BOSTON—Zabel Yessayan is remembered as one of the most talented and prolific Western Armenian writers of the modern era. Yet few of her works have been translated into Western languages, and even fewer into English.
The first book by Yessayan, “The Gardens of Silihdar,” offers a charming account of the author’s childhood in Istanbul as well as insights into Armenian life in the Ottoman capital in the late 19th century. Jennifer Manoukian, of Columbia University, translated the book and added copious notes to explain the people, places, and events chronicled there.
The second book, “My Soul in Exile,” is a novel depicting the dilemma of the artist in society, and also analyzes the psychological effects of the rootlessness experienced by diasporan Armenians. The setting is the critical period in Turkey following the Adana massacres of 1909 and preceding the outbreak of World War I. The novel is translated by G. M. Goshgarian, and the book includes essays and other short works by Yessayan.
The team of AIWA members who conceived the project, arranged for the translations, and edited the selections – Judith A. Saryan, Barbara Merguerian, Danila Terpanjian, and Joy Renjilian-Burgy — will present the books and read brief passages. Translator Jennifer Manoukian will also participate in the program.
Writer, activist, and feminist Zabel Yessayan (1878-1943) was one of the most prominent Armenian intellectuals of her lifetime. Her prolific works in a variety of genres (short stories, essays, novels, travelogs) reflect the cataclysmic events experienced by the Armenians during those years and enjoyed great popularity when they were published. Today they are almost forgotten.
The Yessayan books are parts of AIWA’s Treasury of Armenian Women’s Literature series, which focus on the pioneering female Armenian-language writers. Many of these authors (for example Srpuhi Dussap, Sibyl, Zaruhi Kalemkiarian) are virtually unknown today, even among Armenian-educated readers, and their works – many published in small editions or in rare periodicals – are difficult to locate.
The Yessayan books are $20 each, both books are available for $35 (AIWA member price $15 each, two books for $30). Send your order to firstname.lastname@example.org or purchase them through Amazon or bookstores featuring books of Armenian interest.