Simon Simonian was a prolific author, editor, publisher and teacher who played an influential role in Armenian diasporan life. An initial attempt at presenting his legacy in English has been made by Levon Sharoyan of Aleppo, in Simon Simonian: The Last Scion of the Mountaineers (On the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of His Death). First published in serialized form in the Armenian-language periodicals Kantzasar, Aztag and Harach, and then as a volume in Armenia, this short work was translated into English by Dr. Vahe H. Apelian and published in 2017 by Hratch Kalsahakian with the sponsorship of the Simon Simonian Fund.
Simonian was born in Aintab in 1914. His father was from the Germav village of Sasun. His family fled to Aleppo in 1921. Simonian was accepted to the newly opened Seminary of the Catholicate of Cilicia in Aleppo and graduated as part of its first class in 1935 together with the future Archbishop Terenig Poladian and Catholicos Zareh Payaslian. He then returned to Aleppo to be a teacher of Armenian language and history at the National Haigazian School till 1938, and again from 1941 to 1946. He taught from 1938 to 1941 at the Gulbenkian Armenian School.
One of Simonian’s most important legacies is the publication work of the Sevan publishing house, which he first started in 1945 in Aleppo and restarted in 1954 in Beirut. He published and edited two issues of a literary periodical called Sevan in 1946, sponsored by the Armenian Teachers’ Association of Aleppo, which printed the works of many prominent writers, including Catholicos Karekin I Hovsepiants, Nigol Aghpalian, Vahan Tekeyan and Hagop Oshagan.
He wrote several novels, of which only two were printed. The first, Gu khntrvi khachatsevel [Please Overlap], was published in 1965, and the second, Anzhamantros, in 1978. Sharoyan points out that Simonian’s decision that the latter should only be disseminated after his death does not have any rational explanation and was “a wrong and an unjustifiable act” which lessened the impact of the novel on contemporary readers.
Sharoyan concludes his book with a description of Simonian’s 1983 visit to the United States, where he was honored in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia (the latter event hosted by the Tekeyan Cultural Association).
Simonian died on March 24, 1986 and his former student Catholicos Karekin I Sarkisian gave the eulogy. Sharoyan finds that “perhaps Simon Simonian did not receive the recognition he deserved for his literary accomplishments,” but that interest in his works increased after his death.
There are minor errors of language and editing in the volume. For example, on page 50 Sharoyan writes that in 1945 there were three Armenian literary periodicals in Aleppo, yet on the same page he writes that the third, Simonian’s Sevan, was first published in 1946.
At times, the author’s indulgent personal approach leads to what for most readers is superfluous information. For example, he declares: “Thirty years after Simonian’s death, as I write these sentences, let it be known that I recently procured a copy [of Anzhamantros] from our Kristapor Library and read the book patiently from the very beginning right to the very end.” However, overall the volume provides readers with a useful introduction to Simonian, and is illustrated with interesting photographs from the Simonian family archives.
"The Armenian-Mirror Spectator," January 18, 2018