David Kldiashvili was a writer that saw little acclaim during his lifetime, and even then the acclaim he received was not proportional to the weight of his writing. The Georgian wrote in the late 19th century and the early 20th century focusing on finding humour in the depressing degeneration of the society. Although he titled two of his books as tales of misfortune (The Misfortunes of Kamushadze and The Misfortunes of Darispan) his writing was translated despair into a situation where laughter was the only logical response. His prose was not merely the union between comedy and tragedy; he depicted helplessness in a constant struggle that only produces misery.
Kldiashvili, a treasured author in Georgia – and the father of another prominent writer, Sergo Kldiashvili – allows for a sweeping sense of nostalgia to overwhelm the reader. You feel transported to another time you do not know yet you long for the familiarity of that time. Once removed from the present the writing relates easily while discussing familial conflict, political strife, and the ironic idiosyncrasies of culture and class. Simultaneously you both mourn the past and celebrate the present. Kldiashvili rather brilliantly captures the duality of life, that laughter and tears the two great human emotions resonate in the same wavelength, which is lack of control. We rarely control the things that make us laugh and bring us joy; and even more distressing, we never control the things that make us cry and weep.
As I reflect on reading Kldiashvili I like to think that his writing is an inside joke between him and the reader. He tells you the miseries of his characters, but without delighting in their pain. Then the punchline is that he attempts to console the reader in their state of vicarious despair by destroying the character they have cheered on. So many times his characters see their lives fall apart, not for you entertainment but for your peace of mind. The most important question after reading Kldiashvili is once you realize that joy and despair both result from helplessness, do you rail against the helplessness either by wreaking havoc with your emotions or by closing off emotionally altogether? Or do you find peace in that utter helplessness and paradoxically find both happiness and sadness? Kldiashvili removes all illusions, like the illusion of power, in his writing and leaves you nostalgic for those very illusions which made life uncomplicated yet caused you so much anguish.