Varand Kurkchian: The genius of Armenians has no end, in spite of our enemies”

From October 8 to 12, Tsaghkadzor hosted the 6th Pan-Armenian Conference of Diaspora Armenian Writers Composing in Armenian and Foreign Languages, gathering many Armenian writers from different countries around the world. Among the participants of the conference was President of the Union of Armenian Writers of Iran, poet, translator Varand Kurkchian, whom I had the opportunity to interview for Hayern Aysor. The following is the interview with Varand Kurkchian:

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kurkchian, how was the conference for you? The conference is over, and now, as we take a look back, what are your thoughts about the conference that gathered Armenians from different parts of the world?

Varand Kurkchian: The conference was rather well-organized. It was effective and goal-oriented in the sense that Armenian writers of the world met and interacted with each other in the Homeland, which conveys energy to Armenians living abroad. The conference also helps create opportunities for Diaspora Armenian writers to collaborate with Armenia’s writers and for communities to work together. The ideas, opinions and proposals can’t be fruitful at once. It is necessary to take the time to implement them. Being the descendant of an extended family that underwent the pain and suffering of the Armenian Genocide and lived with the memories of the slaughter in their souls, there is one major and well-known truth, that is, there is no end for genius Armenians and the Armenians in general, in spite of the Armenians’ enemies.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kurkchian, are there more poets than prose writers among the members of the Union of Armenian Writers of Iran?

Varand Kurkchian: Let me start with the young people. Their elder pen pals give them advice on which genre they can be more successful in. However, before giving them advice, we elders try to help them enhance their knowledge of Armenian. There are as many verse writers as there are prose writers among the successful writers. Due to the events that have taken place in the recent decades and generally the chaos in the Middle East, most of the 200-250,000 members of the Iranian-Armenian community of the 1970s emigrated and, fortunately, there were also many Iranian-Armenians who moved to Armenia…However, the emigration of those writers also had a major impact on literature.

Karine Avagyan: It is no secret that there is almost nobody writing historical novels. The field is in decline, don’t you agree?

Varand Kurkchian: I agree. Writing a historical novel is not easy. It is time-consuming. The chronicler should study the era well, have precise information and be as objective as possible…

Karine Avagyan: No matter how much a chronicler tries to be objective, he will definitely show subjectivity…For instance, I write about the current era and have my personal views on certain phenomena and individuals. This means that there will be less objectivity to a certain extent, meaning a chronicler can’t present the precise documents in his book. What do you have to say about this?

Varand Kurkchian: I definitely agree. Even the sympathy or apathy that many Armenian historians have had towards the royal dynasties of their times may be a deviation from objectivity. No matter how much a historian or writer tries to be impartial, this phenomenon is somewhat inevitable when it comes to creating historical novels. There are so many topics that can become topics for a historical novel…For instance, there can be a novel about Archimandrite Khachatur Kesaratsi, who established the first printing device for the Middle East in New Julfa, or founder of Azdarar (the first Armenian print newspaper in Madras), Priest Harutyun Shmavonyan…

The publication of Armenian historical novels is in decline. Of course, this is a painful phenomenon because stunning works can be created through a historical novel. As Kostan Zaryan said, the history of Armenian people has yet to be completely disclosed.

Karine Avagyan: My compatriot, you are a poet. Have you ever made an attempt to write a historical novel?

Varand Kurkchian: Forty days ago, I saw a book devoted to Levon Shant and published in 1921. This served as a ground for me to conduct research and write a novel devoted to the seizure of the citadel in Yerevan, Artaz province, Tavriz, memorials, as well as the actors, actresses and intellectuals who worked in Tavriz in that era. I have created a 300-400-page novel entitled “Kaghaqe” (The City). When passing through Tavriz, Levon Shant receives a letter from a person of Armenian descent stating that the word “kaghaq” (city in Armenian) is spelled the same backwards, and I chose this word, which is grammatical word. However, that novel of mine contains four cities, including Yerevan, Tavriz, Tehran and Cairo. Hundreds of characters can be identified and created through one novel…

Karine Avagyan: How many writers are members of the Union of Armenian Writers of Iran?

Varand Kurkchian: There are nearly 30 writers. We also have a department for young writers. We provide them with guidance and hold meetings with them, but we don’t interfere much in their work and try not to pressure them with our consistency.

Karine Avagyan: How many books have you written?

Varand Kurkchian: I have written 34 books, most of which are collections of poems. I also have poems, plays, literary critiques and translations from English and French. I have translated the works of my preferred authors.

Karine Avagyan: I am aware that the participants of this conference also addressed the translation of books. There were translators whose presence served as a wonderful opportunity for them to interact with different writers and get acquainted with their works. As a translator, what is your message in relation to translations?

Varand Kurkchian: It was very nice to see translators at the conference. Translation is very important for a writer to become internationally recognized. A writer won’t become recognized only in his environment. If the works of Shakespeare, Balzak, Maupassant and other foreign writers were not translated, how would Armenian readers know about them? After the conference, we visited Oshakan where I was granted the first prize for Best Translated Book of the Year. The book is entitled “Contemporary Iranian Poetry”. It is a 212-page anthology featuring the works of the 100 top Persian poets whose works have been translated from the original. I have tried to translate the works of each author in my own way.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Kurkchian, please, tell us about yourself and your roots. In our conversation before the interview, you told me that you received your education abroad.

Varand Kurkchian: I was born in Tehran. My grandparents are from Western Armenia (Karin). During the massacres, my father’s side lost 19 relatives, and my mother’s side – 26. During those days, my grandfather was saved by chance in the nearby settlement, but he lost his wife and three-year-old daughter. Later, he settled in Kutais and started a second family after getting married to the daughter of a Russian and a Greek in Kharkow. My mother’s family was in the desert. Later, my family went to the southern part of Iran…It is the luck and destiny of an Armenian…I am a philologist by profession, but I also paint and write songs. I have written the most songs in the Diaspora. I received my education in Iran, France and Great Britain. My father was a weightlifting champion, and my mother worked at a sewing factory. In the 1970s, I learned French from the family of an attaché of the French embassy living in our building, and my grandmother taught me Russian. I write, translate, paint and teach, but now I have decided to dedicate myself entirely to the fine arts.

This is how my interesting interlocutor was, our talented compatriot Varand Kurkchian, who talked not only about the conference, but also his life, which is also very important and interesting and is a story of the life and pro-national activities of the descendant of Armenians who were deported.

Karine Avagyan

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