"Literature is not an ornament, a pleasant pastime, a pretty flower. Literature is a weapon to struggle against injustice."
Կինը աշխարհ չէ եկած մինակ հաճելի ըլլալու համար։ Կինը եկած է իր խելքը, մտային, բարոյական եւ ֆիզիքական յատկութիւնները զարգացնելու համար։ Ինքզինքնին յարգող բոլոր կիներուն իտէալը միայն հաճելի ըլլալը պէտք չէ ըլլայ, այլ երկրիս վրայ գործօն բարերար տարր մը դառնալը։“

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lettre à Sophie

Le 26 Sept. 1930

Paris


Ma bien chère Sophie

Avant de commencer ma journée je t’écris. J’ai reçu Petroff  que tu m’as envoyé. Je continue à travailler et je t’enverrai bientôt d’autres pages par le commencement. Tu me diras ton impression au point de vue littéraire et surtout au point de vue du public français. Ce livre de mémoire pourrait-il présenter quelque intérêt. Je commence à douter. Il sera peut-être trop sérieux de ton. Quand aux histoires grassouillettes ce n’est pas mon fait. Imagine-toi que j’ai pris en grippe B. Il n’y est pas du tout. Parfois il me dit, (comme si je faisais la camelote littéraire comme lui) « Cet éditeur…oui mais il exige une scène littéraire…et parfois « il faut amuser le lecteur ». Je lui ai répondu que chacun fait ce qu’il peut. Alors, « Mais si…Vous pouvez, ce n’est pas difficile, vous n’avez qu’à lire les histoires égrillardes et les adapter » etc, etc.
Alors tu comprends que dans ces conditions son concours est nul  et je dois le supporter à faire un tas de vantardise sur les affaires d’orient, affaires d’ailleurs périmées, hors de cause, pendant que je suis bouillante d’impatience pour continuer mon travail.
Enfin laissons le tranquille. Voilà, je vais te donner quelques renseignements. Le livre paraîtra sous un pseudonyme. Elizabeth Warda. Ce secret sera gardé jalousement entre nous trois. B. sait la question de pseudonyme mais ne sait pas le nom que j’ai choisi. D’ailleurs il n’en bavardera pas tant que le livre ne fera pas de bruit et alors déjà ça m’est égale. Pour le lancer voilà ce que je pense. Poser un exemplaire chez Grasset un autre chez W.R.T. et aller me présenter personnellement chez Rieder.  Je tâcherai aussi saisir Bloch. Je verrai Barbusse et j’enverrai des extraits à Romain R.
Je suppose que l’auteur est un membre de mission sanitaire, de nationalité Belge. Elle écrit des mémoires, voilà tout. Elle est en dehors des conflits, elle ne prend pas partie et elle ne regarde sur les choses que au point de vue souffrance humain, un point, c’est tout. Le sujet est le … Russe et Transcaucasien au début de la révolution et la Perse sous la famine. Ce dernier sujet n’a pas été abordé dans les lettres françaises. Le livre peut vraiment susciter un grand intérêt. Quoique écrit sous la forme de mémoire romancée l’auteur touche le fond des choses et les grands problèmes sans une forme assimilable pour tout lecteur. Je suis convaincu que ce livre peut susciter de l’intérêt, il s’agit de le lancer comme il faut, et alors après ce premier ballon d’essai, Elizabeth Warda pourrait marcher. Il s’ouvrira devant nous peut-être de belles perspectives…
Ecris-moi ton opinion sur tout cela. J’ai été très contente pour l’arrangement de la chambre, surtout si tu as l’électricité. Je viendrai surement  y faire un séjour en hiver et je complèterai ton installation. Quand à ton arrivée à Paris, c’est certain que si je suis en fond  je t’avancerai le nécessaire pour que tu viennes le 1e Novembre mais je ne suis pas sûr.  Pour le moment nous comptons les sous…Mais Dieu est grand…Une pomme d’or peut tomber à l’improviste.
Je te mettrai surement au courant de notre situation pécuniaire. Si je n’écris rien à ce sujet c’est que la situation est inchangée.
Je vais incessamment m’occuper du visa de transit de C. J’ai parlé à Archag, il n’est pas encourageant. Nous allons nous rencontrer ce matin chez Kalebdjian, tu imagines ! enfin, il faut, il faut…

De B… nous avons les cartes mais ils ne nous disent pas encore la date et l’heure exacte de leur arrivée. Je ferai tout mon possible que leur arrivée ne rompe pas l’allure de mon travail.
Nous avons réuni les papiers nécessaires pour Herant (pour le concours) et il va les présenter aujourd’hui. Dieu fasse que tout cela finisse bien. J’ai lieu à espérer.
Mlle de la Motte a fait une excellente impression bien mieux je l’ai aimé dès le premier moment et je me suis sentie familière et proche aussitôt. Elle est certes plus dans notre genre que les siens.
           
