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11.3.11

An Armenian story in 35 languages

Artsvi Bakhchinyan, an Armenian Studies scholar, researcher, and translator based in Yerevan, brought into fruition a unique literary project. "Zangak-97" Publishing House recently printed a collection of 35 translations of one story. The name of the book is "The Hands," authored by Armenian writer and psychologist Elda Grin. The story was actually written in two languages: Armenian and Russian. Artsvi Bakhchinyan arranged translations in 32 languages, including the European ones, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi and Hebrew. He prepared also a version in Western Armenian, included as an appendix.
Elda Grin, a Ph.D. in Psychology, has taught for many years in the department of Psychology at Yerevan State University. For more than a half century she has been immersed in literary life as an author of small stories. Her stories are full of intimate lyricism, psychological depth and thoughtful observation. "Brevity, the sister of talent"; these words by Anton Chekhov fittingly describe Elda Grin's writings, whose small literary products often provide compelling life stories.
"The Hands" is composed of just 4 pages, yet it embraces the life of an Armenian woman from the time of her marriage until just before gaining the status of grandmother. This deeply philosophical, moving story has an unusual background. It was penned in 1984 in a difficult period in Elda Grin's life, overshadowed by her husband's illness. She was sitting next to him and recorded line by line the story of a young Armenian woman who falls among harsh in-laws.
"The Hands" was greeted warmly by readers, but soon this simple story underwent a terrible censorship up to discussions in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia, where is was considered to be "not in conformity with party politics and government."
But the fate of the story would be different. As Armenian writer Sero Khanzadyan had noted, "In literature there are many works on women's hands. However, from this standpoint, Elda Grin was the first to tell the world about the beauty and strength of women's hands and about the plight of Armenian woman..."
The story was translated into three languages in Soviet times. In 2007, Artsvi Bakhchinyan received a proposal from the American journal "Translation" to submit a story from Armenian literature in English.
Afterwards, he translated it into Swedish, in cooperation with his Swedish-Armenian friend, Aram Hellstadius. Then Artsvi thought of collecting translations of the story into as many languages as possible and publishing them in one book. He wrote to many friends and acquaintances of his wide network and asked them to participate in his project.
"I am proud to tell that all my friends were enthusiastic with my idea and all of them agreed to make the translation on an unpaid basis (well, the only exception was a poet from Lebanon, but we found a better translator). This is a book of translators, so that's why I put their brief biographies at the end of the volume. There are people of different calibers among them: from experienced translators with extensive background like Vartan Matiossian (Spanish) or Madeleine Karakasian (Romanian) to beginners."
The colorful list of translators includes Armenians from Armenia (Maghvala Geurkova-Sahakyan, Georgian; Emma Begijanyan, Farsi), Diasporan Armenians (Harout Vartanian, Arabic; Maral Aktokmakian, Turkish; Arda Djelalian, Greek), Armenians from Armenia living abroad (Arousyak Bakhchinyan-Grino, French; Gohar Harutyunyan-Sekulich, Serbian; Armine Piloyan-Vrteska, Macedonian; Liana Yedigaryan, Chinese), people of Armenian origin (Eric Papazian, Norwegian; Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira, Portuguese; Kristiina Davidjants, Estonian; Kinga Kali, Hungarian), as well as non-Armenians living in Armenia (Konrad Siekierski, Polish; Inga Butrimait, Lithuanian; Santosh Kumari Arora, Hindi). Among non-Armenian translators there are people involved in Armenian Studies and translation (Heinrich Hördegen, German; Roberto Bigolin, Italian; Thomas Feider, Luxembourgish; Antoaneta Anguelova, Bulgarian; Takayuki Yoshimura, Japanese), or just people with certain or occasional interest in Armenia (Sini Tuomisalo, Finnish; Gerda Davidian, Danish; Ingibjörg Þórisdóttir, Icelandic; Liene Grunda, Latvian; Libor Dvorák, Czech; Kateryna Botanova, Ukrainian; Schulamith Chava Halevy, Hebrew).It is interesting that women from different countries who translated "The Hands" confessed that they saw themselves reflected in the story. This once again confirms the universality of Elda Grin's literature. 
Magdalina Zatikyan
"The Armenian Reporter International" (www.reporter.am)
 

2 comments:

  1. I wrote to Artsvi to ask where this book may be purchased. He hasn't answered yet. Do you know the answer to the question?

    Thanks, Lola

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  2. I don't know exactly. I wonder whether "Zangak-97," the publishing house, may be selling it. I believe they had an outlet online.

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