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It was not business as usual on the Armenian Pavilion at London Book Fair from 14-16 April 2015. Organised by the Armenian Embassy in London, the central theme of the Armenian Pavilion this year was the Armenian Genocide and its Centenary Commemoration. It was a rather unusual business for the London Book Fair but an important one for the Armenian nation and the country.

Reports Hasmik Harutunyan


London Book Fair (LBF) is one of the major international book gatherings in the world where companies promote the latest publications, demonstrate new trends and make contacts. So who are the visitors of the LBF? Anyone and everyone in the book industry, including publishers, authors, editors, translators or simply book lovers. There is a growing number of foreign stands representing India, China, the Middle East and the Far East, European countries, America, Mexico and so on. Here newly emerging young authors rub shoulders with TV celebrities such as Merry Berry, Dr. Brian May, the guitarist of the legendary rock group Queen, children’s author and comedian David Walliams and so on and so forth. It is an amazing place where you can meet book enthusiasts from all over the world with wide-ranging interests from game writing to quality literature, editing to PR or marketing. This is the best platform for professionals to take part in panel discussions, present new authors, give out prizes and to discover the new technologies in the publishing industry.


Armenian Pavilion has been part of this exciting international book fair since 2013, initially with only twelve exhibitors. In 2014 the Armenian stand, headed by Mr. Charles Malas, counted 33 participants. Last year LBF invited several printing houses and authors from the Republic Armenia, America, the Middle East and Europe to showcase their publications, promote their businesses and establish links with Western colleagues, network and sign contracts.


In 2015, the Armenian Pavilion was organised by the Armenian Embassy in London and was hosted by the Armenian Deputy Minister of Culture Mr. Nerses Ter-Vardanyan, visiting especially from Armenia for the opening ceremony. This year again Mr. Charles Malas had arrived to give his helping hand to the organisers. The Armenian stand was situated in the main hall on the ground floor, among other international stands. The number of Armenian participants was significantly lower than last year, as this year it was all about having a platform to raise the awareness on the Armenian Genocide among the participants and visitors of the Book Fair.


The Armenian Pavilion at the LBF displayed numerous publications on the Armenian Genocide – the biography of the renowned American artist Arshille Gorky, Black Angel by Nuritsa Matossian; a voluminous album on the Genocide theme in Armenian Art of the 20th century entitled The Colour of Pain published by art critic Shahen Khadhaturian; historical books and witnesses accounts such as Armenian Massacres 1894-1896; Daylight After Hundred Years; Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me; a large number of historical studies, maps and memoirs published in German, French, Turkish and other languages.


One of the highlights of the Pavilion was Robert Chandler’s introduction to his English translation  of Vassily Grossman’s memoirs called Armenian Sketchbook about the two-month visit of the Russian writer to Armenia in 1961.


Arevik Ashkharoyan, the director of the Armenian Literature Foundation in Yerevan explained the project called Targeted Translation Programme sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia: funding the translation and the publication of the most significant fiction, poetry, historical and documentary books from Armenian and other languages into English, Turkish and into other languages on the Armenian Genocide. Thanks to Targeted Translation Programme, many pivotal literary works have already been translated into English. Among them, Burning Orchards by Armenian poet and writer Gurgen Mahari, born in the Western Armenian city of Van whose tormented life did not get better in the Soviet Union under Stalin; the two major novels by Khatchik Dashtenz, wonderful poet, writer and Shakespearean translator, born in Sassoun in Western Armenia; the celebrated satirical writer Yervand Otian’s memoirs entitled The Cursed Years: 1914-1919. His book tells the incomprehensible suffering of the victims and the despicable cruelty of the Turkish officials who perpetrated the Genocide against Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.


One of the critical books translated by the Targeted TranslationProgramme is the historic book by renowned French historians Yves Ternon and Gerard Chaliand. Translations from Romanian, Turkish, French, Spanish, Arabic and other languages into English, will introduce authors to worldwide public. Romanian writer, poet and economist Varujan Vosganian is a well-known writer in Romania, who has published three volumes of poetry as well as essays and articles. His novel The Book of Whispers (2009) encounters the story of his grandfather Garabet, a survivor of the Genocide, from the convoys of Armenian people forced to Der Zorh desert to die, followed by the narrative of Dashnak Dro’s resistance army and the existence of the Armenians in Stalinist style Romania.

Armenian nation has survived through its turbulent history, the Genocide and foreign invasions mainly because of its attachment to its ancient culture, religion and language. The Armenians have been practicing the translation art from the fifth century with the complete translation of the Bible about 434. Since then, historians, scholars, poets and philosophers have continued to write and to translate, enriching the Armenian language, education and culture. The first Armenian publisher Hagop Meghapart founded his printing house in Venice in 1512 printing the first book in the Armenian language. The Armenian nation has preserved their identity through their books passed from generation to generation as a precious talisman.


Armenian Pavilion humbly but proudly represented the cultural and historic heritage of this old Christian nation in the London Book Fair 2015.


By Hasmik Harutunyan, London


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