Translated by Tatul Sonentz-Papazian & Rupen Janbazian
Hairenik Press, 2018
A short while ago I read about Tatul Sonentz-Papazian and Rupen Janbazian’s recent translation of Թուղթ Առ Երեւան by Antranig Tzarukian. Having read a few of Tzarukian’s other works, such as Սէրը Եղեռնին Մէջ and Մանկութիւն Չունեցող Մարդիկ, I naturally felt compelled to read this landmark work. The first time I had heard about Letter to Yerevan was a few years ago when I would study Armenian with a former Saturday school teacher of mine, Mr. Antranik Tchelanguerian, during my university years. He had told me about Tzarukian’s ingenious response to Abov’s sharp-penned poem openly criticizing the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).
Having ordered a copy of the translation upon receiving news of its publication, I was anxious to open its contents and delve into a piece of history that had seemed to fade away from our collective memory. Upon reading Abov’s poem, I could not help but feel that it was offside and exaggerated. His frequent use of the term ‘dogs’ made me question his national disposition, needless to say his character. Nevertheless, this petty attempt to degrade the party that propelled and secured the first independent Armenian Republic instigated one of the most prominent prosaic works in contemporary Armenian literature.
I read the entire work in one breath and was able to do so because of its captivating and moving form of expression. Tzarukian’s passionately penned defense, intertwined with the history of ARF figures, the element of exiled patriotism and deep-rooted yearning for national independence and freedom teleported me to an era I would have liked to witness first-hand.
I decided to read the work in Armenian, only referencing the English when the Armenian surpassed my understanding. Sonentz-Papazian and Janbazian made the insightful decision to offer both languages in the recent publication, in recognition of a new generation that has seen the unfortunate degradation of the Western Armenian tongue. But it was in my stubborn attempt to focus as much as I solely could on the Armenian text, that I really was able to grasp the depth of Tzarukian’s work.
Tzarukian’s passionately penned defense, intertwined with the history of ARF figures, the element of exiled patriotism and deep-rooted yearning for national independence and freedom teleported me to an era I would have liked to witness first-hand.
For those who are unfamiliar with Tzarukian, he is a Western Armenian writer born in Goruyn in 1913. As a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, he was orphaned in Aleppo, from where his fictionalized memoir, Մանկութիւն Չունեցող Մարtիկ took birth. Tzarukian, despite being prominently a novelist, took it upon himself to write the prose, Letter To Yerevan in Eastern Armenian, thus making it more accessible to the Soviet Armenian audience.
Tzarukian’s tone throughout the poem intends to strike camaraderie, empathy, understanding and unity through the referencing of collective Armenian historical events. Throughout the prose, Tzarukian refers to Abov as ‘distant brother’ or ‘contented comrade,’ and this in and of itself elevates Tzarukian’s character and literary appeal.
In short, this work truly was a timely translation and publication that rekindled a moment in our collective consciousness. It is also a call to action, reminding us of the importance of literary translations, the inspiration they ignite for further literary creation and cultural progression. May this stepping stone lead to a զարթօնք of Armenian literature, rekindling the voices of our prolific writers that have remained in the shadows now for far too long.
Editor’s Note: All proceeds are donated to the Hairenik Association’s newspaper digitization project.