Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ռոբինզոն 

Translator – Nazareth Seferian, Nairi Hakhverdi, Arevik Askharayan, Nyree Abrahamian

Source – review copy

I have reviewed the debut novel by Aram Pachyan a couple of years ago. This was meant to be part of a collection of books from Armenia that Glasgoslav had brought out and Aram was to give a speech about writing here is that speech.  which I really enjoyed so I am pleased to review this short story collection from one of the leading writers in Armenia. This book won the presidential prize in Armenia. His books have topped the chart in his home country. His works have been adapted into Musicals and experimental play of his book goodbye bird which I reviewed here.

He opened the box with his eyes closed, his breayth held. The colourful ornaments were quietly asleep on the cream-couloured paper. On the surface of those decorations, he saw the sad reflection of his face and the curvy shadows od his pointy hair. In the box, there were layers upon layers of ornaments and streamers hich adorned their christmas tree every year. The small plastic Christmas tree that his parents had brought in the city of Vandzor a long time ago, even before he was born. It’s skelton had grown weak over the years, its green leaves had melted here and there from the heat of the lights. Every year, when he placed the tree, his father would use a copper wire to fasten the tree’s thin trunk to the four legged base, so that it would not fall over.

A proustian moment of a christmas tree remember a close moment with his father.

This is a collection of 16 stories that seem to capture what it is like growing up in Armenia and also the loneliness of modern life. The title story is a nod to the ultimate tale of being alone that of Robinson Crusoe. A series of letters between   Robinson and Friday that then leads to children and their teacher. This gives the tale of being alone a modern twist. Elsewhere there are street chess players. A young boy falls for the local girl of his dreams of her in a sexual way then later on he takes a local girl he has fallen for out she gets drunk he has to go back to the same aunt for some money to bail him out. There are dreams of escape where a young boy reads of Toronto and dreams of escaping there. Mothers trying to sort out their drunk husband by drugging the father to keep him from drinking is observed by a child. In places, the tales feel personal as a number of the characters are called Aram. The most touching was a son whose father is dying remembering the closeness the putting of up of the tree brought him and his father. Who is dying in the hospital he wonders if his father sees a tree there in the hospital and is remembering those moments as well !!

I was embarrassed: how could I ask those boys for more money when they had worked all day like slaves? No, I couldn’t ask them .. What should I do …What should I do ? The thought was born in my head scared me , but the fear felt very pleasent, for the first time I wished to properly feel fear, it was like being run over by a car, when you somehow avoid the blow and manage to calm down afterwards …How I went, I don’t know.. Did I go, did my childhood go? I don’t know. I knocked on the apartment door of number 19 and Lia opened it

Having been made broke by the drunk local beauty he goes to his aunt for some money.

On the back cover, it says the stories contain the inescapable loneliness of people in the modern world. It is a hard world at times he describes tough times tough people also a world where drink and violence can just bubble below the surface. These are great observational pieces the little everyday things are captured here. The despair of a story like John Cheever swimmer can be seen in this collection the despair in the modern world but also the dreams of past and future at times. This lifts the lid on a hard life and a world that we can be thankful we aren’t in.

Jalaleddin by Raffi



























Jalaleddin (A portrayal of his incursion) by Raffi

Armenian fiction

Orginal title – Ջալալեդդին

Translator – Beyon Miloyan and Kimberley McFarlane

Source – review copy

Hakob Melik Hakobian or as he was better known was considered the father of the historical novel in Armenia. Grew up in an Iranian Armenian family in the northwestern of Iran. He was taught by the local priest till he was twelve. Then was sent out to a renowned boarding school in Tbilisi. Then he spent time traveling in the Armenian border areas of Eastern and Western provinces where he saw for himself that villagers largely unarmed that were under constant attack from either the Turks or Kurds.. These travels and what he saw affect his writing but also led him to want to teach his fellow countrymen of the plight and what to do with it. This is his best-known book he wrote many other works which I hope Sophene the publisher will consider translating.

He was approaching thirty years of age. His face was pallid and hairless, his cheeks were dry, and his jaw protuded. His thin, gray lips often revealed his sno-white teeth. His black, curly hair fell upon his bare , sunburnt shoulders. His forehead bore a deep scar, which gavehis face a frightening appearence, but he nonetheless retained a distinctive masculine beauty that reflected bravery and ciurage and ferocity.

The young man was tall and lean, with strongbones and a muscular build. He was dressed like a kurd and fully armed; his asian rifle and scimitar, pair of pistols, metals sheild and long spear looked as though they were part of his body

The young man as he first appears in the book.

