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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Brueghel Moon

Tamaz Chiladze

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Title: The Brueghel Moon
Author: Tamaz Chiladze
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 141 pages
Original in: Georgian
Availability: The Brueghel Moon - US
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  • Georgian title: ბრეიგელის მთვარე
  • Translated by Maya Kiasashvili

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Our Assessment:

B : intriguing if not entirely satisfying

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Brueghel Moon begins with narrator Levan returning from a game of tennis to find his wife, Ia, in the process of moving out -- an abrupt start, coming nearly as out of nowhere for Levan as for the reader. The time for discussion seems past, and Levan doesn't manage to do or say much to try to dissuade her. Suddenly, his wife and young daughter, Tamriko, are entirely removed from his life, and he is on his own.
       A psychiatrist, he had spent ten years with Ia in Switzerland -- an opportunity arranged with some help from his wealthy and influential father-in-law (who disapproved of the marriage -- Ia could have done better, he clearly thought -- but nevertheless was supportive in at least these ways) -- before returning to Georgia some four years ago. Over the course of the novel some of their issues are revealed -- Ia was deathly afraid of having a child, but finally did; she cheated on him -- but the focus is less on the reasons for the failure of this relationship; instead, it moves on -- as Levan tries to -- and presents other women with whom his professional and private dealings come together. Apparently, the two are difficult for him to separate: in parting, Ia complained about his calmness -- a professional calm that seems to have carried over into his private life -- and she summed up:

Why don't you admit I was your patient rather than your wife ? We were doctor and patient rather than husband and wife.
       His wife leaving him does hit Levan hard, even as he gets on with work and everyday life. A former patient brings her own baggage -- and a very unusual tale, veering into science fiction -- to Levan, while he finds himself drawn to an ambassador's wife, Ana-Maria. Unable to make any inroads when he first meets her, he is called upon to attend to her in a professional capacity a few weeks later and a closer bond is forged. However, both women have and retain an elusive quality -- an out-of-reachness, with the psychiatrist having limited capacities to influence or guide what is revealed to him. There are also several mysteries of identity, from foreigner Ana-Marie's apparent Georgian roots to the much stranger (and true foreign body) the other woman reports on.
       It's an unusual tale, presenting a variety of relationships, of very differing sorts, none of which are enduring (for a variety of reasons). Levan and Ia's relationship was reasonably long-lasting, but, although the novel covers a bit of their marriage, the story begins with the abrupt severing of ties, setting both the scene and tone for what follows. If not quite passing strangers, so the couples in the novel seems fated to drift or be forced apart, the difficulty of finding any hold complicated by varieties of foreignness -- including of the mind. Even truly alien life-form comes into play -- and it's perhaps no surprise that if ultimately Ana-Marie can not give herself to Levan and becomes unattainable, she can leave him with a puppy as proxy.
       A fairly intriguing novel of relationships, The Brueghel Moon still feels a bit oddly cobbled together in its various stories. For a psychiatrist Levan seems to have blind spots -- suggested already in the opening scenes, as he carefreely plays tennis, unaware that at that very moment his wife is packing up her things and about to leave him -- and the narrative reflects the fact that he is the narrator, leaving readers also wondering some about significant things possibly lurking obviously nearby which he's similarly oblivious to.
       The Brueghel Moon is also intriguing as a modern Georgian novel, in that its locale and history figure in it, but naturally, and without Chiladze making too much of them. There's no local exoticism for the sake of exoticism -- so often the case in books translated from smaller languages and obscurer corners of the literary world -- even as, amusingly, Chiladze offers some extraterrestrial exoticism (which he handles quite well).

- M.A.Orthofer, 26 December 2014

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The Brueghel Moon: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Georgian author Tamaz Chiladze (თამაზ ჭილაძე) was born in 1931.

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