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20th Century Armenian Literature in France. Book Presentation by Christopher Atamian. Tuesday, May 23 7PM.

Beledian50YearsCoverA critically-acclaimed survey of Armenian literature in twentieth-century France will be presented at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 7PM by Christopher Atamian, translator of the newly-published English edition.

Fifty Year of Armenian Literature in France, by Krikor Beledian, examines Armenian literature as it emerged in France between 1922 and the beginning of the 1970’s. Its goals are several; first of all, to retrace the literary history of the period starting with Armenian immigration until the passing away of the movement’s main representatives. Then by examining the most significant works, to study the issues raised by a literature of exile, one born after an event that was experienced and interpreted as a “national catastrophe”: the identity crisis (the Same), brought about by a violent confrontation with a new environment (the Other), the emergence of a new identity and the long process to integrate exile and the foreign space.2017-05 AtamianBeledian.001

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French-Armenian writer and critic Krikor Beledian was born in Beirut, Lebanon where he attended the renowned Armenian “Jemaran” Preparatory School before moving to Paris in 1967.  He holds PhDs in Philosophy and in Comparative Literature from the University of Paris V.

Entitled Cinquante ans de littérature arménienne en France: Du même à l’autre in its original French edition, the work was published in Paris in 2001 and met with wide critical acclaim.

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Christopher Atamian will present his newly-published English edition of Krikor Beledian’s Fifty Years of Armenian Literature in France on May 23 at the Zohrab Center.

Christopher Atamian is a frequent visitor to the Zohrab Center, where he has spoken many times, most recently as coordinator of the popular ZIC Film Series. A native New Yorker, Atamian is an internationally known writer, translator, journalist, critic and filmmaker. He writes for publications such as the New York Times Book Review, The Huffington Post, The Beirut Daily Star, the New Criterion, Dance Magazine and is the former dance critic for The New York Press. He produced the OBIE Award-winning play Trouble in Paradise and was included in the 2009 Venice Biennale for his video Sarafian’s Desire. He has translated five books and written one novel and is currently at work on several book projects, one translation, a book of Bedros Keljik stories as editor, and a second novel, as well as producing and directing television, film and theater and his first anthology of poetry, which follows on his being included in An Anthology of Armenian Poets. Atamian is the recipient of numerous grants, awards and fellowships including the Tololyan Literary Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship, a John Harvard Fellowship, the Bronfman Fellowship in Democratic Enterprise at Columbia University, Gulbenkian and AGBU grants, an AFFMA film making grant, and a 2015 Ellis Island Award. His lectures at the Zohrab Information Center on film are part of his work, “Deconstructing Ararat,” a volume on Armenian Cinema which is forthcoming. He is fluent in ten languages and is an alumnus of Harvard University, Columbia Business School and USC Film School.

The book presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York at 7PM. Books will be available for sale. All are welcome and a reception will follow.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

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Susan Barba to Present New Collection of Poems. Thursday, May 11.

BarbaFairSunCoverPoet, translator and editor Susan Barba will present her first collection of poetry entitled Fair Sun at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, May 11 at 7pm in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese.

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The wide-ranging works in the collection include a series of prose poems titled “Andranik.” In these poems, a child is speaking with her grandfather who relates, in answer to her questioning, the details of his survival during the Armenian Genocide: his escape, the murder of his father, the suicide of his sister, the death of his best friend, forced marches, enslavement – all punctuated by memories of an earlier boyhood spent chasing ducks, swimming in the river, sleeping on mats under the stars.

Benjamin Paloff, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan writes, “Few poets are, for me, so rich in gifts and so graceful in the giving.”

Susan Barba web-9101-media squareSusan Barba’s work has been published in Poetry, Boston Review, The Hudson Review, The Yale Review, Antioch Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. She is a co-editor of I Want to Live: Poems of Shushanik Kurghinian (AIWA Press), and she has translated and published poems by Vahan Teryan and Siamanto. She received a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University, and an M.F.A. from Boston University. She has taught in the Writing Program at Boston University and is currently a senior editor with New York Review Books. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two children.

The book presentation and reading will take place at the Zohrab Center of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York. It is free and open to the public. All are invited to attend and to enjoy a wine and cheese reception afterwards. Copies of Dr. Barba’s new book will be available for sale.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army. Book Presentation by Adrienne G. Alexanian

2017-04 ForcedGenocide-page-001Adrienne G. Alexanian will present her newly-edited book, Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, April 6 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Forced into Genocide is the the riveting memoir of Alexander’s father, Yervant Edward Alexander, an eye-witness to the massacre and dislocation of his family and countrymen in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. Incredibly, Alexanian experienced the Armenian Genocide as a conscript in the Turkish army. His memoir is a one-of-a-kind “insider’s account” documenting the Genocide’s astonishing cruelty—but also its rare, unexpected acts of humanity.

