No.19, Tuesday, 27 2012

The book's release in Yerevan is dedicated to Days of Ukrainian Culture

Days of Ukrainian Culture are scheduled in Armenia from March 21 to
March 28. Nayiri Publishers marked this occasion by printing Mykhailo
Kotsiubynsky's novelette Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors translated by
Raisa Karahesian, member of the National Writers' Union of Ukraine
and the Writers' Union of Armenia. The book also includes Sergey
Parajanov's essay "Eternal Motion." Thanks to Karahesian, since the
mid-1970s works by more than 30 Ukrainian writers have been published
in Armenian. Among those are Vasyl Zemliak, Yurii Mushketyk, Pavlo
Zahrebelny, Hryhir Tiutiunnyk, Yurii Shcherbak, Yurii Shevchuk,
Volodymyr Yavorivsky, Vasyl Shkliar, Oles Ulianenko, and Yevhen
Pashkovsky. And now a story by the famous Ukrainian prose writer and
an essay by not any less famous film director were added to that list.

We asked Karahesian what had suggested the idea of putting Kotsiubynsky
and the ingenious interpreter of his work, Parajanov, under one cover.

"It may seem strange, but the sad and tender story by Kotsiubynsky
reached Armenian readers in their native language just now. And it is
when everything that seemed to relate to Parajanov, who is literally
worshipped in Armenia, was already covered. The name itself, Shadows
of Forgotten Ancestors, became an aphorism among the Armenians, it
can be frequently found in the press as well as in oral communication.

That is why I have long had a dream to translate this story, but I just
did not dare to. Even Parajanov would not allow it to be dubbed in
Russian, and he did the right thing, by the way. Otherwise the movie
would have faded out. It is the marvelous Hutsul dialect that gives
so much color to the film. When I was preparing for the translation
and trying to read everything that is related to the story, I came
across an obscure essay by Paradzhanov, 'Eternal Motion.' This is
a quintessence of his contemplations as a director, the way he saw
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, and even more, it was his declaration
of love for Ukraine, its culture and history. Since I am Armenian and
a citizen of Ukraine, it was very important for me that my Armenian
fellow countrymen learn about this essay."

And still, you mustered enough courage and translated this story
into Armenain. Kotsiubynsky even created a dictionary of Hutsul
words and expressions to go along with the story. How did you work
on the translation?

"I had to look through quite a lot of various dictionaries, consult
the experts at the Lviv Department of the Rylsky Institute of Art,
Folklore Studies and Ethnology. But it helped me the most that like the
characters in the story, I was born and raised in Armenia's highlands,
Zangezur. Our dialect also differs from literary Armenian, just like,
let us say, the Hutsul dialect differs from Shevchenko's Ukrainian. So,
in order to add to the flavor of the written word, I often used the
Zangezur dialect, found equivalents to portray the everyday life of
highlanders, the way they kept house, their kolomyika songs, etc."

The book looks very elegant, and it is generously illustrated.

"Overall, it is designed for thoughtful readers, if I may put it like
this. Besides the literary version of the story, they will find its
brilliant interpretation by the Kyiv-based artist Heorhii Yakutovych,
who was also part of Parajanov's film crew. And Parajanov's essay is
illustrated with shots from the film that already became classic,
and also photos taken by Maestro himself. By the way, some of them
are published for the first time. That is why I would like to give
my thanks to Marta Dziuba, Roman Balaian, film critic Volodymyr
Voitenko, and cameraman Yurii Harmash, who provided truly rare and
unique photos for this book. I hope that it will be an unforgettable
experience for Armenian readers. Besides, they will be able to draw
something new for themselves from the foreword by Oleksandr Bozhko,
a literary critic and expert on Armenian studies. He tried to compare
these two distinct figures, who lived and created in different times
and under different conditions but, despite all the oppression,
remained faithful to their artistic vocation."

By the way, is Ukrainian literature well known in Armenia?

"Of course, those who want to know, do know. There are few of them,
but they do exist. But since I am an admirer of Ukrainian, I am
more worried by the state of the Ukrainian language and literature
in general in Ukraine itself. When classes on national history and
literature are cut down at schools, and spiritual cripples fill the
TV channels with junk, this cannot be called anything but mockery
of the culture and spirit of the Ukrainian nation. I will be honest,
such attitude would not be possible not only in Armenia, but in any
other country of the Southern Caucasus."

What are you working on now?

"I have mostly been translating modern Ukrainian literature, my
favorite Tiutiunnyk in particular. When his works were not published
in Ukraine during the Soviet time, in Armenia the numbers of prints
was large. And as far as I know, he received royalties for those. It
was very important for him, since he indeed was not showered with
royalties by the Soviet government. When Ukraine became independent,
I published a luxury volume of Ukrainian Folk Fairy Tales in 3,000
copies, which is a big number for Armenia. Later I prepared a
collection of young Ukrainian prose, for which I got an award from
a Yerevan-based magazine Garun (Spring).

"Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Kotsiubynsky was my first experience
with Ukrainian classics. While working on it, except for the pleasure
from coming in touch with the word of the great master, I felt
something like the touch of eternity. Also, it was an opportunity
to get to know the Ukrainian people and what we call the nation's
soul. That is why I decided to continue my experience with classics,
and now I am working on the translation of The Kaidash Family by Ivan
Nechui-Levytsky. It may sound a bit paradoxical, but in this novel,
written in the second half of the 19th century, besides ingeniously
portrayed Ukrainian characters, the reader will find an answer to
the question why Ukraine cannot manage itself, though it has a huge
economic and human potential, and the best soils in the world. So,
let us read the classics in order to understand ourselves!"