Review: Vano and Niko and Other Stories by Erlom Akhvlediani 

A hot topic in education today is divergent thinking. In these conversations about creative thinking a 1968 study by George Land and Beth Jarman is often cited, where researchers asked 1600 people creativity-based questions: the sort of thinking-outside-the-box questions used to select astronauts. Researchers were astounded when 98% of the study group scored at a genius level. Who were these remarkable divergent thinkers? Five-year-olds.
 
As the study continued, Land and Jarman discovered that our ability to think creativity decreases rapidly as we age so that by the time we reach adulthood only 2% of us are at a genius level.
 
What can be done to keep our thinking fresh and creative? One recommendation would be to read Vano and Niko and Other Stories by Erlom Akhvlediani. 
 
Akhvlediani’s magical short book, which has just recently been made available in the United States, is made up of three sections: Vano and Niko; The Story of the Lazy Mouse; and the final section, The Man Who Lost His Way and Other Stories.
 
Instead of constructing his very short stories in a convergent or linear fashion, Akhvlediani approaches the narrative from above, below, inside, and upside down. The result is a collection of wonderful imaginings that aches to be read aloud and shared.
 
After all, it wouldn’t be fair to keep the story of an eleven-sided mouse or a man who turns into an olive tree to yourself.
 
What do the stories mean? Are they metaphors? Fables? Creation myths? When reading Akhvlediani readers should put convention and labels aside and instead think as divergently as possible.
 
Rather than focusing just on the words on the page, remember to consider what you imagine when reading, what you see and feel. Reading Akhvlediani is like exercising a muscle you haven’t used since you were five. It’s not easy at first, but the more you use it, the more you wonder why you ever stopped in the first place.