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Zabel Yessayan

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#1 ara baliozian

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Posted 15 March 2003 - 10:59 AM

Zabel Yessayan

Zabel Yessayan was greatly admired in her own time and is avidly read to this day. Her work was acclaimed by such critics and writers as Krikor Zohrab and Hagop Oshagan, who described her as "the most gifted. . . complete writer among Armenians." "Zabel Yessayan is one of those rare women writers who possess a strong masculine temperament," writes the Mekhitarist scholar Mesrob Janashian in his History of Modern Armenian Literature. "In her fiction women suffer, but they also make others suffer." As Gostan Zarian reveals in his acid sketch of her, titled 'The National Turkey Hen' " (included in this volume), Zabel Yessayan never quite gave up her childhood dream of being, in her own words, "A boy, a brigand, a freedom fighter in the mountains. . ." When, during the Genocide of 1915, others dissipated their energies in impotent rage, she was eager to act, even if that meant sacrificing her own life in the process. 'There was never any inconsistency between her words and deeds," writes Sevak Arzoomanian in his biography of the author. It was no doubt her courageous and uncompromising defense of such "deviationist" and "bourgeois nationalist" writers as Charents and Bakounts, who had come under fire during the Stalinist purges of 1936-38, that resulted in her own exile and death in the Gulag.
The purpose of this volume is to introduce to the English reader, the worldview, style, and personality of this remarkable writer who is hardly known outside her country. In Part One, I have translated a sketch of her life and work by a Soviet-Armenian scholar, and the reminiscences of two famed contemporaries who knew her well. In Part Two I have included extracts from two of her finest novellas, the satirical Phony Geniuses, and the autobiographical Shirt of Fire; also substantial portions from her most widely admired work, The Gardens of Silihdar, and the controversial travelogue, Prometheus Unchained. With minor exceptions, the contents of this volume have not been published in English before.

The Gardens of Silihdar

First Day

I was born in the early hours of February 4, 1878 in Scutari, Constantinople, in a neighbor­hood that was known as the Gardens of Silihdar. That night the Russian Army had reached San Stefano. My mother later told me that as her labor pains began the town criers were heard announcing: "Cannons will be fired. There is no cause for alarm."

No doubt the authorities had thought the Russians were about to shell the capital.

My mother also told me that there had been a severe snowstorm that night and that the Greek midwife, under whose care she was, lived at the other end of town, and since my father happened to be away and there were no carriages to be found anywhere, it had been up to my Uncle Dikran to fetch the mid­wife. And it so happened that that night my uncle had come home drunk. It had taken them half an hour to make him understand the situation. Whereupon he had rushed out and braving the elements had crossed the Haydar ***** cemetery and, after getting lost a few times, had finally reached the mid­wife's home, dragged her out of bed, and brought her to Scutari sometime after midnight. My mother further told me that while waiting around the fireplace, the midwife and my father had had a fierce argument about the Russians. The midwife had been of the opinion that if the Russians entered the capital, they would liberate the Christian population. My father, on the other hand, had maintained that nothing good could be ex­pected from the Russians.

"Do you call this a baby?" Uncle Dikran had exclaimed the moment he had set eyes on me. "Looks more like a little bubble to me. And to think of all the trouble I went through. . ."
From that day until I was eight, my uncle called me Bubble. Until I reached that age, I was indeed a puny, weak thing, constantly hovering between life and death.

#2 nairi



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Posted 15 March 2003 - 11:36 AM

Ara, I really do wish you were able to publish more of your work. My parents bought Yessayan's Gardens in the US years ago. I've already read it I wish I could read more of your translations, i.e. those you haven't published yet, as well as your own work...

#3 Yervant1


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Posted 09 December 2015 - 10:40 AM


December 8, 2015 - 17:13 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Armenian International Women's Association
(AIWA) Press announced on December 1 the publication of the first
full-length English translation of "In the Ruins," written by 20th
century female author and activistZabel Yessayan.

A first-hand account of the aftermath of the 1909 Turkish massacre
of 30,000 Armenians, the volume is a must-read for those who want to
understand the struggle for human rights in the Ottoman Empire at
the turn of the 20th century and the backdrop to today's political
climate and events in Syria, Iraq and Turkey. The official publication
date will be March 8, 2016, coinciding with the 2016 celebration of
International Women's Day.

At age 31, Yessayan journeyed to the scene of the 1909 massacres of
Armenians in Adana to provide relief for the victims and to observe
conditions. She returned to Constantinople (Istanbul) and penned
"In the Ruins," which heralded a new literary form. A literature of
testimony, Yessayan documents the voices of the survivors who tell her
their horrific stories and describe their emotional turmoil and terror.

>From her earliest years, Zabel Yessayan championed social justice
and women's rights. Even as a young woman, she fought against the
injustices she saw at school, refused to accept the restrictions placed
on girls in her community and demonstrated a fierce determination to
succeed in the literary world at a time when few women were allowed
entry. In addition to In the Ruins, she authored several novels,
short stories, newspaper articles and a memoir.

The Armenian International Women's Association (AIWA) previously
released two other books in English translation by Zabel Yessayan:
The Gardens of Silihdar, a memoir of Yessayan's childhood in the
city of Constantinople and My Soul in Exile and Other Writings,
a collection which highlights her novel about an artist who returns
home to the Ottoman capital where she confronts feelings of alienation
and isolation. These three Yessayan volumes contain some of her best
and most influential works and provide a picture of the scope, breath
and historical significance of her writing.

The Yessayan books are the latest releases in AIWA's "Treasury
of Armenian Women's Literature" series, which makes available
English-language translations of works by pioneering women authors who
wrote in Eastern or Western Armenian. The translation and publication
of "In the Ruins" was made possible by a generous grant from the
Gulbenkian Foundation, and the book includes an appendix with selected
articles and letters by Yessayan that elucidate the events of 1909
and their immediate aftermath.


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#4 Yervant1


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Posted 14 November 2017 - 10:49 AM

The Armenian Weekly
Nov 13 2017
Discovering the Legacy of Zabel Yessayan in Artsakh

By Contributor on November 13, 2017

STEPANAKERT, Artsakh—Thanks to the Artsakh Human Rights Essay and the Graphic Design T-shirt Contests, young people in Artsakh are discovering the legacy of Zabel Yessayan, the Armenian author and human rights activist.

Born in 1878 in Constantinople, Yessayan played an important role in the tumultuous events shaping Armenian history in the first part of the 20th century. The contests are organized by Artsakh Ombudsman (Human Rights Defender) Ruben Melikyan, TUMO Stepanakert’s Korioun Khatchadourian, and Judith Saryan from Cambridge, Mass.

On Nov. 8, TUMO Stepanakert announced the winner of the Graphic Design T-shirt Contest. The winning entry was designed by Astghik Simonyan of Stepanakert. She created a stylized image of Yessayan’s face on the front of the t-shirt. Below it, she printed Yessayan’s quote, “Literature is not an ornament, a pleasant pastime, a pretty flower. Literature is a weapon to struggle against Injustice.” Simonyan designed a geometric pomegranate symbolizing Artsakh to adorn the back of the shirt.

The winners of the Human Rights Essay Contest in honor of Zabel Yessayan will be announced on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Zabel Yessayan attracted a lot of attention during her lifetime, but she disappeared without a trace in a Soviet prison in the 1940s. Starting 15 years ago, her story resurfaced with the works of Lerna Ekmekcioglu and Melissa Bilal and the documentary, “Finding Zabel Yessayan.” Ever since, Yessayan’s books have been translated into English, French, Turkish, and Italian.

Earlier this year, the Mayor of Paris announced that a street was recently named after Yessayan, a group of women Turkey recently created a play about her life and works, and researchers are combing through her archives in Yerevan to learn more about this brilliant and courageous woman.

The Zabel Yessayan Human Rights Essay Contest is co-sponsored Tufenkian Foundation and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).


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