There is one concern that has been nagging at me for quite some time, that of the level of knowledge and general acquaintance that Diaspora has with Armenian Literature.
As someone who came from Armenia, it was quite surprising for me to discover that people here don’t know Paruyr Sevak’s or Vahan Teryan’s poems, and have not read Raffi’s and Muratsan’s historical novels. For me, Armenian language was always inseparable from Armenian Literature and in my mind, the two went hand in hand. Based on my surroundings, now I believe that the spread and education of cultural literature is just as vital as the spread of language within the Diaspora, if not more essential.
When it comes to defining who you are as an Armenian, literature is the source that provides the facts intertwined with emotions. Literature is what defines our perception of Armenian history, culture, goals, past and future achievements, pain and revenge. It is Sevak’s “Anlreli Zangakatun” that introduced the subject of genocide to me as a child in a manner that made my heart bleed and affects me just as strongly even today. It is his “Garun A,Dzun A Arel” that I want to read to the U.S. Congress before they prepare to vote for The Genocide Recognition Bill, so that their eyes and hearts can finally transcend the boundary which divides looking from SEEING.
Maybe then they will finally feel the pain and the “stain of denial” that all future generations of Armenians are born with and carry around every second of their individual lives. It was Shiraz’s “Hayots Danteakan” that made me understand that pain is a source of strength, that the time as a judge requires from us to “imprint 1.5 million names on the shameless forehead of the world”. It was Yeghishe Charents’s hidden message in his poem “Oh, Armenian Nation, your only salvation is in your unity”, that he wrote in the peak of the Stalinist terror years, masterfully crafting the letters in the verse. It was this message passed by him and Garegin Njdeh that gave rise to the wave of awakening in the 1980s and resulted in the liberation of Artsakh. Victory of Artsakh came to give life to the pages of Raffi’s “Xent” and Muratsan’s “Gevorg Marzpetuni”, exemplifying that there are fights we can wage and win only as a united force of individual soldiers and that if united, the smallest army can indeed defeat the strongest of enemies. We fight for our values which are worth dying for.
One of the obvious problems is that the percentage of people who read Armenian is very little. I am happy to say that there is a new website called audiodaran, which provides some of these works as audio books enabling those who understand Armenian, but do not read it, to listen to these classic pieces of listerature. However, it does not provide a solution to the problem which is the absence of professional translations for all of these masterpieces. These works must be translated and mass distributed to not only Armenians, but people everywhere resulting in the advertisement and spreading of our literature, and thus, our history and the cause we are fighting for all over the world. Our culture has one of the richest, emotionally and intellectually challenging, soul enriching, thought provoking literatures. We have something special to “sell” to the world; such as, books which can become scripts and amazing movies. As well as, mesmerizing poems that can become songs in different languages, historical records and writings of political-philosophical geniuses who are equal to Machiavelli and Confucius.
This year’s meaning is special in this regard. This year is the 500th anniversary of Armenian Printing, and Yerevan became the “World Book Capital 2012” by UNESCO. What we need now, are the tools to spread our literature, dedication, restless work and enthusiasm to give the world and Armenians everywhere the treasures that have remained buried for far too long.