Writers’ House of Georgia is an open house of literature in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, occupying a historic Art Nouveau mansion on Machabeli street, Old Town. It was established in 2008 as a professional institute and a public space for readings, exhibitions and screenings, and has a beautiful garden café. The house was built in 1903-05 by German and Georgian architects for David Sarajishvili (1848-1911), a philanthropist, Doctor of chemistry and philosophy, and founder of Georgian brandy production. Recognised for its blend of Georgian and western European architectural styles, it has a wooden interior by the craftsman Ilia Mamatsashvili, and ceramic tiles specially made by Villeroy & Boch. It became a hub of cultural life, with frequent soirées and supras (feasts). In 1918 it was bought by the businessman and philanthropist Akaki Khoshtaria (1873-1932) to fulfil its late founder’s wish that it serve the development of the Georgian nation. Guests have included the poet Akaki Tsereteli, the actor and dramatist Valerian Gunia, and the German writer and translator Arthur Leist. The first exhibition of the celebrated painter Gigo Gabashvili was held here. After the Soviet invasion of Georgia in 1921, Khoshtaria was forced to leave the country. Three days after Soviet annexation on 25 February 1921, the mansion was decreed the ‘Palace of Arts.’ From 1923 to 2007 it belonged to the Writers’ Union of Georgia. Among habitués were the poets Paolo Iashvili and Titsian Tabidze – founders of the Blue Horn Symbolists – and Galaktion Tabidze; the novelists Mikheil Javakhishvili and Konstantine Gamsakhurdia; and the historian Pavle Ingorokva. Now on the tour ‘Researching the Soviet Past,’ the house has been witness to critical events. The most tragic was the suicide in 1937 of the poet Iashvili, who shot himself on the second floor while a meeting was held downstairs in a climate of pressure to denounce colleagues.This repression lasted until the 1960s.
Writers’ House publishes a literary journal, gives literary awards, and holds residencies and an international literary festival. It supports the translation of Georgian literature into foreign languages, and publication of foreign literature in Georgian. It works to improve literary translation through professional programmes, and to develop the publishing sector in Georgia, building on the work of the Georgian National Book Centre with which it merged in 2019. Established in 2014, the GNBC directed Georgia’s year as Country of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018, when 600 literary events were held in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Since 2014, 400 Georgian titles have been published in 35 languages, in 40 countries worldwide.