The pear field

On the outskirts of the Georgian city of Tbilisi, many streets don’t even have names. There are no squares or fountains there to attract the attention of tourists, but Soviet-style blocks of flats, factories and educational establishments such as the Support boarding school for children with mental disabilities, but which everyone knows as the “school for retards”. Over time, children with intellectual problems have been replaced by orphans and children of migrants, abandoned by families who can no longer keep them. Here the children live amidst the decay of old and crumbling walls until they come of age, after which they abandon the institute to get lost in the world. Some find their way, others get lost forever. Among the older ones is Lela who, having reached the age of eighteen, has chosen to remain in the institute. She too, like everyone else, had a difficult, painful childhood, and she remembers many of her classmates who passed through school and then disappeared. Few, and for a short time, returned to visit the school and then nothing was heard of them again. Before leaving that place, Lela is planning the murder of Professor Vano, a dirty old man who has abused many girls in the past, without ever paying the consequences. He will kill him and then leave that place forever, taking with him only the dream of a new life away from there, perhaps in the company of little Irakli, abandoned by his mother who left for Greece in search of work and who continues to promise him to return under the delusion the child, who in the meantime will perhaps be adopted by an American couple…

Next to the retarded school is a field full of pear trees, which grow big and juicy, but which nobody ever picks. The truth is that the ground where the roots feed is a kind of swamp and the pears are bad, even if they are beautiful to look at. That field almost seems like a metaphor for what life is like for the young guests of the institute. A container that could give them joy but is actually rotten inside, like Professor Vano’s heart. Nana Ekvtimishvili, Georgian film director and screenwriter, with her first novel returns to tell the difficult life of the boys, as already done in the feature film In Bloom of 2013, winner of several awards and nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2014. The whole novel oozes anger. That of Lela for the hated professor Vano and for the young people of Tbilisi like Koba, who pays her for some love encounter and then calls her “mentally retarded”. That of Irakli who is deluded every time by her mother, who promises and promises to return, without ever keeping. Anger that has no prospects, no future, because it cannot be controlled or treated like a disease. The life of these children is marked forever, no matter how hard they try they will never get out of it, not even when they become adults. In this sense, too The pear field it is a film that runs before our eyes. From readers we become spectators, we too taste those pears that are beautiful at first sight, hopeful of taste, which however turns out to be bitter as gall. A grey, black and white, leaden light weighs down on every page and we too are led to feel anger and compassion for these innocent creatures, victims of invisible executioners. A sign that the novel hits the mark and, for this reason, a must-read.

The pear field