ACF Marks the 85th Birth Anniversary of Hakob Karapents, Salutes Legacy

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ARLINGTON, Mass. — The home of the Hakob Karapents library-collection, the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF), on Sunday, November 21 at 4 p.m. will mark his 85th anniversary, as of one of the most prolific of modern Armenian writers.

Organized by the ACF, this event is co-sponsored the Amaras Art Alliance, Armenian Society of Boston, Hamazkayin Boston Chapter, the Armenian Independent Broadcasting of Boston and the Armenian Cultural Committee of Greater Boston. The program will include two keynote speeches by Dr. Vartan Matiossian (in Armenian) from New York and Mr. Tatul Sonentz-Papazian (in English), former editor of the Armenian Review, and a presentation of Karapents’ life by Ani Arakelian.

Born in 1925 in Tabriz, Iran, Karapents entered the American-Armenian literary and journalistic scene in 1947. Over the next 40 years, until his death in 1994, Karapents contributed extensively to major American- Armenian and diasporan newspapers, magazines and periodicals among them: Hairenik Amsagir [Hairenik Monthly], Bagin [Altar], Alik [Wave], Asbarez [Arena], Horizoni Grakan Haueluats [Horizon Literary Supplement], 80- akan (80s), and many others. Karapents contributed articles and reports to Hairenik’ Orat’ert’ [Hairenik Daily] and his works have been reprinted in the pages of Armenian Diaspora papers from Boston to Istanbul, and from Cairo to Tehran. His distinctive prose style has made him widely known in both the diaspora and Armenia. Albeit belatedly, they began to appear recently in the pages of the papers in his beloved Armenia.

The first literary attempts of Karapents were poems, short articles and journalistic reports, which appeared in the pages of Aruseak, Loys [Light], Eros periodicals and later in Alik daily. The decades of the 1950 and 1960s were especially fruitful. The first volume of the writer’s short stories, titled Antsanot’ hoginer [Strange Souls], was released in 1970 when he was already a well-known writer. This work was followed by his second in 1972, a novel titled Kart’ageni dustreˇ [The Daughter of Carthage], which received the Haykashen Uzunian award (Beirut, 1972).

In 1975, with Suren Gracian, Karapents participated and edited the Armenian portion of the text titled Khosakts’akan arewelahayeren [Spoken East Armenian] in the bilingual (Armenian-English) textbook with the same title, under the auspices and published by the American Council for Learned Societies.

Karapents’ third volume, Nor ashkharhi hin sermnats annere [The Old Sowers of the New World], was published in 1975. This and the above-mentioned two volumes were published in 1995 in Armenia in the first volume of a twovolume set of the works of Karapents.

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The following six years were even more productive. The fourth volume of the works of Karapents, Mijnarar [Interlude], was published in New York in 1981. This work too was the recipient of the above- entioned Haykashen Uzunian literary award. The writer’s fifth volume, Adami girk’e [The Book of Adam], was a contemporary novel published in 1983 in New York. Hailed by many as perhaps the crown of Karapents’ works, this work won two awards simultaneously: The Armenian General Benevolent Union’s Alex Manoogian Literary Award and the Eliz Kavookjian-Ayvazian Award given by the French-Armenian Writers Society. Two more volumes by Karapents, Amerikian shurjpar [American Rondo] and Ankatar [Incomplete] were published in 1986 and 1987, respectively, bringing the number of his volumes to seven.

In 1989, after establishing residence in Watertown, Karapents, along with his literary works, brought his participation to the cultural life of the local community. In the following five years of his life, Karapents published two more volumes in Armenian: Erku ashkharh —grakan pordzagrutiwnner [Two Worlds: Literary Essays], Boston, 1992 and Mi mard u mi erkir ew ayl patmuatsk’ner [A Man and A Country and Other Stories] in 1994.

During the last two years of his life (1992–1994), Karapents regularly contributed to the Armenian press, Hayrenik and Nor Kiank in particular. His weekly columns, covering a vast span of topics and issues (cultural, national, political, social and artistic), appeared under the subheadings “Lusants’k’i vray” [On the Margin] and “Getap’in” [By the River].

