Hovsep Nalbandyan: “I live in Los Angeles, but my heart is in the Homeland, and the Homeland gives me energy; it is my backbone”

Los Angeles-based Armenian writer, publicist, editor, public, political and national figure, literary critic and bibliographer Hovsep Nalbandyan was recently hosted at the editorial office of Hayern Aysor. Although this was not my first interview with Hovsep Nalbandyan, I always admire his prolific and substantial activities. This time, I discovered the image of Hovsep Nalbandyan the Armenian from different angles. I learned that he had participated in and been wounded 11 times during the first Syrian war while serving in the Syrian army as a Syrian national back in 1980-82. I also learned that Hovsep Nalbandyan had worked for four days in the zone of the earthquake that shocked Armenia…

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Nalbandyan, as I look at you, it would never cross my mind that you have faced so many hardships, but work like a bee and publish books to this day. How is it that you are so diligent and goal-oriented?

Hovsep Nalbandyan: It is my nature and a gift from God…Over the past 18 years, I have published 38 books, 18 of which are my books (5,840 pages). I have published them in 28,200 copies and have donated 9,200 of those books to individuals, all the schools in Armenia and Artsakh, as well as Armenian schools, colleges and universities based in 9 countries.

Karine Avagyan: As far as I know, in addition to the tremendous work that you have done, you also teach.

Hovsep Nalbandyan: I was born in Aleppo where I served as the principal of the Mesropian Armenian School in 1992-93. I had many plans. My brother, who is based in the United States of America, asked if I would like to go to the United States. I said I would, and I legally immigrated to the United States where I worked for Massis Weekly for four years. Currently, I work at Mashtots College and teach Armenian at the Beverly Hills International Language Institute. The students of the Institute learn 20 languages, but unfortunately, there are few students who wish to study Armenian. The prices are affordable, but Armenian students aspire to learn foreign languages. For instance, there are more students in the Chinese language class than in the Armenian language class. Besides teaching, I am also entirely devoted to writing and publishing books. In a couple of months, three of my friends and I will release the Modern Pocket Dictionary featuring Armenian words in the classic orthography. It will contain about 15-16,000 words.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Nalbandyan, let’s talk about your three-volume book and Avedis Razmig’s 362-page book “Carousel of Life”, which were recently presented during an event held at Avetik Isahakyan Library.

Hovsep Nalbandyan: The three books are entitled “Armenian Short Stories” and feature the works of Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian and Diaspora Armenian writers (60 authors, 70 short stories, 2 of which are mine). I had invited canon player Mariana Grigoryan, tar player Mikael Voskanyan and singer Arsen Hambaryan to the book presentation held at Avetik Isahakyan Library. The event began with a welcoming speech by President of the Union of Writers of Armenia Eduard Militonyan, followed by speeches by Deputy Minister of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia and literary critic Serzh Srapionyan; Professor of Philological Sciences, Head of the Center for Diaspora Studies at the Armenian State Pedagogical University Suren Danielyan; Head of the Chair of Literature of the Faculty of Philology at Yerevan State University, Professor Samvel Muradyan and literary critic, Turkologist Elina Mirzoyan. I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone and to the Library’s director Hasmik Karapetyan. The second part of the presentation featured a speech by historian and editor Kevork Yazichian, after which national figure and publicist Avedis Razmig, who is an alumnus of the Faculty of History at Yerevan State University, expressed his words of gratitude. The books were also presented during an event held at the regional library in Armavir Province on May 10.

Karine Avagyan: Who sponsors the publication of your books?

Hovsep Nalbandyan: I have three sponsors-me, Hovsep and Nalbandyan (I take care of all the expenses and solve all the problems by myself).

Karine Avagyan: What always guides you to books and literature? You could have also been a successful businessman in a country like the United States of America.

Hovsep Nalbandyan: What always guides me is my love for the nation that drives me crazy, my worship for Armenian language, literature and books and my feelings of patriotism. I never wanted to leave philology behind. For 30 consecutive years, there has not been any other alumnus of the Faculty of Philology who has published this many books. Two years ago, Artsrun Aleksanyan published a book about me that was entitled “The Devotee of Armenian Culture” and dedicated to the 35th anniversary of my career. I am devoted to Armenian culture from head to toe.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Nalbandyan, do you express yourself better as a prose writer, as a publicist or as a researcher?

Hovsep Nalbandyan: I express myself better as a prose writer, as a publicist and as a researcher. I must also say that I have written about 50-52 poems, but I lost my notebook.

Karine Avagyan: Dear compatriot, I congratulate you on the release of your books and express my admiration and amazement. You have been writing books for many years. Do you have time for family and friends?

Hovsep Nalbandyan: I love to interact with people. I am the Vice-President of the Armenian Writers Association of California and am an active member of the AGBU. I am also a member and secretary of various non-governmental and benevolent unions. I always interact with people, but most of all-with books.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Nalbandyan, what does your hometown and the Homeland mean to you?

Hovsep Nalbandyan:  I left Aleppo 24 years ago and really miss my hometown. The words “hometown” says it all. I would like to return, but unfortunately, today, 70 percent of the 5,000-year-old Aleppo is currently destroyed…The Homeland! For me, the Homeland is my identity, a familiar land where I studied at and graduated from the Faculty of Philology at Yerevan State University. I am grateful to that temple of Light and the great scholars and lecturers. The Homeland is my backbone. I live in Los Angeles, but I visit the Homeland often because this is where my heart is, and it gives me energy.

Interview by Karine Avagyan

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