Enfin ma chère fifille, voilà. Je t’embrasse bien et je te souhaite toute sorte de chance et de bonheur.

                                                            Bien à toi,                  


Zabel


Friday, August 2, 2013

Among the Ruins - Աւերակներուն Մէջ (1911)

After the massacres in Adana in 1909, the Patriarchate of Constantinople sent Yesayan to Cilicia on a fact-finding mission as a representative of the Aid Committee.  Her report, Averakneru Mech (among the ruins) is an account of the atrocities.  Yesayan was the only woman on the “black list” of the Armenian intellectuals to be deported and murdered on the night of April 24, 1915.  She escaped to Bulgaria and eventually went to Tiflis, where she involved herself with efforts to shelter refugees and orphans who were pouring into the Caucasus from Anatolia.  During this time she wrote two important testimonies from the genocide. - (source: www.zohrabcenter.org)

The Following is an excerpt of this book, translated by Jennifer Manoukian and first published in The Armenian Weekly.


Towards Cilicia
The steamboat brought us to Cilicia’s port and that last night on the Mediterranean filled me with looming terror and dread. As we gradually approached the threshold of the catastrophe, reality seemed to escape my comprehension, and I could not truly believe that the next morning we would reach Mersine, Adana, Cilicia—the places that we had been reading about for weeks, the places that had lodged themselves in our brains. There, we would find a bloody, open wound, and the thought of touching it sent a painful shudder through me.
A warm, serene environment surrounded us. Under a star-studded sky, the dark blue waves of the Mediterranean gently rocked the steamboat. There was a conflict between the luminous, immutable beauty of nature and the torturous thoughts racing endlessly through our minds. This conflict became so exhausting that it almost caused physical pain.
The idea of sinking deep into the heart of the catastrophe produced a gloomy impatience in all of us, and although we walked on the deck in silence until late at night without talking about our feelings, I was convinced that everyone’s mind was seized by the same burning curiosity. There were both Turks and Armenians on board. The Patriarchate’s second delegation and the members of the second military bureau were travelling on the same ship. On board were also wounded merchants and relatives of victims, who were rushing to the ruins to see the extent of the catastrophe with their own eyes.



We stayed on deck until well past midnight. Every so often, heart-breaking sighs could be heard from the third class cabins below. On deck, the black hood of an Armenian clergyman could sometimes be seen in the pale rays of light radiating from the ship’s lanterns. The soldiers walked as a group, and as they came closer, I could hear pieces of their conversation:
—The closer we come to Mersine, the more my heart burns with an inexplicable pain.
Below deck, I heard a passenger sigh deeply, as if to second that thought.
Alone in my cabin, I was besieged by the reality that I would see the next day. Until that moment, it was as if my inner being was bathed in an unfamiliar light, which rather than giving my thoughts a distinct shape, muddled them and shrouded them in a haze. In that feverish state of mind, an image stubbornly returned to me in pieces.
Two months earlier, men and women from the Red Cross had left from Galata. They were the very first to leave. The sky wept steadily onto the city below; Stamboul was covered in a humid, grey fog and everything exuded infinite sadness. Behind us, hoarse, passionate, and melancholic songs rose from the cafes along the pier like intense, lamenting cries of pain.

