With Hakob Karapents

Prior to our first meeting, a certain connection was created between the two of us, through lively correspondence and then the books he published, about which I had written briefly in the Armenian press.

Every writer transmits something from his environment, giving an outline of the time period of his life. In this way, he becomes the voice of his time.

Karapents was one of the diasporan Armenian writers who embraced the present in his works and, by an inner impulse, discussed issues that were connected to the post-war (World War II) daily and intellectual life of the Diaspora.

Antranig Sarian, an erudite intellectual and well-known author, wrote the following about Karapents: “In the diasporan literary field, he is the master of broad-based, profound prose writing, with a marvelous style and crystalline language. Undeniably one of the aesthetes of high caliber, who knows how to captivate with the force of his art.”

Karapents’s language is fresh and vivid. Our golden language blossoms with unequaled beauty in every line of every page. For that reason, it would be impossible to present his prolific oeuvre in a compact manner.

He expressed human emotions, troubles, miseries and vexations. He knew how to move the reader, and both the individual and the universal were equally reflected from the source of his inspiration.

Karapents’s whole life became a mission devoted to Armenian literature and culture. The passion of reading and researching had totally infected his being. In one of his letters, he wrote: “Everyone has his profession, within the limits of his ability. My case is the same too. Let others run meetings. We are writers and our work is just as important as public, organizational life.”

On another occasion, that of my review of one of his books:

“I was delighted to read your review of Amerigian Shurchbar (American Rondo), in which you managed to not only express the book’s essence but also reveal the author’s identity and literary creed, by quoting thoughts and ideas from his writings and public addresses.”

Karapents was sparing when it came to talking about himself. He believed that being read a lot was not invariably a criterion of literary value. He also believed that when literary persons meet each other, a communion of souls is created, which contributes to the survival of our culture.

In my writings, I have often touched upon his persona, because, in writing about the writer’s work, my aim has been to reveal the true man, without unnecessary effusions and adjectives. For that reason, Karapents felt obliged and wrote: “Thank you for humanizing the writer, something which many have ignored.”

The 40th year of Karapents’s literary activity was celebrated community wide in Chicago in September 1986, with the author present.

This became my first meeting with this very talented writer.

That evening, his topic was “The Armenia’s and Armeniaca in American Literature.” His presentation was a rather lengthy study that was so important that I wrote down his reflections.

“From the very start, I have considered myself an experimental as well as an experimentalist writer, one who tries to first find himself, and then experiment with his art, always striving to discover, besides himself, unexcavated paths of form and content.

“I’m a product of the Diaspora, more diasporan Armenian than Iranian-Armenian or American-Armenian. I don’t know any other world besides the Diaspora and, with all its contradictions, I feel at home in its camps, sometimes even feeling cosmopolitan. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I only know that we constitute a bridge between the generation that survived the deserts and the generation of the recent dispersion, a formidable mission that reality has thrust upon our shoulders. My field of vision is the world and, in this case, America, where I’ve lived most of my life, adapting to the land and people, as an amphibious being, sometimes wriggling in the endless tunnels of dichotomy, but always knowing my proprietary right because, in my opinion, the purpose of art is not and cannot be moral admonition if we are trying to reach the source of truth.”

Karapents, having created a firm ground on foreign soil, had his unique world through the literature he cultivated, and he experienced the emotional state of Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be.”

Following his jubilee celebration, I spent some enjoyable and precious momen’s with Karapents. It is rare for such dynamism of thoughts and emotions to be created in the intimacy of one’s home.

Karapents’s creed was that diasporan Armenian literature has to present our individual and collective crises, the generation gap, the elusive issue of Armenian national preservation, the ebbing of traditions, the marked transformation in values and customs, and the new, cosmopolitan Armenian, who is caught between building an economic foundation and the diminishing echoes of his ancestral voice.

This then is the stage, on which Karapents attempted to give voice to his characters, viewing the good and the bad through his own experience.

Allegorically, his literature reflects our struggle on behalf of our bloody cause, our identity. Protest and outcry against the injustices having befallen us.

He lived in seclusion, far from the hustle and bustle of cities, ruminating over plans to enrich Armenian literature with new creative works. He often used to say, “Every time I plunge into work, I don’t have any rest for months on end.”

Karapents felt fully satisfied when he freely expressed his thoughts, with the reading public as his listeners.

“The Diaspora has arrived, as both psychology and totality. As a part of that totality, I am trying to reflect that reality, independent of whether it is positive or negative,”

In recent years, especially after the reestablishment of independence in Armenia, his journalistic pieces had created great interest among a select group of readers.

As a talented writer and proficient journalist, Karapents had something to say, which was balanced and had a worthiness that suited his character.

Generally speaking, he avoided polemics but he courageously expressed his opinion. Some weren’t content, sometimes even discontent, but he believed in the golden rule of sincerity.

“I have a lot to say, but I can’t do it in letters. We’ll converse at length when we meet,” he wrote in his last letter to me.

Alas, that meeting didn’t take place due to his untimely death. In these days, in today’s hectic life, a reborn Karapents is so much needed on these shores.


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One Comment;

  1. Angineh Boghozian said:

    Hello there,
    I was very happy to come across this article, a very interesting piece of writing about writer’s inner world.
    I couldn’t find the name of this article’s contributor, but I am writing in hope that you could reply to me via email.
    A group of young talented Armenians are performing Karapents’s “The Book of Adam” on live stage at Atwater Village Theater in Los Angeles in late January 2017. If you are interested with his work I would encourage you to go see the show. Please let me know if you would like more information on this.