A short novel of great psychological insight from an accomplished contemporary writer from Georgia (the country, not the state).
Chiladze focuses on relationships here—and the difficulty a psychiatrist has in separating his professional life from his personal life. The novel opens dramatically, with Ia, the wife of psychiatrist Levan, leaving him. She’s furious, an ironic emotion given that her ire is rooted in her husband’s preternatural calmness. Another tension between them involves their young daughter, Tamriko, because for many years, Ia had insisted she didn’t want any children—and in fact had pathological anxiety about giving birth. As we move from chapter to chapter, Chiladze frequently shifts point of view, one of the more interesting shifts being to the perspective of Nunu, a brilliant astrophysicist and former patient of Levan. After her husband commits suicide, she's moved to a hospital and later to a psychiatric ward, where she comes under the care of Levan. Another subplot involves Ana-Maria, wife of an ambassador, who has symptoms of depression and meets Levan at an embassy garden party. He doesn’t believe she’s truly ill, and they begin an affair. Levan persuades himself he’s in love with Ana-Maria, though in a moment of intense self-revelation, he admits to the confusion of his feelings. The affair ends in a blaze of emotional intensity as Levan’s past with both Ana-Maria and Nunu becomes more coherent.
Chiladze discloses great insight into the nature of personal relationships—and into the mind of a psychiatrist.