On Armenian Writers

When I was asked to write these lines, I thought I had got it wrong, or they had gone to the wrong person. Writing about Ştefan Agopian and Bedros Horasangian (I give their names in alphabetical order, but who knows what may come out of it, you're never too sure with the order of names), two writers and fellow-ethnics, is somehow weird for me – a mathematician with some knowledge of economics, and little more than that. The fact that all three of us are Armenians does not mean that I am capable of writing clever things about them; it's like asking one of them to write a preface to one of my math books. Nevertheless, I shall bring up what I think represents them best in their relationship with the surrounding world, and chiefly with the ethnic group they are descended from.A wonderful and bizarre thing, whatever either of them writes is almost untranslatable. I have just finished reading an English translation of one of Bedros' stories: it sounds as if it was not written by him. There's hardly anything more Armenian than this! Mastering the Romanian language to such an extent is no child's play. Building with words, thoughts and ideas a haze that not even oblivion will scatter away is not an easy job either; for once you read their prose, it will hardly get out of your head. Since I'm already singing my ethnic group's praises, let me tell you that the strong impression they leave is also very Armenian. Whether you find their writing attractive, agreeable, relaxing or intriguing, that strong impression is hard to shed.To me, Ştefan Agopian means, above all, Velvet Tache, and Bedros Horasangian is The Encyclopedia of the Armenians. To myself. So, as I have to (what a despicable verb!) write something about them, I'm going to do this while keeping in mind these wonderful, almost untranslatable books, written by two Armenians about things afar, yet as if they had been there.Ştefan Agopian is a Levantine of Byzantium walking the gray pavement along a Library crammed with philosophies leading nowhere and geometries not taken seriously, because moving is everything, isn't it, whereas the goal is nothing, therefore what could be more interesting than dissect the hours and pretend to ignore that they are made of minutes which, in their turn, are made of seconds? He writes about a world in which time hasn't got any value, because that world is full of events that overlap with life without ever affecting it, not even when it comes to death. He writes about a time that could be whenever, but only about this place. He writes with a kind of detachment, free of both compassion and sarcasm, scientifically, which reminds me of the even pitch in which my uncle, an anatomist-pathologist for five decades, used to dictate to his secretary all the terrible or ordinary things he saw under his microscope at the laboratory where biopsies from all over the country were coming in. Yet what he sees, I or you would never imagine it exists, nor would we see it in the same way. And this is not because what he sees didn't exist, but precisely because it never crossed our minds that it existed or that its existence was important.If he had been born in America, Bedros Horasangian might have been the perfect journalist: if not a president-buster, the least he could have done was to raise the Americans' adrenaline level daily; now this explains why Americans are such lucky people, because Bedros wasn't born there to boost their adrenaline, and that is why Romanians are lucky to have such a great writer in their midst, and a living one too, mind you. Seldom have I met such an insightful explorer of the human soul, who would look into it with so much self-involvement and the raw curiosity – sometimes malicious, but never wicked – of a child who refuses any compromise, but whose understanding of and compassion for any human weakness or bitterness is infinite. He knows that no earthly creature can be an airplane, but we all want to fly; that there is a great statesman inside each of us who will never speak out, except maybe over a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer; so what difference does it make if all we say is right, and if we had been there and then the world would have been different now, but it turned out better like this, before long I'll be retiring and I'll be writing my memoirs, and let them burst with envy when they read them! He knows that each man harbors a great wish to be different from what he has become "because", and this is neither bad nor good, neither false nor true, neither sad nor gay; he knows that this is life, it often gets you to the most unexpected places, and this is when hope comes forth, which is also a sort of unfinished invention, albeit very useful. This is because Bedros writes about life the way children play, that is naturally and, most of all, with pleasure. Champing with pleasure.Both are great authors, no doubt; but to me, they are chiefly a guarantee that Armenians will never disappear from this place. If, God forbid, this should happen indeed, there would always be a pimply teenager who, closing one of their books, would exclaim, "Great! And what a funny pen name he gave himself!"

by Varujan Pambuccian