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Elene Dariani is said to be one of the most mysterious figures in Georgian literary history - quite an achievement for someone who died in 1979, in a literary tradition over a millennium and a half. Quoting from the first page linked above:

A collection of 14 poems under the title "Dariani Cycle" is listed among the works of famous poet Paolo Iashvili. Until recently it was thought that Iashvili himself had written the poems, which describe female erotic and romantic thoughts with a transformative precision. However, archive materials discovered later made it clear that the mysterious Elene Dariani was in fact a real person named Elene Bakradze, a contemporary and close friend of the Blue Horns group of avant garde poets.

Iashvili committed suicide at the Georgian Writers' Union in Tbilisi n 1937 amid the purges of artists and intellectuals. After Iashvili's name was formally rehabilitated by the USSR in 1959, a collection of his poems that included the Dariani Cycle was published. Only once, shortly after the publication of this collection, did Elene Bakradze attempt to get her authorship acknowledged.

What are those "archive materials discovered later"? What proof or evidence connects Elene Dariani with Elene Bakradze, and why wasn't this connection known about earlier? If Elene Bakradze "attempt[ed] to get her authorship acknowledged" only shortly after Iashvili's collection's publication in 1959, what form did this attempt take and how come it didn't succeed in making clear that Dariani = Bakradze?

I've done some searching for information about her, after reading a translated excerpt from a 2015 novel in Georgian about a young woman in modern Georgia who "is researching Elene Dariani, a mystical poet believed to have had a secret affair with the famous Georgian poet Paolo Iashvili". But every page I've found about Elene Dariani mentions only "archive material", with a photo (presumably of Elene Bakradze) but no further information.

On what evidence was it concluded that Elene Dariani = Elene Bakradze? When, and why not earlier?

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According to Donald Rayfield's The Literature of Georgia: A History (2000, reprinted in 2014, page 237) Elene Dariani was a pseudonym created by Pavle Iashvili[1]:

Before he was 20 he was an accomplished pasticheur and improviser, in both Russian and Georgian. In 1915, imitating Max Voloshin and his scandalously invented Cherubina de Gabriac, Iashvili used a woman's pseudonym, Elene Dariani (perhaps parodying the real Daria Akhvlediani), for accomplished intimated missives to Anna Akhamtova lamenting the life of a betrayed wife: (...).

(See the preview on Google Books.) So far, nothing new. According to the entry "Elene Dariani" in Volume 5 (2015) of the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies (see the preview on Google Books), the name was a fictitious persona invented by Iashvili in 1915. The entry does not mention Elene Bakradze at all:

(…) The whole group [The Blue Horns] was supporting the hoax, and it only happened once that one of the leaders, Grigol Robakidze, hinted at the fact that Elene Dariani was a female face of one of the male initiators of Georgian Modernism.
(…) The Elene Dariani corpus was later included in Paolo Iashvili's first poetry collection, published posthumously in 1955. The romantic figure of the poetess gained such a popularity, and the ruse worked so well that, until today, there are speculations about the identity of "Elene Dariani".

Another part of the preview on Google Books (without page numbers) lists a few relevant works:

  • Iashvili, Paolo: Lek'sebi, poemebi, t'argmanebi [Poetry, Epic Poem, Translations]. Collected by Shalva Demetradze, ed. by Irakli Abashidze. Tbilise: Sakhelgami, 1965.
  • Lomjara, Zeinab: “Paoli Iashvilis Darianuli Ciklis Shesakheb.” [On Paoli Iashvili's Dariani Corpus] Elene Dariani [pseud. of Paolo Iashvili]: Lek'sebi [Poems]. Tbilisi: Kolor-printo, 2000, 21-104.

A different preview of the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies displays a footnote to "speculations about the identity of Elene Dariani":

One of Iashvili's contemporaries, Elene Bakradze, claimed in her memoirs that there was indeed a real person behind the pen name, although literary historians have not agreed with her. See Lomaja's preface to Paolo Iashvili's poetry anthology of 2001, published under the pseudonym "Elene Dariani", Lek'sebi, pp. 3-14.

Note that this footnote does not say that Elene Bakradze claimed she was the person behind "Elene Dariani".

But what are the "archive materials" mentioned by Tamta Melashvili in her contribution from 14 February 2014? The website of the Tbilisi Office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung also provides a longer version of the same contribution in Georgian: ელენე დარიანი-ბაქრაძე (6 April 2014). Google Translate translates this as follows (emphasis mine):

The personality of Elene Darian is still shrouded in mystery in the history of Georgian literature. There are 14 poems in the works of the famous poet, member of the Order of the Blues, Paolo Iashvili, which are united under the title "Darian Cycle". Until recently, it was believed that these were the poems of Paolo Iashvili, where the poet described "feminine" erotic feelings and love feelings with rare talent and creativity - transformational accuracy. The archival materials discovered later revealed that the real person behind the mystical Elene Darian was Elene Bakradze, a contemporary of the Blues and a close friend of Paolo Iashvili.

Elene Bakradze was born in Tbilisi in 1897. Elene and Paolo Iashvili met in 1912. A romantic feeling soon arose between them, which turned into love. Paolo's letters preserved in Elene Bakradze's archive speak about their feelings. Although both of them started a family with other people, their relationship lasted a long time.

Poems of the Darian cycle were first read by Paolo Iashvili in 1915 in Kutaisi. Iashvili was met with aggression due to the eroticism of the poems, a large part of the listeners left the hall in protest. Mystical or actually existing Elene Dariani was immorally ostracized by society. "Elene Dariano is dangerous. She has a temperature rise. Elene Dariani has no spiritual treasure. She will not have feminine modesty and tenderness." Wrote the press of that time. Parodies and caricatures soon appeared in various periodicals on pornographic poems. Many considered such poems unacceptable to a Georgian woman and contradicted her "nature." Importantly, this argument is often used by contemporaries as well, those who deny the actual existence of Elene Dariani, which is primarily explained by deep-rooted patriarchal values ​​in society.

