The Death of Erekle

Adaptation of Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VII.
The Death of Enkidu


“For his Friend Enkidu Gilgamesh 
Did bitterly weep as he wandered the wild:  
‘I shall die, and shall I not then be as Enkidu? 
Sorrow has entered my heart!”

***

ერეკლეს სიკვდილი 

გიგლა ეწევა ბოლო ღერს, 

სანთელი ანათებს პალატას. 

მისი გული ღრიალს ითხოვს, 

ლაპარაკი სურს ჯაბასთან. 

თვალს არიდებს ერეკლეს და 

ცრემლებს ხელთათმანით იწმენდს. 

“დაე იტიროს თბილისმა შენზე, 

ყველამ გაიცნოს ჩემი ძმაკაცი, 

დედებმა მოთქვან, 

მე მათთან სახლში შენი გვამი მომაქ” 

გიგლა ხმამაღლა გოდებას ვერ ბედავს, 

ექთნები როცა შემოვლენ შეშდება, 

რატომ და რის გამო, 

თვინთონ კი ვერ ხვდება. 

და მაინც ღელავს, მის ძმაკაცს ხომ 

აბოიმა დააცალეს

პაბეგში წასვლას ითხოვს გონება, 

და თან მოგონებები, 

ახსენებს, იმას რაც უკვე იცის,

ერეკლე არ იმსახურებდა უმოწყალო სიკვდილს. 

“ეკო ადე რა, მარტო ნუ მტოვებ, 

რა არ გვიქნია აქამდე ერთად, 

შენს მაგივრად მოვკვდებოდი, 

ჩემი ნება რომ იყოს.” 

ექთნებმა გიგლას ოთახიდან გასვლა

თხოვეს, ისევ საკუთარ თავთან დატოვეს, 

გარეთ გამოსულს, ცრემლი აწვება, 

სიჩუმეში ყოფნისას, 

მისი ლტოლვები ქარწყლდება. 

“ნეტავ ვინმეს თუ გაახსენდება? 

ნეტავ ვინმეს თუ გავახსენდები? 

როგორც ეკო, მეც ისე გავქრები? 

ეს არის ცხოვრება? ამისთვის ვკვდები?” 

ერთ ადგილას ვერ ჩერდება, 

თანდათან შიშებს ნებდება, 

ასე თუ გააგრძელა, 

მას უკვდავება არ შეეხეება. 

ძმაკაცზე ფიქრობს და სახლში

მიდის, პილოტკას იხდის, იარაღს

აგდებს, 

მან გადაწყვიტა, მოყვება ამბებს, 

მის და მისი ეპოქის საიდუმლოებს 

გაამხელს. 

ის აღარ იომებს,

ის უბრალოდ მის ცხოვრებას დაწერს,

მის გრძნობებს, მის გარშემო ადგილებს 

აღწერს, ერეკლეზე დაწერს, 

უკვდავებას ასე ხომ მიაღწევს? 

English Translation

The Death of Erekle

  

Gigla is smoking his last cigarette,  

A candle lights up the ward.  

His heart is begging him to wail,  

He wants to talk to Jaba.1Jaba Ioseliani, Georgian ‘politician’, writer, thief-in-law, leader of the paramilitary organization known as Mkhedrioni. 

He averts looking at Erekle and  

He wipes his tears away with gloves.  

“Tbilisi shall mourn and lament you,  

Everyone should know my brother,2Closest word in English is indeed Brother, Georgian word ‘ძმაკაცი’ (Dzmakaci) implies a friend which one loves like brother. Greek word, philia is perhaps the best description I can  provide.

Mothers may weep,  

I am bringing your corpse to them.”  

Gigla doesn’t dare to weep aloud,  

When nurses arrive, he freezes instantly,  

Why and how,  

He doesn’t know.  

And yet he is still concerned,  

Looking at his brother, how [appallingly] they killed him. 

His mind is pushing him to [exile],  

Now even his memories  

Remind him, what he knows already,  

How Erekle didn’t deserve to die.  

“Eko, come on, stand up, don’t leave me alone.

What haven’t we done together? [As one?]  

I would die instead of you,  

If it was up to me.”  

Nurses asked Gigla to leave the room,  

Left him again to himself,  

Already outside, he sheds tears,  

While in silence,  

His desires slowly perish.  

“I wonder,

Will anybody remember him?

I wonder,

will anybody remember me

Like Eko, will I disappear?  

