Two Vahan Tekeyan Books at One Ceremony

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Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 10.40.42 PMBy Hagop Vartivarian

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — After Detroit, Toronto, Los Angeles and Fresno, the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) made New York in its turn reverberate with the words of a pair of newly published volumes dedicated to the writings of Vahan Tekeyan — Vahan Tekeyan: Selected Poems, translated into English by Gerald Papasian and his uncle, John Papasian, and the Armenian-language Vahan Tekeyan: Panasdeghdzutiunneru hadendir, edited by Edmond Azadian.

The presentation took place on Friday, October 31, at the New Jersey TCA Center, where admirers of Tekeyan the poet filled the hall. The program was at a professional level suited to the audience which itself appeared to have serious literary interests. The director, actor and translator Gerard Papasian had specially come from Paris for the occasion, while literary critic Edmond Azadian and artist Nora Ipekian Azadian came from Detroit.

After the words of welcome from the chairman of the New York TCA executive, Hagop Vartivarian, the artistic portion of the program began with the performance by one of the best interpreters of classical music, soprano Anahit Zakaryan, accompanied on the piano with composer Hampartzoum Berberian’s music, of Tekeyan’s poems G’antzreve, dghas [It Is Raining, My Son] and Ser me kaghdni [A Secret Love].

Zarmine Boghosian, educator and writer, served as the master of ceremonies. Thanks to her efforts, the program went smoothly.

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While the program had been initiated and organized by the TCA, the Hamazkayin Armenian Education and Cultural Society and the Essayan-Getronagan Alumni Association also participated. As Vahan Tekeyan had been a student in, and then principal of, Constantinople’s [Armenian] National Central [Getronagan] School, it was particularly appropriate that the chairman of the latter’s alumni association, Arto Khrimian, give a heart-felt talk.

The anthology of poems in English translation was presented by community activist, actor, playwright and intellectual Dr. Hrant Markarian. He analyzed on video the difficult work conducted by the Papasians, which reappeared at a late date by chance in John Papasian’s home in Rome, after the latter had passed away in Cairo in 1989. This initial work was continued by Gerald Papasian.

The book was published by California State University, Fresno, and edited by Edmond Azadian. The cover illustration, a portrait painting of Vahan Tekeyan, is the creation of Nora Azadian, who personally knew the writer while he was living in Cairo. Tekeyan, known as the Prince of Poets, frequently would visit the home of Nora’s maternal grandfather, the hero of Sasun and Armenian Democratic Liberal leader, Mihran Damadian.

The poet Vehanoush Tekian presented in the Armenian language the second book, which was published by Armenia’s TCA in Yerevan in 2012. Edmond Azadian both edited this volume and wrote its foreword. The book consists of a selection of Tekeyan’s poems in separate chapters, Presenting Oneself, Love and Impossible Loves, Armenian Verses, Something Terrible Thing There, and Beyond Life and Death, which represent the true measure of the great poet.

Instead of just introducing the book, Tekian also gave information on Tekeyan’s biography and work. This alone could be presented in a separate literary assembly.

Gerald Papasian first expressed his thanks to the TCA executive for the organization of this event and then reflected on the process of translating the volume. The work was laborious and the book was given to the publisher only after a hiatus of many years.

Then the graceful actress Nora Armani and Papasian recited six poems from the English translation of Tekeyan’s verses.

The multitalented Nora Azadian recited with deep emotion two well known Tekeyan poems — Bidi esenk Asdudzoy [We Shall Say to God] and Bidi iynas [You Will Fall], which at the threshold of the centennial of the Genocide display Tekeyan’s rage even against God as he wrote:

 

“let us all swear that when at last we meet

God in his paradise coming to greet

and comfort and make amends for our pain,

we shall refuse his tardy gift, and say:

 

‘Send us to hell. Send us to hell again.

You made us know it alas, all too well.

Save paradise for the Turks. Send us to hell.’”

[She recited in Armenian but the English translation from the newly published volume is provided here for Mirror readers.]

The audience responded with a long, standing ovation for Nora Azadian’s interpretation of Tekeyan’s words.

Edmond Azadian then spoke, thanking the organizing committee and specifically mentioning each artist in the program. He himself is one of our few living intellectuals who knows Tekeyan’s work and life and transmits to the new diasporan and Armenian literary generation the legacy of Tekeyan’s Armenian national activities and the talent he used for the advancement of Armenian literature.

Azadian has various works dedicated to Tekeyan and other Armenian writers scattered throughout the pages of the press, and finally is engaged in assembling them in the form of several volumes.

Talented contemporary singer and songwriter Berge Turabian then performed three songs of Tekeyan’s verses that he had set to music. Turabian is one of the best interpreters of Tekeyan, and of Charles Aznavour. He has a compact disc of Tekeyan verses set to music.

(Translated from Armenian)

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