Artsakh folk fables of Pele Pughi published in English
Published: Wednesday January 04, 2012
The book received this time from abroad was more than a surprise. In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the stories about a jester from Karabakh Pele Pughi (Pyl Pugi) in English translation has been published, titled "The Court Jester and His Duke: Tales from the Black Garden."
This mere information in itself had a satirical ring to it. The phenomenon is unprecedented for the Armenian studies and Armenian literature. What do the joyful stories of the beloved hero of the Armenian folklore, who lived in the 18th century, have to do in that south-eastern Asian country in the beginning of the 21st century?
The one, who is "guilty" in this, is the Austrian Armenian businessman Haik-Georg Zarian, who has been established in Thailand in recent years. He is the acclaimed Armenian writer Kostan Zarian's grandson, on whose initiative and sponsorship this volume has been published. In this work he had personal motivation, as from his mother's side he comes from Melik-Shahnazarian's family and Pele Pughi was a jest-joker in the court of Melik-Shahnazar, the melik (duke) of Varanda.
In the foreword of the book Haik-Georg Zarian has written:
"This little booklet I dedicate to my grandparents Kostan and Takuhi Rachel Zarian Shahnazar. From my childhood I do remember my grandfather being quite holier than thou, speaking German with Russian accent and getting up in the middle of a meal when he did not like a course. He could peel an orange with fork and knife, and was very gallant to ladies, and lived all over the world. He spoke ten languages.
My grandmother lived in Rome. She was a fragile darling. She played piano, wrote letters of everyday life in French verse, and loved to look into naked flames.
At her sea house near Anzio, barefoot women with fruits and other things to sell often would stop by. ... Omama (the grandmother - A. B.) took us daily to church. At bedtime she was telling us stories of our family's court jester. At that time, I believed we are related to Pele Pughi, the jester.
Our grand-sir Melik Shoknagar Shahnazar, Duke of Varanda, was lord of the jester. Researching for this booklet I surprisingly found out that the family stories passed through generations are essentially true."
Twenty-nine out of Pele Pughi's numerous fables written down by the Armenian folklorists have been included in the book. They have been prepared by a translator from Yerevan Susanna Mkrtchyan, using the book "Pele Pughi" by Makar Barkhudarian (Tiflis, 1883) and the volume "Pele Pughi, a Jester from Karabakh" published in Yerevan in 1956, collected by folklorist Sargis Israelian.
The introductory article "Fables of Karabakh" (anonymous) is also in the book, which says that folk literature of Artsakh has been translated into English for the first time ever, and that Pele Pughi's anecdotes are kindred to folk tales like ancient Aesop's Fables, the 13th century stories of Nasreddin and folk tales by the Brothers Grimm.
A chapter about Melik-Shahnazarian's family, traced to the year 821 from the house founded by Smbatian Prince, follows the stories. The article presents the most famous representatives of this family: Russian General Valerian Madatov, Mir-Davit Khan, the diplomat who served for Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as Kostan Zarian, the grandson of Madatov's brother.
In the end of this luxurious, velvet covered, indeed princely printed album-like a number of illustrations have been included: maps of Armenia and Artsakh, scenes of Shushi and Amaras, the photo of Pele Pughi's grave, the announcement of the performance in the press "Pele Pughi or Crazy Poghos/Paul" staged by Sedrak Surabian in the American Armenian theatre in New York in 1925, the photo of Kim Yeritzian (Armenian actor), who played Pele Pughi's role in the Armenian theatre in Yerevan the 1950s, as well as photos from Haik-Georg Zarian's family archive. A photo of Kostan Zarian from the National Gallery building in the Republic Square of Yerevan - as seen by Haik Georg and his only son Kostan Zarian-Junior in April 2010 - was also in the book, as well as the pictures of the family coat of arms, Madatov, Kostan Zarian's father, General Kachatur Yeghiazarians, Haik-Georg's family members.