Deanna Cachoian-Schanz’s new translation of A BOOK, UNTITLED (Girq-anvernagir, 2006) makes Shushan Avagyan’s revolutionary Armenian text available to English-speaking audiences.
To read A BOOK, UNTITLED is to experience the erasure of two feminist literary giants of the early twentieth century: Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yesayan. Written as a literary experiment, Book puts an imagined 1926 meeting between Kurghinian and Yesayan in conversation with the contemporary narrator's efforts to unearth their fragmented stories. Excavating these narratives from the censorship of Stalin's regime and the patriarchal lens that structures the Armenian literary canon is no easy task; documents have been redacted, authors are uncited, texts have been left unfinished. And yet, through these aporias, Book urges its readers to reimagine the past so that the present might be lived otherwise.
Fiction. Hybrid. History. LGBTQ+ Studies. Women's Studies.
“Fragments whirl, voices resound, a history unravels: Shushan Avagyan’s A BOOK, UNTITLED, translated by Deanna Cachoian-Schanz, echoes the text’s own articulation of a work “Re-cognized. Re-solved. Re-membered.” Avagyan’s intertextual imaginary unearths an archive of two Armenian feminist writers and activists, performing the “wordwork” that severs censorship and binds citation to fabulation. As lyrical as it is theoretical, and as personal as it is protest, this singular approach to autotheory through the lens of translation cracks open the contours of Armenian literature and history. What results is a polyvocal palimpsest tinged with exile and opacity, distortion and estrangement. Authorship, and the hegemony from which it hails, will never be the same. ” — Alex Brostoff, co-translator of Ailton Krenak's LIFE IS NOT USEFUL
“A BOOK, UNTITLED is an absorbing, moving literary experiment.” — Alistair Ian Blyth
“The English-speaking world already owes Shushan Avagyan a tremendous debt for her essential translations of the Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky. Now she has composed a brilliant novel of her own. A BOOK, UNTITLED is a powerful pastiche of voices and eras, as well as a feminist reclamation of Armenian women writers lost to time. For all its shifting, its purposeful resistance, its sharpness and darkness, I found this book simply delightful.” — Martin Riker, author of THE GUEST LECTURE
"Written in fragments, excerpts of dialogue, quotations, parts of poems, and imagined postcards, Shushan Avagyan’s A Book, Untitled poses the question: how does writing create understanding? In commendation of two largely ignored Armenian women writers—Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yesayan—this book is a kind of answer." —Micheline Aharonian Marcom
“Avagyan’s book is completely new writing within the Armenian world, as much in its form and mode as in its content.” — Marc Nichanian, author of WRITERS OF DISASTER: ARMENIAN LITERATURE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Author Website Review @ The Armenian WeeklyReview @ Big Other
Shushan Avagyan is the author of the novels Girq- anvernagir (A Book, Untitled, 2006) and Zarubyani Kanayq (2014). She has translated into English a volume of Shushanik Kurghinian's poetry, and critical works by Boris Arvatov and Viktor Shklovsky. She currently lives in Yerevan and teaches at the American University of Armenia.
Deanna Cachoian-Schanz (b. 1987) is a translator and literary theorist who writes on translation, gender and nationalism, and technologies of race in the geographies of Armenia, Turkey, and their diasporas. Having called these places, and likewise Italy and her native New York home, she is currently based in Istanbul as she completes her dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania.