By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN — “Can poetry open the hearts of people, even at a distance?“ This is a question that Azad Ordukanyan, President of the Armenian Academic Society in Bochum, Germany, had included in a letter written to Armenian Ambassador Ashot Smbatyan, inviting him to open an event in Berlin featuring the poetry of Paruyr Sevak. In his greetings to the attendants of the musical reading at the Literaturhaus in the German capital on February 20, Smbatyan responded with an unhesitating “Yes.” And the event bore testimony to this fact; the lively recitations of poems by Paruyr Sevak, both in the original and in a new German translation, embedded in musical offerings, opened the hearts of those attending, even in Germany, far away from the poet’s homeland, Armenia.
For those who were not familiar with the poet, a brief introduction was provided. Born in 1924 in the village of Chanatsshi (today Sangakatun), he acquainted himself early with literature and began to compose poems. An independent spirit, he dared to read the works of poets who were banned under the Soviet dictatorship of the 1930s, including Yegishe Charents. Sevak studied at the Philological Faculty of the Yerevan State University from 1940 to 1945 and in that period began to publish his own works. At the end of the 1950s he wrote what was considered a revolutionary work, The Never Muted Bell-Tower, which Literature Prof. Samuel Muradjan has called “the literary chronicle of the 100-year-long history of the Armenians.” Armenia, Hayastan, the homeland, the Armenians and their sad past are the leading themes treated by Sevak, but his work is not limited to national themes. Universal are his poetical and philosophical thoughts on Nature, Man and, above all, Love. If today he is the most beloved Armenian poet, it is due to ability to lend intense expression to the feelings of an entire people, whether young or old. And his universality has made him known in other cultural circles outside his homeland.
Sevak was not only a poet, but also a prose writer, literary historian and critic, and translator. Among the Russian authors he translated are Pushkin, Lermontov und Mayakovsky. His own works have been translated into numerous eastern and western European languages. And now with their new German translation of a selection of his poems, Heide Rieck and Agapi Mkrtchian have produced a very courageous version, which reproduces content and rhythm of the original very faithfully, yet without sacrificing any of the poetical power in German.
Poems in Dialogue with Music