Ziné

Ziné: Grafting Yezidi, Armenian and French Worlds

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YEREVAN – Ziné (Mamoyan) is one of most extraordinary people I have met. This Yezidi beauty was born in Ashtarak, Armenia, raised in the village and in the mountains, received her secondary and higher education in Yerevan and studied at the French department of the Brusov State Pedagogical Institute of Russian and Foreign Languages. After getting married, she moved to Paris, in her opinion, “the most beautiful city in the world.” Here she studied literature at the Sorbonne University, theater and directing at Paris 8 University. For seven years she was the president of the Auberbabel literary society in Paris. Ziné was engaged also in theater, gastronomic cooking, law, and now literature. Especially in recent years, she often visits her homeland, where she is known by many, first with her critical, often eccentric statuses and comments on Facebook, then with her novel in Armenian hêkê dûkê (yes, with small letters), published in 2020. French writer Jean-Michel Delacomptée, reading the French version of the book, wrote: “Ziné writes poetically, the style is exceptional and attractive. She is a great lover.”

Ziné, you see, I read your novel twice. It is so great you wrote hêkê dûkê. It is a hearty conversation written with long sentences about your life, your childhood perceptions, which have remained almost the same, as a result, creating a very frank literature about everything that has been created, written with a lot of love, a lot of bittersweetness, sometimes with humor. it was in your genes, as your grandmother’s brother, Smoe Shamo, was a writer. In what language do you think and which language is the easiest for you to write?

Armenian is very close to me, but one day I caught myself thinking in French. For twenty years, I wrote only in French, although I had not published anything. My Armenian came back when I started coming to Armenia often (in 2020 I was almost always here), also thanks to my very dear Armenian girlfriends in Paris. One day, Armenian flashed in me again and I started writing in Armenian, and I was a little sad that I was away from my favorite language. When I go home, the language of communication with my French friends and my daughter is French, and here I think in Armenian. I do speak the Kurmanji language well; it is also very close to me, but I have moved away from it a little. I did not find my colors, my style in literary Kurmanji. In any case, mine is a hybrid way of thinking, as [culturologist] Vardan Jaloyan would say.

By the way, do you agree with Vardan Jaloyan’s opinion that hêkê dûkê is not an Armenian novel, it is not a Yazidi-Kurdish novel, but a French novel, because it is about a woman living in France?

I think that what Vardan said does not only refer to living in France, it has a deeper meaning. Whatever I talk about in hêkê dûkê, even the saddest and most tragic things, I don’t annoy others, I don’t spread my anger, I speak with restraint, with elegance in my words. If you talk even about very unfortunate things, you have no right to transmit bad energy, the most you can do is to give a nice sadness. The novel is French in this sense — in its approach and style. Maybe that’s why people like my book. No matter how much their emotions get mixed up, they don’t get worse because I don’t transmit any negative emotions.

Many seemingly insignificant realities of childhood, it seems, should have been forgotten long ago or it would no longer be necessary to address them, but you write in detail, because the child is always within you. I don’t remember who said that a person should not be childish, but there should always be a child within a person.

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I talk about it a lot. Yes, the child within us should not be lost, that is the most important thing. On June 1, I wrote a post on International Children’s Day. “Let’s keep the child within us too. I don’t know how, but let’s keep it. Life without that child is sad, very sad! We see sorrowful elders everywhere.” I will be one of the happiest people if I can always keep the child within me, but sometimes I cannot. Probably because there are no more children around.

Ziné

You say you are an anarchist. You probably took after your mother, didn’t you? She was not like other Yezidi women: she used to wear holiday pants, apply lipstick, and in the end she divorced your father, whom she had married against her will. What was the biggest anarchy in your life?

Getting married and leaving Armenia changed my life drastically. And globally, I mean something else by anarchy. I live in France, where the system will work regardless of whether there is a leadership or not. For us, for the people, the leaders are freeloaders. We have a parliament, a senate, institutions that live at the expense of our taxes — they all should be rejected, which I consider anarchy.

Your friend Gerard says that there is no use in reading a fairy tale, you should turn your life into a fairy tale but right here on earth.

Gerard lives in one of the Polynesian atolls, from where he sends me pictures almost every day. His life is a fairy tale; he proves it with his work. But there are very few people like him. I cannot imagine going to Polynesia, it won’t be my fairy tale. Life in Armenia or elsewhere can be made into a fairy tale too. In a village, whether here or in France. In a wonderful, beautiful village with good nature, to have a garden near the house, animals, good neighbors who will help me, and I will help them, with solidarity among us. This will be my fairy tale!

You say that “True questions have no answers.” What are true questions?

Existential questions — the thousand and one questions of life and human relations. That everyone perceives life and the world in their own ways. Sometimes I say the truth is a big swearing, every person has his own perception of the truth; the truth is not black and white.

You write you are from a good and ancient lineage, the Hassani tribe. What determines a good lineage among Yezidis?

Nothing of the kind, it is a backward idea, I wrote it with a bit of irony. That is, they are good people, they have not killed or harmed anyone, there are no hooligans among them, they read more.

You also say that Yezidis are either very happy or very sad. Which one are you?

Both. My joy is very high; my sadness is very high. I live a normal daily life, but I have emotional spikes. Recently, I have been trying to bring my intense emotions to a platform. For example, I used to get angry a lot, now I am trying to eliminate my anger, to give more wisdom to my emotions.

As a multicultural person can you say in one word: what is Yezidi, what is Armenian, and what is French in you?

It is interesting, what a good question. The emotional peaks I just mentioned can be characterized as the typical Yezidi in me. And what is Armenian in me? (After thinking a bit more). I don’t know. Perhaps, whining. As for French… I already mentioned my restraint, the fact that I don’t spill my emotions on anyone.

Do you follow Yezidi literature in Armenia? Many praise Teresa Amryan’s That Yezidi Woman’s Suitcase.

I have not read it yet. I know Teresa, she is a very gifted, and I was very happy to meet an educated Yezidi woman like her. The more educated Yezidi girls there are, the better.

Recently you were in Kurdistan on business. Today, the world is making big projects in that unrecognized country. What path will the country take if evil forces do not interfere?

Like other eastern countries, Kurdistan is also a corrupt country. It is difficult to say how it will turn out, it is an internal matter, I cannot say whether they will be able to reach a non-corruption level. But one thing is obvious. Kurds generally do not want to go to war with anyone. There were many wars, and now in this peaceful period economic growth is observed. Let’s hope they won’t be disturbed.

Ziné, I want to end our conversation with such a comparison. In the novel, you remember that your mother grafted the Armenian apricot and nectarine and as a result a very tasty fruit was produced. In my impression, thanks to the grafting of Yezidi, Armenian and French worlds, you have become a “fruit” with just such a taste. You say that “Thoughts are worms that constantly rotate in the head and never give rest.” I want the worms in your head not to give you rest and as a result new literary works are created.

Thanks a lot. It is also an honor for me to have a reader like you. Why does a person write? For sharing with others. It is worthy to write for people like you. That’s for sure!

 

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