A comprehensive bibliography of the Karapents’ works, Karapents Matenagitut’iwn [Karapents Bibliography] prepared by Dr. Ara Ghazarians, curator of the ACF was published by Blue Crane Books in 1999.

With the exception of a few poems, short stories and numerous articles which were published in the Armenian Review quarterly in the 1950s and Litchfield County Times daily during the 1980s, Karapents avoided writing in English. “It seems to me that I could have done the same work in American literature, and I actually had started to prepare myself and move in that direction in the last years by contributing to American dailies and periodicals. However, one bright day, I came to the conclusion that American literature does not need me at all, and neither do I need it. . . . I will remain an Armenian writer, loyal to my language, its elements, and the national complexes.” However, it was not fair for the English-speaking public, in general, and linguistically assimilated American-Armenian generations, in particular, to remain deprived of Karapents’ literary wealth and rich legacy. Perhaps realizing the significance of this issue, and to introduce his work to American readers, Karapents planned his first English volume titled Return & Tiger and Other Short Stories which he closely supervised, like all his other previous volumes, in all details. Unfortunately, however, he did not live to see his tenth volume. It was released one month after his death in November 1994. A second volume in English of six short stories by the young Karapents, titled The Widening Circle and Other Early Short Stories, (2008) followed by Mtorumner [Ruminations] (2009) a collection of more than 60 articles and essays were released posthumously by the ACF.

Armenia Embraces Karapents

It was Karapents’ dream to see his works published in Armenia. The fact that his works were banned in Soviet Armenia among other Diaspora Armenian writers caused him a deep pain. During his last visit in 1989, when Armenia was on the verge of historical developments, Karapents was pleased to learn that his colleagues and literary establishments welcomed the prospect of having his works published in Armenia. The independence of Armenia and winds of change ushered in a new era and opened new horizons for Karapents. Sadly he did not live to enjoy the warmth of his fatherland, its people and more importantly his colleagues. Countless letters from numerous Armenian writers, poets, scholars and intellectuals available in Karapents’ papers speak to close relationship and deep respect which he enjoyed among his Armenian colleagues.

Shortly before his death in 1994, for the first time ever, Karapents’ American Rondo was released in Armenia followed in 1995 by a twoset volume of Karapents’ major works, of which unfortunately only the first volume was published.

Had he lived yet another year Karapents would have been overjoyed and humbled to see an educational institution named after him in Yerevan. On May 5, 1995 by the decision of the Yerevan City Council, High School No. 6 in the heart of Yerevan, a stone’s throw away from the statue of David of Sasun, was officially named after the writer. An impressive solid structure with a student body of more than 600 in the Erebuni district of Yerevan is a living monument to Karapents where generations will have the opportunity to become acquainted with Karapents the man and the writer and his rich literary legacy.

Through the efforts of a municipality of Yerevan, the ministry of education, dedicated faculty and staff, contributions and support of friends, fans and family members, including a grant from the government of Iran, the Hakob Karapents School has managed to overcome major difficulties and today stands tall as a well-equipped, remodeled, flourishing school with a bright and promising future. Perhaps the most important component of the impressive building is the Hakob Karapents museum. Tastefully designed and equipped, this modest gallery, appropriately place at the entrance of the school, will over the years turn into a place for visitors and scholars to explore the literary world of Karapents, and a source of inspiration for the youth and future generations of Armenian writers.

Marking the 85th Anniversary of Karapents

John F. Kennedy once said, “a nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” On November 4, the 85th birth anniversary of Karapents was marked in Yerevan under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, the Writers Union of Armenia, Hamazkayin of Armenia and the E. Charents Museum of Art and Literature. Similar celebrations have also been scheduled in Tehran organized by the Iranian- Armenian Writers Union in Tehran on November 14 followed by special events organized at the Ararat Cutlrual Organization and in Los Angeles on November 27. Of special significance and historic in nature are a number of initiatives planned in his native Iran. For the first time a select number of Karapents’s works will appear in Farsi. The Payman and Hooys quarterlies, published in Tehran, have dedicated special issues and segments to Karapents and his literary legacy. The daily Alik has already dedicated pages to Karapents and has plans to publish more works by Karapents in its pages.

The public is invited to attend the November 21 at 4 p.m. and contact for more details the Armenian Cultural Foundation during office hours (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

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