We were all as pale as corpses, but tried in vain to smile at the passengers. The boat started to sail away. A mother’s face was gradually growing fainter as the boat sailed further into the distance. Next to us, her teenage daughter struggled to smile in an attempt to hide all the suffering in her young soul. The combination of the mother’s face disappearing into the grey mist, the mournful melodies flowing out of the cafes on the pier, the patter of the rain—at once cruel and calming—falling on the city exalted my soul with a feeling that made me lightheaded and caused my knees to go weak.
On our way back, we were all sad and absorbed in thought. In a red nightmare, I saw the city in flames, displaced people in a faraway place, enraged girls in mourning and gallows—gallows everywhere!
What was then only a vague nightmare would become my world in a matter of a few hours.
The steamboat stopped. I immediately came up on deck. I thought I would be the first person there, but everyone had already gathered. There was a sickly pallor to everyone’s faces and their sleep-deprived eyes were careful not to meet those of their fellow passengers. The soldiers formed a group of their own and watched Mersine intently with eyes full of sadness. One of the clergymen from the Patriarchate’s delegation turned toward Cilicia, the pale face under his black, velvet hood contorted by his grief.
At the same time, small boats rushed towards us and the soldiers hurried to get off. They passed us trying to avoid our gaze and sorrowfully bid us a quick farewell. Their footsteps were irregular, almost bewildered, and we could hear the sound of their swords dragging on the ground. At that moment, it was difficult to decide who was unhappier: us or them.
Mersine lay before us. Its flat, bluish land extended into the distance towards a chain of mountains enveloped in a haze, and the colorful palette of daybreak lazily billowed across that stretch of rural simplicity. Once again, the nightmare of the catastrophe became a distant thought and I had the urge to smile at the sunny sky. But the delegation was ready and waiting, and our boats were about to arrive. Anxious, somber faces examined us, and everything grew dark in me.

The clergymen were solemn and serious, as if they were preparing for a funeral. We all grew paler. My heart was gripped by limitless grief and I felt as though my veins were freezing.
Those who came to meet us had seen everything. Some had fled fires and swords. Swelling flames danced in their eyes and the bitterness of their memories gave their words an unsettling quickness. In those few minutes, they told us many things. Despite our limitless despair, to them our words seemed to be filled with meaningless optimism. They shook their heads and said:
—How can you be so sure when you’ve only just stepped off the boat?
When we first set foot in Mersine, my impression of it was very clear. It was as though we were crossing the threshold into the realm of death. People received us with unspoken sadness. They shook our hands and passed in front of us. Who knows what was so foreign about us that made them not want to talk to us? Taking refuge in their sorrow, they stood together in a group and watched us, their eyes brimming with tears.
Our hotel was filled with all kinds of displaced people. Here we also found the Catholicos and were immediately introduced to him. All day, it was as if I was seeing everything through a nightmare: There were women dressed in black—the family members of the first victims—and cries and laments of the wounded, the orphans, and the widows whose grief was reignited upon seeing us.
The following day we would go to Adana and be amid the ruins. I thought senselessly about it, and spent another sleepless night with my heart racing, tending to my sorrow.
The night was cool. Moisture rose from the sprawling sea and soared over the sleeping city. The roar of the waves soothed me, as caravans of slow-moving camels passed endlessly through the street, their undulating movements marked by the sound of ringing bells.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Family Picture

One of the rare family portrait they took... In Paris, when the first independent Armenian republic was declared in 1918.


On the left, Dikran Yesayan, in the middle Sophie, far right, Hrant and Zabel in front with the Armenian flag of the first republic (picture taken in Paris)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ode to the Night, Zabel Yesayan's First Published Work

Translated by Jennifer Manoukian (Ararat Magazine)
This poem, written at the age of seventeen, is Zabel Yessayan’s first published work. It appeared in the first volume of Arshag Chobanian’s literary journal Dzaghig (Constantinople) in 1895.

Come, oh night, come, cover the world with your black skirts, subdue the last breath of twilight with your coolness, cover the world in your funereal darkness.
The day enters your somber breast in its tomb, dragging along with it all the feelings and concerns sprouting within.
Loving hearts anxiously wait for you to smother their reveries in your darkness. Come, close their weary eyes with your invisible fingers. Take them to the depths of slumber for a few hours.
Resting on your black arms, take them far from the daily routine that has exhausted them. In your coolness, lull them to sleep with your sweet music. Let their worries melt away for a few hours in your solemn realm.
Your arrival brings with it precious memories. You are a friend to the lonely. It is you who sees the most private tears.
The sleepless, miserable individuals who pass by open windows take in your cool darkness.
Their thoughts and feelings wander around in your breast. And you take them all, burying them in your consoling obscurity.


Source: http://araratmagazine.org/2012/01/ode-to-the-night-zabel-yessayans-first-published-work/

Letter to Sophie

« J’ai un entrain excellent pour écrire, j’ai commencé un livre sous forme de mémoire, je te donnerai des détails plus tard. C’est un secret. Personne à part toi et Hrant ne doit savoir rien à ce propos. C’est un projet très amusant et peut être fructueux, enfin ça marche bien » - Lettre à Sophie Yesayan, 18 septembre 1930, Paris.


