6 Ways to Access Armenian Literature

It’s always intimidating when one chooses to take on a monumental task such as learning a new language in order to read, write and speak it fluently. The same can be said about Armenian literature.

A colossal library of works that spans from 400 AD onward to present day in multiple dialects, translations and languages.  This list was compiled in order to act as an online resource that will guide those who seek to understand one of the linchpins in Armenian culture: literature.Those familiar with Armenian literature can augment their knowledge in the literary sphere by reading through the seemingly inexhaustible library of works compiled by these six websites.

1.) Writers.am

I bet you always wondered “who the ‘Frik’ is the one statue with the shortest name stationed outside of the Matenadaran (Armenian National Library)?” Although your eyebrows may have bent at the sight of such an odd name, Writers.am offers a thorough explanation for the anarchist clergyman during his life in Feudal Armenia. Frik (the medieval Armenian poet) is his literary pseudonym, which in Cilician Armenian dialect meant ‘young scorched wheat.’ He chose this name for himself, taking into consideration his bitter destiny. Originally written in Armenian with an English mirror site, Writers.am allows you to browse the profiles of over forty writers of Armenian descent. Everything from a snippet of their contribution to the literary world, fun facts about their lives, quotes and a photo or painting can be found on the site.

2.) Sacred Texts

“Hush, hush, and sleep, my baby dear.
My love shall guard thee, year by year,
Until my rose-tree blossoms fair,
Then ’neath his shade I’ll sing oror.”

Many a great literary works taught in American universities are actually works of foreign
authors. In the original German, Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of a hermit named Zarathustra
‘come down a mountain to claim that God was dead;’ a monumental thought in Western
existential literature. Or the fantastical fiction of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho that showed us that true alchemy is found in the heart. Armenians have made their own contributions, and Sacred Texts makes them known. A name not nearly recognized enough is that of one Alice Stone Blackwell, an American feminist who researched endlessly to translate collections of Armenian poems, fables and short stories spanning from Sayat Nova to Hovaness Tumanian into English. Sacred Texts gives testament to her monumental work by having the whole collection of her translations and research accessible online.

3.) Haybook

As stated on their website, Haybook is a directory of Armenian literature, language and history. The great thing about their resource directory is that they have a variety of works in English, Armenian and French. Haybook features updated collections of stories, plays, fables and poems in the original Armenian they were written in with footnotes to help the Armenian reader with certain nuances and advanced vocabulary. The website also boasts the inclusion of a full version of the fable ‘David of Sasun’ by Hovaness Tumanian as well. Readers can explore a plethora of resource links, Armenian political cartoons, archived historic works, and a ‘language assistant’ section to understand advanced Armenian vocabulary.

4.) Armenian House

Like Haybook, Armenian House has a wide variety of Armenian literature published on its
website. The only drawback for the English reader is that the majority of the texts that have been published are in the original Armenian. The website also brandishes an equally impressive collection of Armenian authors’ works in Russian. Essentially a treasure trove of documents that have been transferred from century old books and decade old journals to a digital library; Armenian House is a great place to go to find classic Armenian literature. Unless you have VIP access to the centuries old works locked away in the National Library – in which case, we’ll take two passes.

5.) Bedrossian History Workshop [Link broke – Mr. Bedrossian has been informed]

The History Workshop looks like an all text, blue link, 1992 website that has not yet received a memo on WordPress templates – but don’t let the look fool you! History Workshop by Dr. Robert Bedrossian does an immaculate job of sifting through Ancient Armenian history from global libraries, and putting that information online in the simplest form. It’s always nice to be reminded that Armenia was also a powerhouse of historic record keeping, and so, you can explore historical texts chronicling the histories of empires and kingdoms recorded by Armenian scribes, and translated into English for your convenience. Some parts of this website’s resources read like a bibliography, offering a link to the original texts of medieval, historic and renaissance writers whose works have been fully scanned and digitized. In others, you can find articles linking to ‘grabar’ (classical Armenian), or the full set of Mkitar Gosh’s fables. If you’re looking to delve into Armenian literature, this site will keep you busy for weeks.

6.) Granish

‘Granish’ translates to ‘cipher,’ in Armenian; so it’s with no surprise that this website hosts the greatest ciphers in literature: poemtry. Granish takes on a very modern approach to Armenian poetry by featuring 20th and 21st century poets and their respective works.
The website is split into two language with Granish.org being the Armenian language version, and Granish.com as the English language version. As the website is operated from Armenia, Granish.org hosts a more robust and active website leading to poetry and essay competitions, as well as the publication of a literary journal. But don’t be spooked away if you don’t read Armenian. Granish.com is a great site to explore what contemporary Armenian poets are saying about life, love, and the aether.

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