Set in Eastern Anatolian Mountains and the villages in that region during the Russo-Turkish war from May 1877. This is a young man’s journey into the horror that follows that attacks in that region. Dressed like a Kurd with a rifle he sets off in a valley he had been in before where he had once heard shepherds sing and life but now there was none he meets some Kurd warriors that offer him food but he isn’t in the mood to eat. Then he finds and Buries his father he buries him but instead of turning back he is drawn nearer the violence of the war and what is happening to the people of the region. The story is told in short chapters as we follow this young man as his eyes are opened and he sees the Ashbak area twenty-four villages of Armenians wiped out by Jalaleddin and his Kurds have ravaged the land. The Kurds is driven by their Bigotted ideas and love of pillaging. Can the young man turn the table round?

Having buried his father’s body in his simple grave, the young man continued on his journey. He was traveling like a mad-man, trapped in bitter thoughts. He had lost his father,mother and brother and sisters, and was now in a state of doubt about the one he loved. He hurried onward, but there was still a ling way to go until he reached her village.

He was taking impenterable passages, surrounded by cliffs, shrubs and bushes, and thourgh which a whole army could have remained hidden from the eyes of the traveller, so he was suprised to ear mysterious sounds followed by his name being called:”Sarhat,Sahrat!”Who could it be? there is hardly a man in that area who could have recognized him, and although he had friends, hehad sent the away on a number of errands a few days ago.

He has his quest the reason for his being there.

This is the second book from Armenia I have read one Modern and this a classic the linking factor is War the new novel showed the aftereffects of War on a single person whereas this is a descriptive work on the aftermath of war on a population the young man remembers the villages and hills with the shepherds and even his own family. This is based on the effects of the war Raffi saw for himself at the time. Although a work of fiction in the afterword it is pointed out that some of the characters are thinly veiled references to real people at the time. This is a short book told in choppy compact chapters that are like dispatches from the frontline of the Russio- Turkish war and the aftermath on the Christian population of Anatolia.

Goodbye, bird by Aram Pachyan

Goodbye, Bird

Goodbye, bird by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ցտեսություն,_Ծիտ

Translator – Nairi Hakhverdi

Source – review copy

Well, I haven’t added many new countries in recent times, since getting over 100 countries the task gets harder. So every time I come to a new country to review a book from it is a bonus.This is another title from Glagoslav and their decision to bring us lit from a lot of Post-Soviet countries this time Armenia. This book was a best seller in its homeland.Aram Pachyan was born into a family of doctors and studied law. But also wrote getting his first story published in 2007 he now works as a journalist and columnist and hosts a radio show. This was the first novel after he had a collection of short stories.

I am 28 years old. That’s what it says at the beginning of every page of his notebook, which he opens every hour and leafs through, and incessantly repeats it with his skin turning dark red with anxeity, first looking at his arms to check that two has not suddenly turned into three.then he hangs his melon-looking head like the limp head of a dead man over one of the pages in his notebook and write two will never become three, because after being discharged the only governor of space and time is you, just like your grandfater who, at the break of dawn, finally closed the books on history.

The opening line shows the complex nature of this book

This novel finds a 28-year man has returned to his hometown and is now trying to piece together his life. The man is fragment like the book itself which drifts through time as we see his childhood years the friends he had then. Then the major part of his life in the Army seeing action losing comrades as he remembers a cat called bird, returns home and regains a girlfriend. But all in a fragmented style of almost PTSD world of the ex-soldier it all harks back to events in the army one horrific events and his trying to piece all this together and move forward. But there is also the everyday side of life listening to pink Floyd discovering Madame Bovary and other things as he pieces his world together.

“Everyone is guilty of my suicide. Is this not your creation, a mutual killing factory where time is killed until it’s time to kill and where everyone is forced to wait until the next time to kill, and then the next, the next time to kill, until a sniper’s bullet bores into your eye and you retun home for the last time,even if it’s in eternal silence in a coffin

This reminds us of the brutal nature of war at times and the repative effect of being in battle.

This is like a giant jigsaw of a book the pieces are there but this is like opening the box and piece it together without a picture. It is a young man’s world but told from his view others point of view and in a third voice at times. This makes it a compelling and challenging piece of prose. I was reminded at times of another recent book the novel Fado Alexandrino even down to what one may say is a feeling of Saudade in that book is also tinged in this book. A man looking back as well to his life in the army in the army and after the army.Also how to deal with PTSD in the fragmented nature is about trying to grasp life once again.  This was one of the most challenging books I have read recently but also one of the most interesting for any world lit fan this is an interesting first book from Armenia to read.

April 2021


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