Elene Bakradze The proof of Elene Darianoba is Bakradze's archive, which was found by literary researcher Giorgi Javakhishvili in the early 1990s. Currently, the work in the archive is still going on. With the support of the Women's Fund, the scientific-research center "Radix" is working with the Institute of Literature.

It is important to note that Paolo Iashvili himself has never been unaware of who stood and whether someone was behind the pseudonym of Elene Darian, which made it difficult to identify the real author from the very beginning. Even today, Georgian society is divided into two parts: one insists on the similarity of Elene Dariani and Paolo Iashvili and focuses on the Darian phenomenon as a previously unprecedented literary mystification in Georgian poetry. They often talk about Paolo Iashvili's extraordinary transformation talent and reject the controversial opinion that Paolo Iashvili used to edit Elene Bakradze's poems and then publish them.

The opinion about the identity of Elene Dariani and Elene Bakradze, as mentioned above, was put forward by literary critic Giorgi Javakhishvili after a thorough study of Elene Bakradze's archive. He also published a book entitled "The Legend and Reality of Elene Dariani." Javakhishvili used the authenticity of the archival material as an argument and considered the similarity between the poems of Paolo Iashvili and Elene Darian as insufficient evidence to prove their identity. In his view both poets were symbolists, belonging to one literary current, writing in one style, which explains the similarity of their creations.

A new page in the history of Georgian literature was opened in 1916 - the Order of the Blues was created and their first magazine was published. In the same year, the famous and still very popular poem "In the Pyramids" was published under the pseudonym of Elene Dariani. The Order consisted of 12 men. There is an opinion that the 13th hidden member of the Blues, who was often mentioned by the members of the Poetry Order, was Elene Bakradze. The archive confirms that Elene Bakradze knew and befriended not only the Blues, but also Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, Grigol Robakidze, Galaktion Tabidze.

Stalin's repressions killed many blue-collar workers, including Shalva Kartvelishvili, the wife of Elene Bakradze. Paolo Iashvili committed suicide in 1937. After a long silence and the rehabilitation of the Blues, the first collection of Paolo Iashvili was published in 1959, where the poems of the Darian cycle were also signed by Iashvili. It is known that Elene Bakradze only once tried in vain to protect her copyright while publishing this collection. The answer to the logical question as to why Bakradze did not want to prove the authorship of the Darian cycle should probably be sought in the context of the time. The Soviet period was completely unpopular to begin the rehabilitation of Elene Bakradze as the author of erotic poems. He had to live in a totalitarian state where control over sexuality and repression of sexuality were an integral part of ideology and practice.

Elene Bakradze, unlike her friends and husband, escaped repression. For a long time he was engaged in pedagogical activities, was at the Institute of Literature

(It appears that Google Translate sometimes renders Elene Dariani as "Helen Darian"; this has been corrected in the above text.)


[1] Rayfield writes that "Paolo" was an italianised version of his name in homage to the Italian Futurists.

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  • Thanks, great research. A couple of notes on the translation: (1) the rendering as "Helen Darian" is probably a translation gaffe rather than indicating a different form of the name in Georgian (I've seen similar things in other languages, sometimes Google Translate will anglicise a name rather than transliterating directly, the equivalent of rendering "Pierre Deligne" as "rock of line" when translating from French); ...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 7 at 16:51
  • ... (2) Georgian is a genderless language, so things like "He will not have feminine modesty and tenderness" aren't suggesting by way of pronouns that Dariani was a man, it's simply a mistranslation and should be "She".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 7 at 16:52
  • @Randal'Thor Thanks. I have edited the answer.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 7 at 17:03
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have you seen this mention of her? It's an excerpt from google books to an e-book, so no page numbers https://books.google.dk/books?id=2J0FCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT291&lpg=PT291&dq=elene+dariani&source=bl&ots=jI8UUpNwD3&sig=ACfU3U2DHZ1X7tjhNbxWuDbnnWEZOZsPbQ&hl=da&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjApK-pw-zyAhW1RfEDHaD_C4EQ6AF6BAgfEAM#v=onepage&q=elene%20dariani&f=false

In case you can't open the link, here's the books data: De Gruyter Publishing: International Yearbook of Futurism Studies , ed. By Günter Berghaus 2015, vol. 5. Paper ISBN: 978-3-11-040850-8 e-ISBN, PDF: 978-3-11-042281-8 Series ISSN: 2192-0281

Otherwise I know nothing, just stumbled upon her myth today and was mesmerized. Googled her and found your post as well. :) But just a myth, it seems. This book lists her as psudonym of Paolo Iashvili. As it seems quite well done, it might list some useful sources.

Good luck with your research,

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  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Thank you for providing the reference. However, please be aware that a good answer should provide the information being asked for in the question. In this case, this means that the most important information from the source you reference should be included in the answer. Could you please edit your answer to do that? Thanks in advance.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 7 at 9:36
  • Unfortunately I can't see the page in your link. My question does note that Elene Dariani was once thought to be a pseudonym of Paolo Iashvili, before some new evidence came to light.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 7 at 13:06
  • Please provide additional details in your answer. As it's currently written, it's hard to understand your solution.
    – Community
    Sep 7 at 13:27
  • @Randal'Thor The Google link goes to a page from Volume 5 (2015) of the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies. The Google preview displays a single-page entry on Eleni Dariani which does not mention Elene Bakradze at all.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 7 at 13:30

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