Already widely-acclaimed by such notable figures as Dr. Taner Akçam, Dr. Vartan Gregorian, Eric Bogosian and Andrew Goldberg, this book, with its utterly unique perspective, includes rare documents and photos that the author preserved.

Yervant Alexanian was born in Sivas, Turkey. He survived the Hamidian massacres as an infant to later fight for survival as a conscript in the Ottoman Turkish Army during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. He fled to America in 1920, where he spent his life advocating justice for his people.

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The book features an introduction by Dr. Sergio La Porta, Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies at Fresno State University; and a foreword by the Genocide scholar Israel W. Charny.

Adrienne G. Alexanian, editor of the book, is an educator and is active in charitable, educational, volunteer and cultural endeavors within the Armenian community in New York, where over the years she has served on dozens of committees and boards. She received the Ellis Island Award in 2010. She spent years preparing her father’s manuscripts for publication.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow Ms. Alexanian’s presentation, and books will be available for sale.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Hrair Hawk Khatcherian to Present New Magnificent Album on Khatchkars on Thursday, March 30.

IMG_3597Acclaimed photographer Hrair Hawk Khatcherian will present his new, massive album entitled, Khatchkar [Խաչքար] at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 30 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Spanning over 500 pages and including well over 1000 exquisite photographs, Khatcherian’s unprecedented photographic compilation comprises easily the most comprehensive photographic documentation of the signature sacred art form of the Armenian people.

Khatchkars are intricately adorned crosses sculpted into stone, which are ubiquitous in the Armenian homeland. Armenians continued to create khatchkars wherever they migrated. As such, beautiful examples of khatchkars—no two of them alike—can be found all over the world, wherever Armenians live or have lived; and they date from the early centuries of Christianity to the present time. They are true markers of Christian Armenian presence.

Khatcherian has photographed khatchkars in Armenia and throughout the world. Some years ago he visited the Zohrab Center to exhibit photographs he had taken from western and historical Armenia.

The publication of the album was subsidized by Mr. and Mrs. Hagop Didizian of London.

2017-03 HawkKacherian.001CLICK HERE to download a full-color flyer.

Born in Lebanon, Khatcherian lives in Canada. There, in 1988 he participated resolutely in the various activities of the Diaspora linked to the Artsakh Movement. In 1993 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In his hospital room where he underwent terrible treatments which alone could kill a man, there was on the wall a cross and photographs of Armenia and Artsakh.

“It was by staring at them fiercely, day by day, with my mortally wounded hawk’s eyes, that I succeeded in tearing myself from the claws of Death, to take flight again, and to rise high again in the sky, in the direction of my true destiny,” he writes. Today, fully and miraculously recovered, with his wife and two teenage children, he “lives only for and by Armenia, the Artsakh, and the fundamental references and benchmarks of the Armenian world.”

The presentation is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend. A reception will follow the event and copies of Khacherian’s book will be available for sale.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

St. Gregory of Narek’s Festal Works. Book Presentation by Dr. Abraham Terian. Monday, March 20.

TerianFestalWorksDr. Abraham Terian, Professor Emeritus of Armenian Patristics and Theology at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will present his new book at the Zohrab Center on Monday, March 20 at 7PM.

The book is entitled, The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek: Annotated Translation of the Odes, Litanies and Encomia. This is the first English translation of these poetic works.

Less known than St. Gregory’s celebrated Book of Prayers (or Book of Lamentations as it is sometimes called), the great tenth-century mystic’s jubilant poems on the life of Christ and the great saints and feasts of the Armenian Church are filled with the joyful exuberance of the Christian message. In penetrating theology, masterful poetry and lavish Biblical imagery, St. Gregory summons the reader into his staggeringly intimate experience of God’s 2017-03 TerianNarek.001goodness and the Church’s holiness.

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DR. ABRAHAM TERIAN is Professor Emeritus of Armenian Theology and Patristics at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. A recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities award and Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, he has extensive publications in the fields of Hellenistic, early Christian, and Armenian religious literature.

2012-09 TerianDr. Terian’s book includes English translations of more than fifty substantial compositions spanning hundreds of pages of text. As beautifully engaging as Terian’s renditions of the texts are his profuse and learned annotations, which accompany each work. The scholar provides Biblical references (the volume’s Scripture index spans 11 pages of triple columns); generous cross-references with other works in the collection, as well as patristic references, and echoes in Armenian theological and devotional literature.

