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For two hundred years after writing “The Fate of Kartli” by Nikoloz Baratashvili, the discussion about this writing never stopped in our literary studies. It was never considered, that a reason for contradiction generated against the backdrop of the Treaty of Georgievsk (a source of inspiration) is closed, because in fact, the treaty had been cancelled after Act of Independence (1918) was adopted by the National Council of Georgia, whereby Independence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia was declared.
However, today we have to study the huge amount of scientific literature, which has been accumulated about this writing since the second half of the 19th century. The special literature devoted to the poet is quite rich and we can read three basic views, three different interpretations of “The Fate of Kartli” in it.
According to the first view, Nikoloz Baratashvili absolutely shares the king’s position regarding Russia and the poem itself represents a kind of apologia of Heraclius the second’s policy as well. Those, who do not agree with this position, consider the author to share Solomon Lionidze’s political belief. The third group see a kind of ambiguity in Nikoloz Baratashvili’s position. They think, that the author keeps this issue open and the reader is a witness of the opposition of the poet’s heart and mind.
Against the backdrop of all this, the researchers’ intensified interest towards the position of the text author seems to be exaggerated for us and I think, that the question: “Who is right in Nikoloz Baratashvili’s opinion: Heraclius or Solomon?”, breaks the boundaries of the text autonomy, especially when an answer to this question is looked up in the poet’s other writings or his biography.
Such attitude towards an artistic text did not change over time, every new research brought new knowledge and a general picture remained unchanged. A reader was only interested in an author’s opinion about a historical event, characters’ decision and characters themselves looked so “powerless” in the opinion of readers, that they could not protect themselves, take the responsibility and express an idea adequately.
Despite the fact, that the literary criticism noticed a modernized nature of the dispute between the king and his secretary many times, the reader still found it difficult to escape from the “fictional” reality and see the conventionality typical for an
Literature has gained so much experience, that a reader should not need this to be reminded. A historical character in an artistic text is an artistic character, a character created in fictitious reality, whose action is based on powerful motivation, is always more “real”, than any of his contemporaries, whom he can see, touch and share his thoughts.
However, a reader finds it difficult to avoid the realistic appeal of Nikoloz Baratashvili’s poem even today. He finds it difficult to analyze objectively, because he always sees his homeland in a small country, which was known as a country of Ivert in the poem and an aggressor in Russia, our co-believer, which still seizes a vast territory of his country. We can claim, that one of the characteristics of the poem (“The Fate of Kartli”), the king of Kartli-Kakheti has little in common with a historical king, Heraclius. The main idea of the poem really goes beyond the specific time and space and covers larger scale.
However, we do not neglect the traditional experience of reading a text, because it is a method of interpretation as well. Such experience is justified, when there is biographical artistic literature, which one of the types of historical artistic literature. It acquainted us with a historical individual and represents different episodes of his life in a genre of artistic narration again, but what will happen if we look at this situation without an outer characteristic, if we take specificity away from this situation and reduce everything to a general idea, if we doubt traditional conceptualization and want to transfer from so-called phenomenological attitude to natural one?
It is a general model of this doctrine, according to which, phenomenological attitude is received from natural attitude through refraining, from whence the only entity is to recognize consciousness and its initial experience.
In the 1920s, the Humanities (Roman Ingarden) successfully used Husserl’s phenomenological method to analyze an artistic text and showed us a way how to enter into the deep layers of an author’s consciousness through it.
“Phenomenological criticism tries to keep a literary work absolutely objective and impartial, hold back private interests, be buried into the conventional world of a text and describe every nook and corner of a writing with the highest accuracy and fairness. Phenomenological criticism does not mean evaluative analysis of a text, which represents its constructive and active interpretation and shows a critic’s subjective position, but it implies passive reception (perception) of a text and an objective description of its ideological essence. A specific literary text is considered to be a part of one organic wholeness. Wholeness is a concept relevant to an author’s consciousness; A part includes an author’s creative way and his writings arranged chronologically, which are thematically different, but they are always eager to reach the wholeness” (Ratiani 2008:56).
In our case, we must also consider, that Husserl placed real objects in “brackets” and phenomenological criticism puts historical context of a literary work, an author, the background to its creation and reading process.
It is no longer needed to fall back up on biographical criticism to cognize this consciousness. It is enough to cognize basic aspects on a text level, in which an author’s consciousness is realized. By considering all this, a well-known plot of the poem can be narrated in the following way:
“A small country, which was ruled by an old king, was invaded by the enemy. The battle was in process with transitional superiority and, despite two-day last-ditch assault, the king had to leave the capital and take shelter in one of the regions of the country. Here he met his prominent vizier and told him, that this failure caused the king to feel completely hopeless and as he could not see a reliable owner of the country in his heirs, he decided to give the chair of authority of his country to a ruler of self-religious great country and save his country from complete destruction.
The vizier got anxious by the king’s decision, because he was sure, that in exchange for peace, which his country would receive if it subordinated a foreign ruler, they had to compromise with freedom and independence”.
Let’s see what changes by such generalization of historical events in an artistic text?
Firstly, an angle of aspect changes and accordingly, a perception process (Phenomenology itself is exactly a rule of aspect and not science about a subject), the main idea of the poem, which was restricted to the Treaty over the years, was expanded and received a general meaning, a reader “got free” from a phenomenon existing beyond the artistic text. The dialogue between the king and his judge became more purposeful, the area of interpretation expanded and the symbolic-allegoric details became more meaningful under the conditions of the text autonomy. A biblical allusion took shape, the theme of heredity linked the lyrical poem to epos. Against the backdrop of this, genesis of a literary character having individual qualities became more relevant. In the text an allegoric meaning of two rivers (The Mtkvari and The Aragvi) became an object of extra research and a lyric character of the delayed rider (The Aragvi is running), which gives the plot of the poem a symbolic meaning.
A reader (literary studies as well) absolutely got free from those evidently irrelevant questions, which are primarily directed to the author and his attitude towards artistic characters, it mostly discusses the issue of author’s responsibility to their worldview.
The main idea of the poem was revealed, in which the discourse of the concepts of freedom and peace was opened, it got modern meanings and covered modern life as well. The characters took their own place in a gallery of the characters of “Literary Georgia”. “The old king”, as a literary character, stands next to the famous monarchs of the world literature after in one episode he is quite like to the subject of national epos (“The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli). It creates an interesting perspective for the parallel investigation of these two poems and their comparative analysis.