‘The Cat and the General’
Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt, August 2018
Shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2018
Chechnya, 1995: Nura is seventeen when a Russian unit enters the canyon where she lives with her family. With the outbreak of war in Chechnya, her dream of seeking freedom and autonomy, born on the day that Natalia handed her a Rubik’s Cube and left, is shattered. She’d meant to escape the confines of the village where clans reign and Islamic guards have a watchful eye over everyday life, but the war ends up changing everything.
Moscow, 1995: The young Alexander Orlow fears for his future. With an army-issued backpack full of books and his mother’s expectations on his shoulders, he leaves behind the love of his life to fight the war at the North Caucasian front, unaware yet that upon his return he will be a different person.
Berlin 2016: Alexander Orlow, who has by now become a multi-billionaire oligarch known as ‘the General’, has turned his back on Russia and moved to Germany with his daughter. Nineteen-year-old Ada is obsessed with her father’s past and when she begins asking questions, the images of war suddenly come rushing back to Alexander. The darkest of them, the most violent of all nights, a night that left the young Chechnyan woman with nothing but a colourful cube and an unbearable sense of guilt, the shadow of which will never leave any of those present that evening. The day of reckoning is fast approaching, the General can feel it coming. His plan, that will take him and his ‘teammates’ to Moscow, Morocco and then all the way to Chechnya into Nura’s canyon, can only succeed if he manages to convince ‘the cat’, a headstrong Georgian-born actress whose face triggers an ancient kind of pain inside of him, to support his endeavour.
After her celebrated epic novel The Eighth Life (for Brilka), Nino Haratischwili has once again turned towards the abyss that lies beneath the rubble left by the crumbling of the Soviet Union. ‘The Cat and the General’ is a gripping psychological exploration of crime and punishment. It tells the tale of wars between countries and wars inside heads, it tells the tale of those who are driven by a deep longing for freedom and redemption. As within a Rubik’s Cube, the protagonist’s fates revolve around a shared axis of love and guilt. The resulting clash is akin to that of a classic tragedy, as the deadly game in which the protagonists are involved must come to a head.
Nino Haratischwili, born in 1983 in Tblissi, is an award-winning playwright, director and author of the acclaimed novel The Eighth Life (for Brilka) (FVA 2014) that has been translated into multiple languages and has received, among other awards and grants, the Lessing Award and the Bertolt-Brecht-Award.