The book presentation is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served and books will be available for sale following Dr. Terian’s opening remarks. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Thursday, March 2: The Joy of the Gospel in Times of Tragedy: A Lesson from St. Nersess Shnorhali.

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St. Nersess “the Gracious One” Shnorhali (1102-1173AD). A true pillar of the Armenian Church.

V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan will present a little-known work by the great 12th-century Armenian Catholicos St. Nersess Shnorhali at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 2 at 7PM. His presentation is entitled, The Joy of the Gospel in Times of Tragedy: A Lesson from St. Nersess Shnorhali.

Fr. Findikyan is Director of the Zohrab Information Center and Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (Armonk, NY).

Jesus famously promises to lift even our heaviest burdens and to bring relief to all who are weary. But how are we to cope with the most harrowing pains and tragic assaults that can afflict human beings? What can we do for those who are suffering? Can anything good—even joyful—come from tragedy?

St. Nersess Shnorhali’s  little-known Letter of Consolation (Թուղթ մխիթարութեան) is an exquisite poem in which the Catholicos displays his tender compassion for someone who has experienced what is perhaps the most harrowing and inexplicable pain that one can suffer in this life, the death of a child. With great sensitivity, the Gracious One touches the wounds of the grieving father, as he weaves a tapestry of hopeful images and allusions from Sacred Scripture to bring the healing of Jesus Christ to bear.

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Fr. Daniel Findikyan lectures at the Gevorgyan Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia last September.

Fr. Daniel will present his new English translation of the work, highlighting not only its poetic and lyric beauty, but also how “the Gracious One” teaches and personifies the power of Jesus Christ even in the midst of seemingly hopeless heartbreak. 

Fr. Findikyan is a priest and vartabed of the Armenian Church. He received his doctoral degree from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and is the author of several books and dozens of scholarly articles on the worship traditions of the Christian East and especially the Armenian Church. He has lectured nationally and internationally, and is President of the Society of Oriental Liturgy. Hayr Daniel is a founding member of the Fellowship of St. Voski [Նոր Ոսկեանք], a non-profit organization dedicated to transmitting the spiritual and theological heritage of the Armenian Church tradition to Christians today. He is on the editorial board of the quarterly magazine The Treasury [Գանձարան].

The presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. All are welcome to attend the presentation. Join us at 6PM for a cup of Lenten soup.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710. CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

From New Julfa to Constantinople to Manchester to Fowler: The Legacy of a Prolific Author and Priest

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Volume 1 of the Armenian Church journal entitled, Yegeghetsee Hayasdanyayts, dated April 1900 and published in Manchester, England. The Zohrab Center’s copy of this precious journal bears the stamp of the “Araratian Armenian Library, Central Falls, Rhode Island.”

Rustling through the countless tattered books that await identification and cataloging in the Zohrab Center’s library, I recently came across an old journal entitled Եկեղեցի Հայաստանեայց. Ամսաթերթ Կրօնական եւ Աստուածաբանական / Yegeghetsee Hayasdanyayts: Amsatert Gronagan yev Asdvadzapanagan  [The Church of the Armenians: A Religious and Theological Journal].

The journal was published in Manchester, England by Toros Der Isahagian, a married priest whose byname Jughayetsi marks him as a native of New Julfa, the Armenian quarter of Isfahan in northwestern Iran, an important Armenian commercial and religious center.

The inaugural volume, designated Number 1 April 1900, opens with a congratulatory letter from His Holiness the Catholicos Mgrdich, better known as Khrimian Hayrig. That and subsequent issues contain short essays on the history and doctrines of the Armenian Church, including short articles on saints, holy days, sacraments and other church services, as well as meaty and well-written sermons and commentaries on Bible passages.

The final issue for the year 1900 contains one of the most remarkable writings I have encountered by an Armenian clergyman in modern times. Spanning 34 single-spaced pages, it carries the title: Pastoral Letter to the True Children of the Apostolic Church of the Armenians who are under the Care of this Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Manchester  [Թուղթ Հովուական առ հարազատ որդիս Հայաստանեայց Առաքելական Եկեղեցւոյ որք ընդ հովանեաւ Ս. Հոգի (sic) Եկեղեցւոյս հայոց ի Մանչեսթր].

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An earlier journal of the same name, produced by Toros Der-Isahagian in Constantinople, 1888.

