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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Vano and Niko

Erlom Akhvlediani

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To purchase Vano and Niko

Title: Vano and Niko
Author: Erlom Akhvlediani
Genre: Stories
Written: (1986) (Eng. 2015)
Length: 124 pages
Original in: Georgian
Availability: Vano and Niko - US
Vano and Niko - UK
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Vano and Niko - India
  • And other Stories
  • Georgian title: ვანო და ნიკო
  • Translated and with a Preface by Mikheil Kakabadze

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Our Assessment:

B+ : quirky little narratives and fables

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Vano and Niko is a slim trilogy of story-collections by Erlom Akhvlediani. The first set of fifteen stories all feature Vano and Niko (themselves only loosely -- and variously -- defined); the second set, 'The Story of a Lazy Mouse' consists of five stories (featuring animals); the third set, 'The Man who lost his Self and Other Stories', consists of twenty-one variations on 'The Story of a Man'.
       Many of these often very short pieces have the feel of allegories or fables, but, while some clearly are, they generally don't follow an obvious arc or point to a clear moral. Deceptively simple in their presentation -- often with a very basic build-up, repetitive, with slight variations and adjustments as the stories progress -- they are rarely simplistic.
       In their stories, there is always a connection between Vano and Niko, but their relationship is not clearly defined; depending on the story, it shifts from the antagonistic to the very close (indeed, in the final piece: "Niko became Vano and Vano became Niko. In the end, both became Vano"). Repetition features in many of their interactions ("The next day Vano went to Niko", over and over; or variations on "Niko laughed", for example), as the situations in the stories slide from one form to another; often, the effect is like that of a poem, with a repeated verse.
       'The Story of a Lazy Mouse'-pieces, with their animal-figures, are the most traditionally fable-like of the collection. As throughout, there's a touch of dark-absurd humor to these -- perhaps to best effect in 'The Teacher Fox', which takes several turns in describing the fate of a fox and the seven chicks a hen (inexplicably, beyond the fact that she's: "light-headed and idle") gives it to raise, a weird pedagogic parable with a sweetly surreal final twist.
       'The Man who lost his Self and Other Stories' presents brief summing-ups of twenty-one different figures -- defined by a specific characteristic, trait or ability. There are stories of 'an unhappy man, 'a lonely man', 'a man who lost his self', finally even: 'the story of a man whom everyone thought didn't exist'.
       'The Story of an Inventor Man' features a figure who can be taken to be god-like:

     Once there was a perfect man, an inventor man. First, he invented himself. He then invented a mountain, and at the foot of the mountain he invented a hut. After that, he invented a peaceful life and went to live in the hut he had invented.
       The conclusion is stark, simple, beautiful:
Finally, he invented an infinite road and went on to take that road.
       These pieces can seem very basic -- and much here is indeed reduced to the essentials -- but they offer the reader vast space to expand on them. With absurd elements, they are nevertheless hardly solely absurdist -- yet also rarely spell out anything clear-cut. They're unusual stories -- out of the ordinary, different from the expected -- and have to be approached with the understanding that they don't offer readers trite and easy lessons. They're odd, but often affecting; certainly, Akhvlediani's strange turns are always intriguing.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 May 2015

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Vano and Niko: Reviews: Erlom Akhvlediani: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Georgian author and screenwriter Erlom Akhvlediani (ერლომ ახვლედიანი) lived 1933 to 2012.

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© 2015 the complete review

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