Is this life? Is this what I die for?”  

Anxious, he can’t stay still,  

Gradually giving up to his fears,  

If he continues like this,  

Immortality won’t be near. 

His brother a distant star, he heads home,  

Takes off his jacket (pilotka), throws away his gun,  

He decided, 

he will tell the stories,  

He will reveal all the secrets about  

Him and the epoch of his life.



All the wrongdoings,

All the injustices,

He won’t battle anymore,  

He will write his life away,

With existing and a yet to be born mentality,
 
He will describe all of it,

Will this not achieve immortality?  

Historical and cultural background 

The Death of Erekle takes place in 1992 in Tbilisi, Georgia 1992, the Republic of Georgia, with hardship, bloodshed and never-ending revolutions, founding itself outside of the Soviet Union. This newly gained liberty meant freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of will. This sudden freedom was perhaps overwhelming. 

As Georgia becomes extremely poor and the country’s economy begins to collapse, oligarchs very close to Russia become extremely rich. There is an attempt to form some approximation of government or central state, but it fails—corruption being the main reason for its failure. The capital starts to crumble; electricity in a house is rare, candles are used most of the time; if one wants to get a loaf of bread one would stand in a line for hours. Alongside all of these circumstances, small groups of armed men form.  

Paramilitary forces start to appear as they drive the whole city to civil war, creating chaos all around the country, which ultimately helps oligarchs to gain money. People dying in shootouts become a routine for Tbilisi, and the already impoverished city is now becoming deficient in population as well. The most famous paramilitary organization is called Mkhedrioni.  Mkhedrioni governs most of the streets; robbing, killing, capturing everyone that gets in their way. A time came in Tbilisi, where, whoever had a gun had the most power. Mkhedrioni is closely affiliated with the Georgian government as well, becoming indestructible thieves-in-laws. Jaba Ioseliani is the leader of this group. He was a cold-blooded murderer, and hugely respected among the whole post-soviet mafia. Jaba became a cult-like figure for the younger generation; every problem among peers could have been ‘resolved’ by him. Every thief-in-law wannabe looked up to Jaba Ioseliani, dressed like him or mimicked him in any other way.  

Many young adults (like Gigla and Erekle) and teenagers were influenced by this mafia  (Mafiosi) lifestyle this civil war provided, and many of them looked at these violent shootouts,  robbings, drug use, having ‘freedom,’ as an adventure or something exciting. There was no governmental authority, nor any other type of authority, to be found to control the situation until 2003. I was three years old when the majority of Georgians finally came out in the streets, and a few of  them went bursting in the parliament, removing the corrupt politicians and pro-soviet authorities.

The Challenges of Translating 

Translating the adaptation was one of the hardest tasks of this piece, as I was faced with the dilemma of whether to conserve the rhyme of the poem or ignore it and stick with simply portraying the main ideas. I feel like I ended up writing two different poems, as I found translating extremely difficult. The feelings that Georgian words gave me were not the same as the English ones, and vice versa. The process made me realize that I would find or name experiences differently in English and in Georgian—often the same word in these two languages did not convey the same message as I wanted.  

Even though I was translating my own text, I felt a pressure; it was as if I was translating someone else’s writing. Eventually, I chose not to think about it too much and just start translating. I found that the rhyme that Georgian writing produced, disappeared. I found my experience close to that of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Spivak in The Politics of Translation states: “At first I translate at speed. If I stop to think about what is happening to the English, if I assume an audience, if I take the intending subject as more than a springboard, I cannot jump in, I cannot surrender,” (Spivak, 189). For Spivak, the translator must surrender; the translator must remove themselves from reading the text and try to translate afterward.  

Translating my poem gave me insight into how translation might work, but especially how it doesn’t work. I didn’t imagine this task being this difficult and was amazed at how similar words in two different languages portrayed very different images and meanings. I immediately felt the need for the reader to be provided with some historical, political, economic, and cultural background to fully understand the position Gigla is in and look at him as a real character, not just an adaptation of Gilgamesh. 

Nika Kokhodze is a philosophy student at Bard College. He is from Georgia, Tbilisi. He’s currently studying at Bard College Berlin, thanks to the study abroad program. His work and studying mostly includes academic writing—however, as a hobby he would say that he likes creative writing (short stories, poetry, occasionally translating works from English to Georgian)
Mostly writing poetry in Georgian.

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