This extraordinary letter is actually a book-length cross between a genuine Armenian Church catechesis, and a call to spiritual arms for diasporan Armenian Christians in England at the turn of the 20th century. With refreshing originality, Fr. Der Isahagian takes up fundamental components of the Armenian Church’s history, theology, and liturgy and applies this age-old Christian tradition to pressing, practical issues facing the people under his care. Here is an Armenian pastor who is fully rooted in the apostolic, Orthodox eastern tradition of his church, while fully aware of the very modern, very western concerns of his flock.

Not surprisingly for those who know anything about the Armenian Church’s theology, the priest from New Julfa’s exposition is thoroughly and unreservedly Biblical, amounting to a marvelous celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, told from the faith experience of the Armenian people. This is a treatise that deserves to be translated into English and other western languages and distributed widely.

The very next day, quite by chance, I discovered another bound collection of journals with the same name, but published in 1888 in Constantinople. I only had to leaf through a few pages to discover the very same editor at work, in this instance, publishing a more concise, weekly paper with content similar to what he would later create in Manchester. The weekly version provided detailed commentaries on the Bible readings appointed in the Armenian Lectionary for each Sunday, along with essays on saints and feast days falling during that week along with thoughtful sermons on the most practical aspects of Christian life.

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Toros Der-Isahagian Jughayetsi’s Commentary on the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church was originally published in Jerusalem in 1891. It was reprinted there in 1959.

It turns out that Toros Der Isahagian was a well-known scholar and theologian long before he was ordained a priest in Holy Etchmiadzin around 1896, when he was called to serve the Armenian community in Manchester as their priest. His tenure there was rocky. As the oldest and most affluent Armenian Church community in Europe at the time, Manchester became a magnet for countless Armenian refugees fleeing the growing persecutions in eastern Turkey. At the same time, the Armenian merchants of Manchester, most of them involved in the cotton industry, were constantly called upon to provide financial assistance to the hordes of widows and orphans finding their way to Constantinople on the eve of the Genocide. Fr. Der Isahagian seems to have been the victim of political in-fighting within the community, whose flames were fanned by darkening clouds in the homeland. He resigned his pastorate in 1902.

The few histories of the Armenian community in Manchester that have been published have little more to say about the prolific Der Hayr from New Julfa.

der-theodorosDeacon Allan Jendian of Fresno, California has provided additional information about our prolific priest, culling references from a variety of commemorative booklets and other materials. After his departure from Manchester, Der Toros spent several decades in the United States. After a brief stint as Pastor of the Armenians in Boston, he went to California, where he served as Pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Fresno (1907), and the first priest of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church of Fowler (1910-1912, 1916-1917). He subsequently served for shorter periods in Los Angeles (1913-1915), San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. He returned to Isfahan in the 1930’s and died there in 1938. He is buried in the All-Savior’s Armenian Monastery there.

Der Toros is referred to in some publications as Der Teodoros. As editor of the first English translation of the Armenian Badarak (Fresno, 1931) his name appears as Theodoros Isaac.

Der Isahagian was born in Nor Jugha in 1861. He was ordained in October 1895 in Holy Etchmiadzin. He earned his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Bonn, Germany.

Apart from these scattered references, the literary work he has left behind suggests that he was a true intellectual, a devout servant of God, and a dedicated pastor of the Armenian Church. Several essays and sermons of his are published in the 1896 issues of Ararat, the forerunner of Etchmiadzin, the official organ of the Holy See. He is also the author of a commentary on the Soorp Badarak, the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, which was published in Jerusalem in 1891 with a second edition in 1959.

Here is an excerpt from Der Isahagian’s Foreword to his Armenian Church Journal published in Constantinople:

If, while cultivating our secular mind, we ignore our spiritual development, gradually the spirit will become numb eventually to become completely desensitized and die. Such a person then becomes becomes incapable of grasping spiritual truths because there is no longer any balance between the mind and the spirit.

[Yegeghetsee Hayasdanyayts , March 6, 1888, No. 1, page 2. Translated by Fr. Daniel Findikyan]

Judging by the extent and superior quality of his writings, much of this priest’s time and energy must have been devoted to writing. One can only admire the tenacity and fervor of Der Toros, who was able to produce all he did while raising a family and caring for a large, diasporan church community at the turn of a troubled century for the Armenian people. When we consider the financial resources required to print and distribute periodical journals, especially at a time when the Armenian community of Manchester, England had other pressing obligations to desperate refugees and victims of violence in the homeland. Fr. Der Isahagian’s literary output and spiritual/educational contribution to the Armenian Church becomes even more exceptional.

Rev. Toros Der Isahagian’s two Armenian Church journals are housed in the Zohrab Information Center, along with countless other literary treasures of the Armenian people, many of them waiting to be explored for their wisdom and their insights into the Armenian mind, world and psyche. Read more…