NEW YORK–Despite an important but remarkably insufficient number of translations done in the past decades–the scholarly study of modern Armenian literature in the English language still remains a largely neglected field–mostly confined to the pages of specialized journals.
Yeghishe Charents: Poet of the Revolution–a 383-page book edited by Marc Nichanian–Associate Professor of Armenian Studies at Columbia University–in collaboration with Vartan Matiossian–is a groundbreaking attempt at presenting the life and work of this poet–widely known by name–but insufficiently known by reading. Made possible by a grant from the Fesjian Publication Fund at Columbia University–the book has just been released by Mazda Publishers of Costa Mesa–California–as the fifth volume in its Armenian Studies Series.
The book offers a collection of articles and studies on Yeghishe Charents (1897-1937)–always considered as the poet of revolution in Armenia–and is certainly one of the greatest voices of Armenian poetic tradition in twentieth century. The volume partly gathers essays presented at the Charents conference organized at Columbia University in November 1997 by Marc Nichanian for the centennial of the poet’s birth and the sixtieth anniversary of his untimely and tragic death–to mark the first time an international conference on a modern Armenian writer was held at a Western university. Other important essays have been added in order to echo recent readings of Charents in the United States. A general introduction proposes a reflection on the poet’s encounter with history–his infatuation with Mayakovsky–and the work of mourning that he felt obliged to carry out after his renunciation of Futurism in 1924. He was forced into this renunciation in order to save his life and his career as a national poet in a Communist setting. After 1926–Charents’s poetic works are but a long meditation on the resources of poetry in the aftermath of the repudiation of Futurism.
The reader will find contributions from the foremost specialists of Charents’s work–his daughter Anahid Charents– who after twenty years of struggle with decaying man’scripts and censorship in Armenia–in 1983–published the volume Unpublished and Uncollected Works that includes an essay about the poet’s last years (1934-1937) that to this day–remain insufficiently studied. In the essay that opens the volume–Robert Maguire sketches a general–analytical view of Moscow’s cultural and literary policies in the 1920s and 1930s–an indispensable element in any reconstruction of the successive stages of the poet’s intellectual and political biography. The second part of the volume presents aspects of the reception of Charents in English (Peter Balakian–GM Goshgarian–James Russell–Sonia Ketchian). The third part offers texts by scholars writing in Armenian (Vartan Matiossian–Krikor Beledian–Henrik Edoyan–Marc Nichanian).
The encounter of these different critical lineages in the same book tends to blur the boundaries between worlds that–it is usually believed–do not communicate. This was–after all–one of the objectives of the conference and of this book: to bring out the need for a Western and Diasporan reception of Yeghishe Charents–or to reveal that it is emerging.
Yeghishe Charents: Poet of the Revolution is available through Amazon.com and Armenian bookstores throughout the United States.