Deanna Cachoian-Schanz’s new translation of A BOOK, UNTITLED (Girqa-anvernagir, 2006) makes Shushan Avagyan’s revolutionary Armenian text available to English-speaking audiences.
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.
Written as a literary experiment, Girq-anvernagir was published as samizdat in Yerevan. As the reader navigates 26.5 chapters of seemingly unrelated vignettes, they discover that Avagyan, while writing the novel as a translator’s diary, is also mapping out a larger archival or archeological site: an imagined encounter between two early twentieth-century feminist writers, Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yesayan. Having been obscured and forgotten through both Stalin’s regime and the patriarchal rendering of the Armenian literary and historical canons, this book recovers the legacies of these two feminist authors.
Kurghinian’s and Yesayan’s imagined encounter is juxtaposed with a contemporary conversation between the novel’s unknown narrator—an archivist and translator referred to as the “typist/writer”—and her friend Lara, who are both piecing together the writers’ fragmented stories. Uncovering these stories is no easy task: documents are censored, authors uncited, and text is missing or italicized, as if in draft form.
If the reader finds themselves asking—How can we distinguish voices or why are they indistinguishable? Who has written, and who is writing?—then Avagyan has succeeded in her experiment to “deprivatize words,” enabling them to “belong neither to the typist/writer,” the translator, “nor to you, reader” so that instead, they “unite our past, present and future” (Girq-anvernagir, 106).
In this multi-authored experiment, penned yet anew by its translator, A Book, Untitled is perhaps best understood not as an original; not as a copy; it is an/other reading.
“History unravels as A Book, Untitled unearths an archive of two Armenian feminist
writers and activists. At once lyrical and theoretical, personal and protest, Avagyan’s
singular approach fabricates 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
“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
Fiction. Hybrid. History. LGBTQ+ Studies. Women's Studies.
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.
Author City: AUSTIN, TX USA
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.
Author City: Istanbul TUR