The American University of Armenia (AUA) Certificate in Translation (CTRA) program’s 2015 class of translators recently produced the Armenian versions of political theorist Hannah Arendt’s two essays, which appeared in the critical e-journal Arteria.
As part of their practicum in translation, which is the final course in the Certificate in Translation program, the students worked individually and collaborated as a team on the translation of “Expansion and the Philosophy of Power” (1946), an essay which became part of Arendt’s best-known book The Origins of Totalitarianism, and “Society and Culture” (1960).
Sona Avagyan, one of the translators stressed the importance of this selection: “I think that the choice of Arendt was very useful since the ideas which she expressed decades ago are completely true for today’s reality as well.”
Another translator, Lusine Babayan, noted how “translating Arendt was a challenge. Her ‘Expansion and the Philosophy of Power’ is a text, which, on the one hand, might seem intelligible for a first-time reader, but, on the other hand, a closer look makes it extremely tough to render. It surely enriched my understanding of power and its mechanisms.”
CTRA lecturer Shushan Avagyan, who led the translation workshop and offered constructive feedback throughout the process, said, “The students were guided through their apprenticeship in stages—drafting and experimenting with techniques learned from previous courses, comparing the original with a range of translation versions, and finally editing the translation as a whole.”
On June 6, 2015, Avagyan received an AUA Faculty Research Award to expand the teamwork beyond the confines of the classroom and curate a project that will build upon the translators’ knowledge and skills acquired during the past academic year. Within the next year, her team will research and translate several other essays by Arendt and publish them in book form.
Despite her worldwide prominence, the Armenian reader is not very familiar with Arendt’s work whose writings span totalitarianism, imperialism, justice, revolution, the nature of freedom and the faculties of thought and judgment. The question with which Arendt engages most frequently is the nature of political existence as distinct from other realms of human activity. The essays chosen for this translation project are all related to the analysis of political life, critical for anyone committed to building a civil society. The funds from AUA’s Faculty Research Award will enable the publication and dissemination of these important essays, making them available to the different political communities in Armenia and to the public at large.
Since its inception in 2012, at the end of every academic year, the Certificate in Translation program has presented the Armenian reader with a translation of a text by an intellectual who has influenced thought and shaped discourse. Arendt is a marvelous discovery for those who cannot read her in the original or in Russian translation, as her work had never been translated into Armenian until this point.