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The Eighth Life
Cover of The Eighth Life
The Eighth Life
(for Brilka) The International Bestseller
Borrow Borrow

AN OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR

'That night Stasia took an oath, swearing to learn the recipe by heart and destroy the paper. And when she was lying in her bed again, recalling the taste with all her senses, she was sure that this secret recipe could heal wounds, avert catastrophes, and bring people happiness. But she was wrong.'

At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian Empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste ...

Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the centre of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia's is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.

Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.

AN OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR

'That night Stasia took an oath, swearing to learn the recipe by heart and destroy the paper. And when she was lying in her bed again, recalling the taste with all her senses, she was sure that this secret recipe could heal wounds, avert catastrophes, and bring people happiness. But she was wrong.'

At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian Empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste ...

Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the centre of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia's is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.

Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.

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Excerpts-
  • From the cover

    Prologue
    or
    The Score of Forgetting

    2006

    This story actually has many beginnings. It's hard for me to choose one, because all of them constitute the beginning.

    You could start this story in an old, high-ceilinged flat in Berlin, quite undramatically, with two naked bodies in bed. With a twenty-eight-year-old man, a fiercely talented musician in the process of squandering his gift on impulse, alcohol, and an insatiable longing for intimacy. But you could also start this story with a twelve-year-old girl who decides to say NO! to the world in which she lives and set off in search of another beginning for herself, for her story.

    Or you start the story with all the beginnings at once.

    *

    At the moment when Aman Baron, whom most people knew as 'the Baron', was confessing that he loved me — with heartbreaking intensity and unbearable lightness, but a love that was unhealthy, enfeebled, disillusioned — my twelve-year-old niece Brilka was leaving her hotel in Amsterdam on her way to the train station. She had with her a small bag, hardly any money, and a tuna sandwich. She was heading for Vienna, and bought herself a cheap weekend ticket, valid only on local trains. A handwritten note left at reception said she did not intend to return to her homeland with the dance troupe and that there was no point in looking for her.

    At this precise moment, I was lighting a cigarette and succumbing to a coughing fit, partly because I was overwhelmed by what I was hearing, and partly because the smoke went down the wrong way. Aman (whom I personally never called 'the Baron') immediately came over, slapped me on the back so hard I couldn't breathe, and stared at me in bewilderment. He was only four years younger than me, but I felt decades older; besides, at this point I was well on my way to becoming a tragic figure — without anyone really noticing, because by now I was a master of deception.

    I read the disappointment in his face. My reaction to his confession was not what he'd anticipated. Especially after he'd invited me to accompany him on tour in two weeks' time.

    Outside, a light rain began to fall. It was June, a warm evening with weightless clouds that decorated the sky like little balls of cotton wool.

    When I had recovered from my coughing fit, and Brilka had boarded the first train of her odyssey, I flung open the balcony door and collapsed on the sofa. I felt as if I were suffocating.

    I was living in a foreign country; I had cut myself off from most of the people I'd once loved, those who used to mean something to me, and had accepted a visiting professorship that, though it guaranteed me a livelihood, had absolutely nothing to do with who I really was.

    The evening Aman told me he wanted to grow normal with me, Brilka, my dead sister's daughter and my only niece, set off for Vienna, a place she had conceived of as her home, her personal utopia, all because of the solidarity she felt with a dead woman. In her imagination, this dead woman — my great-aunt, Brilka's great-great-aunt — had become her heroine. Her plan was to go to Vienna and obtain the rights to her great-great-aunt's songs.

    And, in tracing the path of this ghost, she hoped to find redemption, and the definitive answer to the yawning emptiness inside her.

    But I suspected none of this then.

    After sitting on the sofa and putting my face in my hands, after rubbing my eyes and avoiding Aman's gaze for as long as possible, I knew I would have to weep again, but not now, not at this moment, while Brilka was...

About the Author-
  • Nino Haratischvili was born in Georgia in 1983, and is an award-winning novelist, playwright, and theatre director. At home in two different worlds, each with their own language, she has been writing in both German and Georgian since the age of twelve. In 2010, her debut novel Juja was nominated for the German Book Prize, as was Die Katze und der General in 2018. Her third novel, The Eighth Life, has been translated into many languages and is an international bestseller. It won the Anna Seghers Prize, the Lessing Prize Stipend, and the Bertolt Brecht Prize, and was longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020. She lives in Berlin.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 24, 2020
    Haratischvili’s English-language debut is an exceptional, deeply evocative saga of an elite Georgian family as they endure the 20th century’s political upheavals, from before the Bolshevik Revolution through the post-Soviet era. In Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2006, 32-year-old Niza Jashi recounts a staggering series of tales to her 12-year-old niece, Brilka. Niza begins with the story of her great-great-grandfather, a successful chocolate maker who brought fortune to the family with a mythically addictive recipe in the early 20th century, then turns to her great-grandmother Stasia, a promising dancer who married an anti-communist White Guard lieutenant just before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Niza tells Brilka about the unconditional love Stasia bestowed on Niza as a child (which was withheld from everyone else in Stasia’s family), the death of Stasia’s younger half-sister in the 1991–1992 Georgian uprising after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., and Brilka’s mother, Daria, Niza’s sister, a beautiful young actress until her tragic downfall in the ’90s. In heartfelt prose, Haratischvili seamlessly weaves the political upheaval around the characters into the love and loss in their lives. Haratischivili’s epic portrait of a close-knit family doubles as a stunning tribute to the power of resilience.

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The Eighth Life
The Eighth Life
(for Brilka) The International Bestseller
Nino Haratischvili
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