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REVIEW | 'Vano and Niko and Other Stories'

Short stories are a workout for the mind

A hot topic in education is divergent thinking. Often a 1968 study by George Land and Beth Jarman is cited. In this study, researchers asked 1,600 people creativity-based questions: the sort of thinking-outside-the-box questions used to select astronauts. Researchers were astounded when 98 percent 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 creatively decreases rapidly as we age so that by the time we reach adulthood, only 2 percent of us are at a genius level.

How can we continue to think creatively?

I have at least one suggestion: Read “Vano and Niko and Other Stories” by Erlom Akhvlediani.

Akhvlediani’s magical short book, which just recently has 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 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 11-sided mouse or a man who turns into an olive tree to yourself.

What do the stories mean? Are they metaphors? Fables? Creation myths? Put convention and labels aside and instead think as divergently as possible.

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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 5.

It’s not easy at first, but the more you use it, the more you wonder why you ever stopped.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.