A Hunting Trip to Daghestan and other stories
From the waters of Montauk to the mountains of the Caucasus and Paris in war times, these stories take you on a whirlwind tour that open unexpected vistas and insights. The book contains both memoir and fiction, told in the candid voice of a man who has lived through the 20th century’s major conflagrations, and seen much sadness, without losing his sense of humor .A great, enjoyable read for all. More
If every person’s life story can fill a book, Redjeb Jordania's can fill a bookshelf. The brilliant stories in this collection are just a small taste of the vast panorama of his experiences.
From the waters of Montauk to the mountains of the Caucasus and Paris in war times, these stories take you on a whirlwind tour that open unexpected vistas and insights. The title story refers to Daghestan, a semi-autonomous region of the former Soviet Union, between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea, on the border of the republic of Georgia. Air distance between New York and Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is 5,572 miles. Nearly 6,000 miles is far enough for an escape, but for Mr. Jordania the trip was actually a return to the land of his ancestors—a land he has never lived in due to its turbulent political history.
Mr. Jordania is the son of the first president of pre-soviet Georgia, Noe Jordania, who had to flee the Red Army’s takeover in 1921, after only three years in office. Redjeb Jordania was born and educated in Paris, so that in the short story “A Hunting Trip to Daghestan,” he finds himself “a foreigner … barely able to speak the Georgian language” in the once-again independent republic.
The book contains both memoir and fiction, all told in the candid voice of a man who has lived through the 20th century’s major conflagrations, and seen much sadness, without losing his sense of humor. The book is divided into two sections, Part I, subtitled “From far away in time and space,” and Part II, “closer to home.”
The autobiographical stories in part one include the moving “Closing the Circle,” in which the author returns to the village where his father’s and grandfather’s house once stood. It is now “a grassy lot where a pair of long-haired black piglets were scurrying, hunting for chestnuts.” The villagers tell him that the family graves have been demolished—but a magnolia tree, planted by Jordania senior, remains, “regal now.”
“The Music Lesson” is an account of Mr. Jordania’s early, and lasting, involvement with music, beginning with piano lessons from an eccentric, hard-drinking teacher and going on to a musical evening during World War II in Paris, when an Allied bombardment “offered an astonishing spectacle of son et lumiére.” “Is where they got the idea?” he wonders.
In another wartime story, “A Surprise Party,” a group of Resistance fighters hide two British airmen who have managed to parachute into German-occupied France. The students in charge of helping them stay alive disguise the pilots as “Georgians”—because “nobody knows what a Georgian is supposed to look like.” It is a close call when the dreaded “milice” arrive to check everyone’s papers.
More upbeat stories from “closer to home” recount adventures on the waters off Long Island—an encounter between the author’s small trimaran and the America Cup race—and a whimsical “Letter from the New World," in which Mr. Jordania recounts his epiphany that “there is no such country as the USA”—it is a joint invention of Madison Avenue and Hollywood!
These stories by this multitalented, well-traveled author offer unique personal insights into recent political and social history on both sides of the Atlantic. A must read.