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First perfect English translation of Georgia’s legendary poem unveils

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 12
Georgia now enjoys a new, perfect version of Georgia’s legendary, epic poem – The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. It is the only translation that uses the same poetic form and rhythm used by the 12th century Georgian poet, Shota Rustaveli.

The new translation has been made by American poet and translator Lyn Coffin, who had been working on the poem for 2 and a half year with the help of Georgian experts.

A total of 3,000 copies of the book have been issued. The presentation took place at Parliament’s Library on October 9.

Prior to the presentation, Coffin met with Georgian academic field representatives at Shota Rustaveli Literature University on October 7.

Here, she and Georgians read extracts from her poetry and translations. The process was moderated by literature analyst and researcher Gaga Lomidze.

Zaza Abzianidze, whose children’s book was translated by Coffin into English, was also present. As he told The Messenger it was the first Georgian children’s book translated into English.

Coffin invited Georgian translator Otar Tsiskadze to translate her fable into English and read it before an audience. siskadze is an author of fist large-scaled translation of George Gordon Byron into Georgian. He also translated particular poems of William Shakespeare and Percy Shelly.

Coffin started to work on the Georgian poem in 2012. Georgian Professor Dodona Kiziria fulfilled the interlinear translation for the edition. The translation of the text was based on the Soviet edition of The Knight in Panther’s Skin from 1966, prepared by the Text Commission and Commented Edition led by professor Nodar Natadze. The text was also edited by Professor Nodar Natadze.

It is worth mentioning that the discussion of the new translation of The Knight in Panther’s Skin was initially held at the Georgian Film Festival IV on October 1-7 in London. Along with Lyn Coffin, the participants of the Georgian Film Festival in London were the contemporary Georgian writer Aka Morchiladze and the Queen Mary professor Donald Rayfield. A renowned English actress, Diane Quick, recited the rhymes from The Knight in Panther Skin for the audience.

Coffin herself is the author of eighteen books.

She has published fiction, poetry and non-fiction in over fifty quarterlies and small magazines, including Catholic Digest and Time magazine. One of her fiction works, originally published in the Michigan Quarterly Review appeared in Best American Short Stories 1979, edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Her plays have been performed at theatres in Malaysia, Singapore, Boston, New York, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Seattle. She has given poetry readings with Nobel Prize winners Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz, and Philip Levine, among others. She is a member of Washington Poets' Association, PoetsWest, Seattle Playwrights' Studio, and Dramatists' Guild.

After her first trip to Georgia in 2011, Lyn Coffin has translated a number of modern Georgian authors – Zaza Abzianidze, Givi Alkhazishvili, Dato Barbakadze, Giorgi Kekelidze. She also prepared (with Gia Jokhadze) the anthology, Georgian Poetry: Rustaveli to Galaktion (2013).

English translator Marjory Scott Wardrop performed the first translation of The Knight in Panther’s Skin into prose. The translation was published for the first time in 1912. However, poetic translation of Venus Urushadze performed in the hexameter was published in Tbilisi, 1968. Stevenson and Viviane’s prose translations were published in the USA and England in 1977.