Lia Liqokeli, 30, Tbilisi
„I started writing in my childhood. Maybe this was not exactly writing but I wrote poems and I did not hide that. I had never hidden that. I liked and found it interesting when others read them. I stopped writing after I finished school, but I had a feeling left inside me that it was something rather important, which I was capable to do. Many years had passed since then. I thought all the time that I needed to write. I never had a goal like writing a book or becoming a writer. This was some feeling – you know that you should express yourself in this way. This is your language, your conversation.
I had felt rather reserved for years, I had been all alone. I did not interact with the environment much and nothing worked out right. I needed to take up something new, and suddenly I found my language, which is rather important because you may want to say something but cannot make it happen unless you find a specific form in which you can express yourself. I discovered this language and I felt that I learned speaking afresh – I started writing. Life has become easier since then. I already know how to convey to people the things I want to say. During an ordinary conversation it is often impossible to clearly express your feelings, views and ideas, no matter how well you structure you speech, mere words are not sufficient, not everything has a corresponding word, some additional tools and methods are needed. You may invent a very simple, even a silly plot, write a poem, story or novel and people will understand better who you are and what you want to say.
I spent my childhood in the mountains, I grew up in Khevsureti. This was the world of fairy tales, myths, ancient stories and the people that seemed to have come from some other dimension. My past and current environments are quite contrastive and it has been hard to get used to these differences. They remind me of two texts written in an absolutely different manner. You have to come to grips with rules of a new game to understand a new text and take part in it. It is one thing to understand it but a different thing to become its character, which takes some time.
That world is more secluded, of course – a small village, where everyone knows each other. Everything is in the spotlight, people see you the whole time. I have a feeling regarding the village, that this is the place where you are being watched all the time. This is what I do not like about a village, for which I prefer to live in a city. Maybe this city is not sufficiently “city”, but you have a better chance here to fight for your personal space and freedom.
I do not think of going back to the village. If I go back, I have to live somewhere in the forest, alone, in the locked house. I often hear in this city people saying to each other, „It’s a shame that we do not contact each other anymore… this city has become so ugly! People in the streets knew and greeted each other, now it has been flooded by strangers…“ In fact, this people experience lack of the things that are characteristic of a rural community: people know each other, you go to visit them, they come to visit you etc. Most importantly, people stick their nose into other people’s lives. But I like when nobody comes to my place unless they ask me first, I also do not go to other’s places without asking for permission first. If I am not in the mood of saying ‘hello’ to anyone, I will not do that, I may come home late or may not come at all. If someone comes to visit me, the whole world will not gossip about that. There, in that small space, this becomes a slur, you become marginalized very easily. You have to keep some rules all the time, you have to be like you are supposed to be. For example, a person has a right to be in a bad mood, be alone, and generally the right to live. Being a woman in a village makes things even more complicated.
Imagine a house, which was built by males. Everything in the house is organized as they find convenient. The same can be said about literature. They say, a “female poet”, “female writer”, “womanish” – and this is considered a little bit derogatory. In fact, there is nothing like “womanish writing” or “mannish writing”. Women’s concerns are also diminished. If you dare speak out, they blame you for being sentimental, extremely boring, writing nonsense etc. There is a compliment like „you write like a male“. I have never been told that and I am glad, because I often tell my stories as a woman and I do not shy away from expressing my feelings. This is like when you commit a crime and then you make a loud confession, depriving others of the opportunity to expose you. So, I confess that I am a culprit: I confess that I am a woman and talk openly about experiences women might have.
People have often called me a “whiner” and made comments like „Oh, these girly stuff…“. But I have used this in my favor, I intentionally titled my book in the same way. They often think that you complain, coquet, are capricious and hysterical. As a rule, words – capricious, hysterical – are used towards woman. I used to get angry in the past when they characterized me in this way but I do not any more. I am not ‘ashamed’ any more, I do not want to be the person they would like me to be.
One more thing: you have to prove all the time that you are sincere. In other words, the more sincere you are, the stranger this looks. „Why are you so honest?! So you are trying to cheat, you are a cheater, you are wearing a double face!“ People are surprised by and fear honesty. It is easier to live with well-packed lies. To me, writing is a regular response to everything taking place around me as well as in my life, I should tell my story and talk openly otherwise I will lose my sense of reality and self.
I grew up in a rather patriarchal environment, where everything has its place. It is not necessary somebody to shout at you or beat you for the environment to be abusive. I have had a feeling of being inferior since my childhood; I have felt that when you are a women you just enter a life rather than create it. I wanted people to notice my existence all the time. Maybe I started writing for this very reason. I remember when relatives came to us, I wanted them to love me as a person, to notice me. But they would say „his“ girl – i.e. they say father’s name and – his girl, rather than my name “Lia”. And you are “somebody’s girl” all your life. But today, these people know Lia. I am not anybody’s girl. I am not invisible. I am my own self. This is how it works: you have to stir something up, you have to shout, in order to be noticed.”