Below is the press release of the Gulbenkian Foundation, which circulated on September 10:
The entire oeuvre of Hagop Oshagan, one of the giants of Western Armenian Literature, is now online and easily accessible to all, free of charge. The digitized materials can be found on the website of the Digital Library of Classical Armenian Literature (Digilib) of the American University of Armenia. The project was supported by the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
Thanks to this initiative, some 30 books from the author, including all the volumes of the Panorama of Western Armenian Literature, The Humble Ones, Remnants, and many more difficult to find texts have been fully digitized and are available in a searchable format.
Vahe Oshagan once said, “Be careful and ready! You enter Hagop Oshagan’s word as one kind of person and you come out another person.” Those who have entered that world know, I think, the import of these words. And now, it is possible to go there, to that world–terrifying, dangerous, and complete.
The AUA Digilib has done a marvelous job in bringing to the Armenian reading world literary criticism, novels, plays and other writings of one of the most prolific writers of the past century.
Some years ago, an excerpt from Oshagan’s “Remnants” (Englished by the translator extraordinaire G.M. Goshgarian) was published on Words Without Borders, the website of international writing in translation. At the time I wrote in the introduction:
Oshagan poses huge challenges for his Armenian-language reader as well as his translator. This is one reason why Oshagan’s novels, which are in the tradition of Stendhal, Dostoyevsky, Proust and Joyce, are not more widely known. In addition to his formal complexity, Oshagan often seems deliberately ambiguous, the sequence of words pointing in several, often contradictory directions at the same time. The translator is tempted to make Oshagan accessible by standardizing his language, making it seem natural, in short, by domesticating its semantic multiplicities and harnessing its torrential energy.
In G. M. Goshgarian’s groundbreaking English rendition of Mnastortats, Oshagan’s novel has found its translator. Goshgarian has translated into English more Oshagan than anyone else, most of it as yet unpublished. He says: “Oshagan’s Armenian is not at all natural but barbarously beautiful.” Being faithful to Oshagan, therefore, can appear to be bad translation until the reader begins to understand the author’s logic, deliberate puzzlers, and snares. The meanings begin to multiply, and, to paraphrase Oshagan, the reader is home—in literature.
Now that the entirety of Oshagan’s known work is available, the challenge is real: The work must be read. It must be read against its difficulties, its snares, twists and turns, and equally important, its sometimes horrifying and horrific content (at least in the novels and the plays) and its always laser-sharp critical spirit. As Goshgarian says, the task is difficult and full of pitfalls which the translator knows well. But so does the reader, who is also a translator of sorts, from the conventional to the innovative, to a language that burns and lacerates and renews–barbarous and beautiful.