How Modern Literary Publication Is Being Revived in Armenia

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By Haykaram Nahapetyan

Mirror-Spectator Video Correspondent

YEREVAN – In the Soviet era, it was the government that subsidized book publication. Armenian authors, after getting the necessary approvals from various state-controlled councils, could get their books printed for free and even receive substantial payments. With the collapse of the Soviet system, while ideological restrictions were withdrawn, so was the financial support for literature. The new government simply was unable to allocate funds for sustaining book-printing anywhere near the previous volumes.

Armenia’s writers were left on their own to face the harsh necessity of finding sponsors to print their books (and had to forget about being paid for them). At various times, different diaspora organizations, like the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Tekeyan Cultural Association and Hamazkayin sponsored book printing in independent Armenia.

In the 2000s, the Antares publishing house decided to try a different method. With the gradual economic recovery of the country, the managers of this Yerevan-based publishing house came to the conclusion that people might be willing to pay a relatively high price for a good book, if both the quality of the printing and the content were satisfying. Thus, book printing began to gravitate from a merely sponsored activity to a commercial project with the price that people pay for books offsetting the costs.

Antares’s sign

“I have always stated: we, Armenians, have a very good literature. The question is, how are we to publicize it; how should we present our writers to not only international readers but also to ourselves,” said Arqmenik Nikoghosyan, the editor-in-chief of Antares, when we sat down for an interview at his office.

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He joined the Antares team in 2011, originally pursuing the goal of publishing modern international literary works in Armenian. “We set up the goal to translate only from the original language – no translations of translations were allowed anymore,” Arqmenik said. His video comments about the translation activities of Antares can be followed here.

Videolink 1 of Arqmenik Nikoghosyan, editor-in-chief of Antares publishing house

To find qualified translators, they have conducted research in the [Armenian] Diaspora, and also arranged a competition.

Previously, one could sense the idea that Armenian literature started about a millennium ago with Krikor Narekatsi, stretched to the 20th century and came to its finish with Yeghishe Charentz, Paruyr Sevag or Hrant Matevosian. This type of mindset led to a wrong attitude, as if modern writers are unable to produce anything worthy, Arqmenik says. He thinks the roots of this perspective go back to Armenian school curricula. Because modern Armenian writers are not included in our text books, the graduates get the wrongful impression that there is no good modern Armenian literature to study. Antares launched a series of books called “Mandatory Fiction,” which includes both international and Armenian good writers, past and present.

“Levon Khechoyan’s historical novel, Rouben Hovsepian’s. Gourgen Khanjian’s, Vrezh Israelian’s, Raphael Nahapetyan’s books are among them,” Arqmenik continues, pointing to the books on the table. Historic novels written in the late 20th century are being published.

Another series called “21” contains literature that is being produced literally today – in the 21st century. New and young Armenian authors Aram Pachian, Grig, Arpi Voskanian, Hovhannes Yeranian and others get published here. Two of Antares’s books have received the [Armenian] Presidential and State Awards. Antares has also published Nikol Pashinyan’s The Opposite Side of the Earth [Yerkri hagarak koghme], the sales of which skyrocketed after he assumed the prime minister’s position last year.

To present Armenian authors to international readers, Antares is also working with various electronic platforms.

 

Video link 2: Arqmenik Nikoghosyan, the editor-in-chief of Antares publishing house

Antares has initiated the “translation swap” project, the essence of which is as follows: we print a foreign author’s book in Armenian in exchange for his publishing house printing our book in their country. This way Ukrainians printed Aram Pachian’s book while Antares printed the Armenian versions of the works of Ukraine’s contemporary authors. A similar project with Georgia is in place now.

video link 3: Arqmenik Nikoghosyan, editor-in-chief of Antares publishing house

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