Going to where they speak English

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

I will travel to the UK to speak at the Bodleian Library at 2 o’clock on Friday, June 1st, about my translation of The Knight in the Panther Skin. Details about the event in the notice below.

The Knight is Shota Rustaveli’s 12th century Georgian epic and it is a knockout tale of two knights and their beloveds. The event is free and open to the public, and partially funded by the Marjorie Wardrop foundation, my Georgian patron, Mamuka Khazaradze, and my publisher, Nato Alhazishvili. I am very eager to talk about the epic and the team effort it took to translate this work. It took me more than two and a half years, working almost every day, to get this first edition done. I look forward to working on a second edition in the coming year.

Thinking about going to England set me to remembering the first time I went there. I traveled with my husband in the fall of long ago, when he had a sabbatical. We lived in Surrey, somewhere between Godalming and Hazlemere.

We had trouble getting anyone to rent us their house for just the three (?) months we were going to be there. They had recently passed a law in England that made it difficult to evict someone who had been staying in a place for any extended period.

But finally someone took pity on us, and we found ourselves in an idyllic cottage in an idyllic setting. The cottage had been built in the 1700 or 1800s (it seemed almost modern over there) and then remodeled and refurbished, so it contained all the modern conveniences you could wish, as well as all the Tudor charm. There were cows glimpsable from our living room windows, I remember. We were only about three miles away from Stonehenge.

But my strongest memory of the whole time in England was going to a private dinner party next door. Six of us gathered for a great English meal. My husband was an English professor at the University of Michigan and resembled Don Quixote - He was 6’ 7” tall and a gentler giant there never was. He was normally very soft-spoken and the kind of man who would go into another room to get a chair if a cat were occupying the place he had meant to sit. Anyway, we were at this dinner party and one of the Englishmen was (I can only assume) rather anti-American in his leanings and began to give a mini-lecture on American Revolutionary times, with descriptions that bolstered the Crown and belittled the Resistance. After some minutes of this, my husband had had quite enough. “Yes,” he said, in a voice which, for him, was surprisingly loud. “And then there was a war, and we whupped your British a**es.!”

The British gentleman smiled and said, “Yes. And if that were not the case, you and your wife would still be speaking English.”

While I am in England, my most obliging hostess, Gillian Evison, and her husband, are going to take me on a day’s excursion to Stonehenge. I never got there on the former visit, and have regretted it ever since.

*I understand Stonehenge is “completely different” now - but that’s okay. My husband died decades ago, some time after our divorce, and I’m “completely different” now, myself.

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