Paruir Sevak’s last interview

by Jack Aslanian

Published: Saturday March 03, 2012

Paruir Sevak. Via

Oakland, Calif. - On June 14, 1971, the Czech journalist Jiri Skoumal, husband of the well-known translator from Armenian Ludmila Motalova, headed for the village of Chanakhchi [Sevak's birthplace and home, now called Zangakatun - Trans.] to meet Sevak and record him and, in addition, to deliver to the poet the Czech version of his "The Irrepressible Bell Tower." It was impossible to imagine that three days after that conversation Sevak would no longer be alive.
The notes of that interview have been preserved, which we present without change.

Q - What are you occupied with now, Paruir?
PS - Well, first of all, it is two years since I delivered the manuscript of a book. It'll be published soon. I was occupied with that publication sponsored by the government. And second, now that I'm working in the Academy [National Academy of Sciences], Institute of Literature, I'm working on a book, Sayat Nova and the Armenian Middle Ages. I'll probably finish by year-end. For now those are my most pressing projects. I have many ideas and plans - something for the future. After which I must occupy myself with the translation of Grikor Naregatzi's [10th century, sanctified poet, theologian, philosopher] Book of Lamentations (poem) - also under the auspices of the Academy. That won't be a poetic translation but a scholarly interpretation. Which, I should by the way add, has been one of my dreams - for years, for my entire life. As soon as I finish Sayat Nova and the Armenian Middle Ages, I will move on to that project.

Q - Are you not going to translate Frik [13th century Armenian poet]?
PS - Indeed; before Naregatzi, one of my ideas was to translate Frik. But because Naregatzi is in the works now, after Naregatzi I'll move on ... my next scholarly project will be Frik.

Q - Paruir, what do you consider essential for a writer?
PS - First and foremost, independent thinking, free thinking, and avoiding telling half truths. Without that, even if God has given one great talent, there won't be anything at all.

Q - They say that adverse experience is very useful to a writer ...
PS - Bad experience ...? Without doubt; and whoever has said that has been absolutely right. But unfortunately, it is possible to have a bad trial, and benefiting from that experience still go on doing bad work. ["Experience" and "trial" are homonymous in Armenian. Trans.] That too exists. So that, if you do not fail on a bad trial, do not feel that you've erred, you may work badly all your life. And, thank God, there are so many writers who pursued bad trials to the very end.

Q - Do you have an idea which you're, perhaps, afraid of realizing?
PS - Many, many. I have many such ideas. First and foremost, I am unable to realize [them] because I fear my own abilities. Yet, because I'm soon turning fifty, if I am unable to act now I'll never be able to act. Probably, all that I've thought of, all that I've postponed over years, I shall strive to accomplish henceforth.

Q - Paruir, in your opinion what are the main traits of contemporary Armenian literature?
PS - First and foremost, our fresh literary thinking - something that was rare some ten years ago. I consider that the most important.

Q - Someone has told me, or I've read somewhere, that mankind must be prepared for a cosmic age. What do you think about that?
PS - In my opinion the issues of a cosmic age and of literature are entirely different. It is possible to fly to the moon and return, yet remain the same man. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare man not for flights away from the earth, but to do something so that he can take those flights on earth, if just from one country to another.

Q - Soon the Czech reader will encounter your book. Would you like to say something to him?
PS - First of all I would like very much for your readers to know how much an entire nation, Armenians, likes and feels indebted to Ludmilla Motalova, because of whom Armenian literature today resounds in Czechoslovakia. Coming to Czechoslovakia and in general the Czech and Slovak people, with all my heart, as brother can wish to brother, I wish them good fortune, happiness, and the best future.

Translator's Note: This had been a faithful translation of an Armenian text at Hovik Charkchyan's Blog (accessed in January 2012). The blogger's sources or the circumstances under which the text of the interview found its way into the blog are unknown to the translator. The translator has no financial or commercial interest in the act of translation of this piece or in its dissemination and publication. Although the translator retains copyright to this English translation, use is allowed provided that credit is given to the translator.

By way of disclosure: Paruir Sevak: Selected Poems Translated by Jack Aslanian was published in Yerevan in January 2011 pursuant to a written consent given to the translator by both of Sevak's sons (and the translator has earmarked the proceeds from the sales of those translations to be disbursed as charitable donations to undertakings that benefit Armenian literature and literary personae). The translation of the blog is made without commentary. Except that, for those who are not insiders, or are xenophone and unfamiliar with Armenian culture, brief explicatory notes are presented within brackets ([]).

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The Cafesjian Foundation has taken a difficult decision to close The Armenian Reporter. We regret that we are forced to take this decision after more than eight years of publishing. We thank our readers and all individuals who have contributed to the Reporter. Kathleen Cafesjian Baradaran Chair, Cafesjian Family Foundation

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