New Translations of Knight in the Panther’s Skin: English, German, Chechen & Arabic

On May 2, at the Exhibition Hall of the Central Library of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU), the presentation of the translations into four languages of the most precious Georgian book of all times, Shota Rustaveli’s ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ took place.

2016 was declared the year of Shota Rustaveli by UNESCO and has so far turned out to be very fruitful, with the list of numerous translations added to with new English, German, Arabic and Chechen versions. Copies of each were gifted to the library.

“Since its establishment, the Tbilisi State University has been researching Knight in the Panther’s Skin and it was here that Rustvelology as a branch of philology was formed,” said Zurab Gaiparashvili, Director of the Library.

Mikheil Chkhenkeli, pro-rector of TSU, congratulated the librarians on the International Day of Librarians celebrated on April 30. “It is a very important day for us. Other nations will be able to get acquainted or reacquainted with the main monument of Georgian literature. I would like to thank the translators and publishers for this.”

“Lin Coffin is the American poetess and translator who made this translation,” said Nato Alkhazishvili, Director of the Publishing House ‘Poetry,’ which published the latest English translation of Knight in the Panther’s Skin in 2015. “It won the main literary award of Georgia [Saba] for best translation. This book is unique because it is the first time we have a translation with quatrains of 16-syllable lines, just as it is in the original. To date, we have had four other translations. The first ever, and most famous English translation of the poem, belongs to Marjory Wardrop. Yet all were translations in prose. This is the first time we have it in poetry. As [one of the most distinguished] Kartvelologists noted, Lin Coffin has been able to achieve something that seemed impossible. From now on, English readers, who are numerous, will be able to see both the beauty as well as the wisdom of our greatest poem. This year, we also published the Georgian-English aphorisms from Knight in the Panther’s Skin, based on this translation, which can also be seen in the Library.”

The German translation, managed by Rusudan Mosidze, is the second one in this language since 1955, when the first German translation was published. The former was published in Vienna.

Chechen translations also existed before, but were destroyed. The latest translation was presented by Meka Khangoshvili, Representative of the Chechen Diaspora to Georgia, who is also the Counselor to the State Minister on Reintegration Issues. “I’m very proud that I was given a chance to feel the whole beauty of ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ in the original language. I can tell you that it also sounds very good in Chechen. I’m very glad that Chechen translations are always close to the original texts. Muzaev, the translator, used both the Russian and Georgian texts and, with the help of Georgians and Kists (Chechens living in Georgia), the 16-syllable line system has been preserved in translation. Knight in the Panther’s Skin was published for the first time in Chechen in 1969. I know for sure that several copies survived destruction in private collections, and I’m glad that now we have 5,000 new copies”.

The history of translations of Knight in the Panther’s Skin began in 1802. After the Russian version, it was translated into many languages including those of the post-soviet countries, as well as French, German, English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabian, Jewish, Hindi, and more. The most ancient printed version of Knight in the Panther’s Skin is in Georgian and dates back to 1712. A copy is preserved in the TSU library. The exhibition hall is currently showcasing copies of the foreign editions of the poem which are stored in this library, waiting for you to come and enjoy!

Maka Lomadze

04 May 2017 17:13