Zabel Yesayan’s numerous letters to her daughter, Sophie Yesayan, are part of the archives of the State Museum of Art and Literature. While reading one more time the whole collection, I was amazed at how close and unique was this mother-daughter relationship. Zabel would share regularly her concerns, fears and joys with her. She would send excerpts of her writings, asking for her opinion and advice. 

In Paris, Sophie was a librarian by profession and she continued working in that area after her move to Soviet Armenia with her mother in 1933. Her life took a tragic turn after her mother's arrest in 1937 for being a dissident,  followed by the loss of her only child and the difficult relationship with her husband's family. While Hrant, her brother was able to survive the disappearance of his mother with the help of his immediate family, Sophie, on the other hand, was completely devastated. Clara Terzian, a family friend, remembers how one day, several years after Zabel Yesayan's proclaimed death, Sophie showed up in front of their apartment dressed like a beggar, broken and completely lost. 


Sophie Yesayan


During her last years, she found refuge in the basement of her brother's apartment and spent her days gathering all of her mother's work; copying and collecting every single memory related to the life and work of the famous writer. Her dedication in preserving her mother’s remaining legacy was essential in creating an important archive of the author in the Museum later on.


In the above excerpt of one of the letters addressed to Sophie, Zabel Yesayan expresses her deep enthusiasm towards writing and the start of a new project: a book of memoirs. She asks her daughter to keep it a secret for now but ensuring her that it will become a big success one day. She is probably referring to her memoirs, The Gardens of Silihdar, which will be published in Yerevan in 1935.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Finding Zabel Yesayan, Finding Ourselves

By Christopher Atamian

At the beginning of the fine documentary Finding Zabel Yesayan, directors Lara Aharonian and Talin Suciyan attempt to track down the Yerevan street named after the famed writer — not an easy task. In fact, the taxi dispatcher interviewed claims that no one has ever requested it before. When the two filmmakers finally locate an old lady who resides on Zabel Yesayan Street, the latter exclaims in frustration: “They should have named this street after a great leader or hero! Who is Zabel Yesayan? No one knows who she is around here.”
Born in Istanbul in 1878, Yesayan attended local Armenian schools and was later educated in Paris. In 1909, at the behest of the Armenian Patriarchate, she traveled to Adana in order to report on the Turkish massacres against the Armenian civilian population which led to over 30,000 deaths. (Interestingly, in her now classic account of the killings, Amidst the Ruins, Yesayan addressed “her compatriots” — both Armenian and Turkish.)  Yesayan — the only woman on Ittihad ve Terraki’s black list of intellectuals — escaped the 1915 deportations by hiding in the Ottoman capital’s hospitals before fleeing to France again and later to the Caucasus. She sat for months in Tbilisi and Baku, transcribing memories of the atrocities dictated to her by survivors of the Aghet, before finally repatriating with her children to Yerevan. There, along with writers such as Yeghishe Charents and Gourgen Mahari, Yesayan was branded an “enemy of the people” by the Communist Party, repeatedly imprisoned and eventually murdered, although neither the exact circumstances of her death nor her body were ever uncovered.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Անձկութեան ժամեր

"Կը խորհէի միանգամայն թէ ի՜նչ անգնահատելի ոյժ մը, կիրքերու, սէրերու եւ ատելութեանց բուռն թափ մը կար իմ մէջս անգործ մնացած, կը խորհէի թէ ի՜նչ կրնայի ըլլալ ես, տարբեր պայմաններու մէջ եւ աւելի ճարտար մարդու մը ձեռքին մէջ ... Կը տեսնէի այն կինը որուն սկզբունքը գոյութիւն ունէր իմ էութեանս տարրերուն մէջ, շքեղ ու զօրաւոր, կրակի պէս մրրկող, որուն հոգեկան ուժին փարթամութիւնը զարմացում եւ հիացում պիտի պատճառէր եւ որուն բոլոր հրայրքը դարձած է հիմա իմ իսկ մոլորուած անձիս դէմ ..."


"Իմ դժբախտ եւ անսէր ամուսնութիւնս զիս կը դնէ անտարակուսելիօրէն արհամարհելի կնոջ մը դիրքին մէջ ... քանի որ ... առանց սիրոյ եւ առանց համակրանքի ...առանց հոգեկան կամ ֆիզիքական հակումի ... լռէ՛... լռէ՛... մտածումս թող լռէ, որովհետեւ խոհեր կան զորս պէտք է սպաննել նոյն իսկ իրենց սաղմին մէջ:" (p.12)




Զապէլ Եսայեան, Անձկութեան ժամեր, 1924