trabzon to Constantinople): Among the wives of these Pashas there was a young Megrel lady who told Mariam: I was sold by our people and now I am in the hands of these infidels. Could you somehow help me for God's sake? There was no way we could do anything. Every time she saw Mariam she would hint about help. Our eyes filled with tears but we could do nothing to help her. (Eristavi 1936:335)

G. Eristavi's travel to France is interesting from the standpoint of his contact with the French world. As he might have witnessed or known about the Napoleonic campaigns, he tries to make a supposition about whether Napoleon could march on Britain. We went to the Town of Douvre at 4 in the afternoon. It took us two hours and a quarter by sea. It is so close but hard even for Napoleon the great to seize, which is really impossible. It is much more fortified than Bosphorus and narrower too. (Eristavi 1935:347)

G.Eristavi seems to be familiar with the French authors of the Enlightenment. In the Pantheon he describes the graves of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in detail while noting the fact that Mirabeau and Marat had been previously buried here but removed after the Bourbons came to power.

He again goes into detail describing the festival in honour of the Emperor. He takes a keen interest in the fireworks and solemn processions.

Each country has its distinctive and well-grounded charm for him. He is interested in the production of the Sevres porcelain (that is why he takes a special trip to that town trying to examine the technological process there, though he did not have a chance to do so). He inspects the process of weaving of gobelins, providing detailed notes corroborated by some historical data...

The author's attention is attracted by the sewing machines: he tries to learn how to sew himself, though in vain. Later he buys two sewing machines which might be the first ones imported into Georgia.

G. Eristavi is evidently all too familiar with operatic art, which explains his critical approach to different singers.

He perceives Vienna as Strauss' homeland where he attends a number of concerts.

While in Geneva he stimulates an interest in the Lake. Lake of Geneva is beautiful indeed. It is round and will take a ship two days to circumvent -  there are beautiful palaces on its banks and holiday cottages for the rich and noble. (1936:356)  

Not infrequently do S-S. Orbeliani and G. Eristavi draw parallels between what they see and the nature of their honeland. Describing Malta, S-S. Orbeliani notes: There is a flat rock by the sea, like that of Uplistsikhe, easy to cut. (Georgia... 1983:276)

 While G. Eristavi, describing Mount Monsen, recollects Mount Kudigora (presumably implying the one near Kvareli in Kakheti). This mount is higher than Kudigora and certainly bigger. (Eristavi 1936:276)

Such associative excursusses abound both in S-S.Orbeliani and G.Eristavi's notes. Being drawn to the culture and technological innovations of the foreign countries, the authors beget a wish to the similar in their native land, often accompanied by a chagrin: one day when there is peace in Georgia, then...

S-S. Orbeliani and G. Eristavi seem to be alike both in taking their travel notes and conveying their impressions, irrespective of a century and a half-long and their clergyman-layman status differences. From the very outset each Georgian traveller feels the tragedy of being a son of his homeland whose fate often urges him on to switching over to sacral thoughts. That is why not so infrequently does G. Eristavi refer to the name of Garibaldi in Italy. There sat an Italian near us who went into raptures at hearing it. He told us it was the place where Garibaldi had won. There is a banner as a token still waving on high there. (Eristavi 1936:358)

Though the author refers to the fact here without any comment whatsoever.

From the standpoint of a real ardent patriot does G. Eristavi describe a big exhibition of technological innovations (be they in industry or agriculture), dreaming about their introduction into Georgia (Wood and McKermy's reaping-machine, water-lifting machine).

The author goes into raptures over the artistic samples, paintings and sculptures, wax figures, though postponing the description of "crystal palaces" to a later, spare time: Here I had no time to go into detail but I have books to compile from in my spare time. In the evening I saw a house with figures of wax of famous people old and new. I'll write about it in due time. (1936:351) The above citation confirms the need for an immediate record of an impression gained, along with a certain wish to elaborate on the notes at a later date. The travel diaries are obviously both a confession and a chronicled calendar. They contain both autobiographical elements and literary sketches at the same time. Thus a clear-cut egocentric nature is pointed out - the world as perceived by a person. When mixed with the author's experiences and artistic colours the diary goes beyond the bounds of narrow intimacy.

G. Eristavi must have had some definite aim to pursue, saved up for elaboration at a later date. Thus S-S. Orbeliani's "Travel to Europe" and G. Eristavi's "My Travel to Europe" are the first samples of European travel diaries, so valuable, from this standpoint as well, for the Georgian literary history.





Chilaia 1971:   Chilaia A. Main Concepts of Literary Criticism. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House TSU, 1971.

Chilaia R. 2003:   Chilaia R. Literary Criticism, An Encyclopedic Guide. (georg.) Tbilisi: 2003.

Duduchava... 1966:   Duduchava M. (Editor) A Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House “Nakaduli”, 1966.

Eristavi 1936:   Eristavi G. Works. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House “Federation”, 1936.
Georgian... 1983:   Georgian Prose. V. 5. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House “Sabchota Sakartvelo”, 1983.

Khvedelidze 1990:   Khvedelidze M. The Literary Diary: the Makings and Gist of the Genre, (georg.) Saunje, 1990,  N1.

Odzeli 1998:   Odzeli M. On the History of the Georgian-British Literary Relations. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House TSU, 1998.

The Wisdom... 1928:   The Wisdom of A Lie, (S.S. Orbeliani) Preface by G. Leonidze. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House “Shroma”, 1928.

A History... 1966:   A History of Georgian Literature, V.2. (georg.) Tbilisi: Publishing House “Sabchota Sakartvelo”, 1966.



Volume 2, issue 1


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature