"Death" by Zabel Yessayan
With the launch of Sprachbund (our journal of literature in translation) fast approaching, we figured it was time to get this blog started and take the opportunity to introduce the authors and translators whose stories will be featured in issue 1.
Our first story will be "Death" by Zabel Yessayan, translated by Jennifer Manoukian. "Death" tells the story of a melancholic Dane who travels to Constantinople following his lover's untimely demise.
"Death" was first published in 1899 in Anahid a Paris-based literary journal in Western Armenian founded by Archag Tchobanian. Paris was an important centre for Diasporic Armenian culture at the time and was home to numerous journals and newspapers printed in Western Armenian.
Western Armenian is one of the two standardized forms of the Armenian language. Originally spoken throughout the Ottoman empire, it continues to be spoken in the diaspora and boasts a small but vibrant literary tradition in such far-flung centres as Los Angeles, Paris, Beirut or Buenos Aires.
Zabel Yessayan Զապէլ Եսայեան
Zabel Yessayan (1878 – 1943) was born in Scutari (modern Üsküdar) a suburb of Constantinople on the eastern bank of the Bosphorus.
At seventeen she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, and soon started publishing short-stories, essays and translations in the Western-Armenian press.
Returning to the Ottoman Empire in 1902, she went on to write extensively about the Adana massacres.
In 1915 she was the only woman on the list of Armenian intellectuals to be deported, but managed to escape arrest by fleeing to Bulgaria and later to the Caucasus where she documented eyewitness accounts of the Armenian genocide.
In 1933 she moved to Soviet Armenia where she taught literature at Yerevan State University until her arrest in 1937 during Stalin’s purges. She died in unknown circumstances probably in Siberia sometime in 1943.
Jennifer Manoukian is a translator, lecturer, literary critic and specialist of Western Armenian literature.
Book length works by Yessayan available in English translation
The Gardens of Silihdar 2014 (Trans. J. Manoukian)
My Soul in Exile 2014 (Trans. G. M. Goshgarian)
In the Ruins 2016 (Trans. G. M. Goshgarian)
To whet your appetite, check out some of Jennifer Manoukian's other translations of Yessayan's work...
"Ode to the Night" in Ararat Magazine
"The Red Windmill" in Ararat Magazine
"The Blind Girl" in Ararat Magazine
and her article...
"Portrait of the Writer as a Young Woman" in The Armenite
Or have a listen to: The Life of Zabel Yessayan on Ottoman History Podcast.