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The Critical Corner - 07/24/2006

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YEGHISHE CHARENTS: POET OF LIFE AS PERMANENT REVOLUTION

PART THREE: An Armenian communist as world poet
[ Review PART I | Review PART II ]

Armenian News Network / Groong
July 24, 2006

By Eddie Arnavoudian


Yeghishe Charents's poetry (here Collected Works Volume IV, Yerevan,
1968) has a compelling quality, fashioned as it is with driving energy
and with a spirit of bold confidence that usually accompanies human
endeavour only at its freshest. Whether he writes about his life and
loves, about Armenian nationalism, the Bolshevik Revolution, about the
degradation of culture during the rise of Stalinism or about the act
of artistic creativity itself, he pours into his work all the contents
of his eternally tempestuous soul and all the inexhaustible zest that
he had for life. And as always, the ever-present first person
singular, the `I' and the `Me' are also synonymous for the universal
`We' and the `Us'.

In language pared down to the essential, with no word standing at a
loss for significance, Charents creates the epic of everyman and
everywoman who set out for `distances that shimmer with the promise of
immortality'.  With a gigantic, all embracing love of his fellow
beings, he extends to them an open-hearted invitation to join in the
adventure of Being, to defy, like he himself did, all the odds of
adversity, to resist all tyrannies, recover from any catastrophe and
thus steeled, with unbending desire to always go on and go beyond.



I. A BRIDGE TO LIFE

Charents's espousal of communism and his support for the October 1917
Bolshevik Revolution was never a mere fashion accessory, or an
unthinking loan of soiled second hand ideological clothing, as Gostan
Zarian would charge. He held his communist convictions consciously,
firmly and passionately. But the poetry inspired by these convictions
has a resonance far beyond its specific political content. 

Communism was for Charents the bridge to a more humane future, a path
along which to reach the `far distances' beyond the feudal and
capitalist social orders that in his view: 

    `Have placed bonds of many kinds
    On man's talents, on his creative
    And infinitely able hands,
    On his wishes and his flowing desires
    And on his bold passions too...

In the late 1920s, even as the Stalinist bureaucracy was beginning to
dim what he felt to be the promise of communism, Charents explained
the character of his continued commitment. He was `seduced by the
energy' of communist society where `man does not just shape shoes',
but inspired by `infinite love' `hues his own spirit too.' This was an
age in which `man is richer with emotions and passions and with the
things that he has felt and lived.

Equally important for Charents who had witnessed the failure of the
nationalist leadership to prevent genocide, was the conviction that
the Bolshevik Revolution was a positive force capable of helping the
Armenian people in their struggle for survival and revival. The point
is put well by Barouyr Sevak:

    `If many artists from diverse nationalities welcomed the October
    dawn (i.e. the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution) as cleansing thunder,
    then Charents embraced that dawn, and that as the son of a people
    who could be saved from annihilation only by a miracle.'
    (Collected Works, Volume 5, p322, emphasis in original)

Charents's revolutionary poetry accurately and even lovingly reflects
many of these hopes as well as some of the concrete historical events,
the organisations and the personalities of the communist movement of his
time. But the very images, the very same verses and even entire poems
that describe the actual revolutionary process are simultaneously a
colourful canvas of those possible grandeurs and joys of life that have
a deep truth beyond politics. In this communist and revolutionary poetry
these truths acquire an imposing authenticity for being shaped not by
declamation but from the flow and the detail of everyday life. It is
both a characteristic and a virtue of Charents's imagination that it can
reveal the bud of the extraordinary that is hidden in the ordinary, that
it can uncover the seed of the monumental in the merely elementary and
the necessary.  

In `The Frenzied Masses' Charents reconstructs the moment of Bolshevik
insurrection. It is at the same time the moment of an explosion of
repressed human energies, the unshackling of an accumulation of dreams
and hidden desires. The act of political revolt is a movement of
millions towards `the far distances, towards suns that are yet to be
born'. The `frenzied masses', an army of working class and peasant
rebels lays siege to the City, a `thousand year old enemy', a hub of
wealth and power that has reduced their own lives to nothing. 

    `Whoever came from far villages - had abandoned the humid soil,
    Upon which the obedient life did not give birth to one gold crop.
    Whoever had come from the steppes had abandoned the limitless
    Horizon's breadth that for him had become a jail.
    Whoever was from far city, where there was fog indefinite -
    Brought his heart of tuberculosis, as a red flag.'
    (translated by Shant Norashkharian)
 

To the battle these masses bring not just anger born of impossible
suffering, but a yearning that is inextinguishable and an inner
strength that is inexhaustible. The peasants bring muscles surging
with the `strength of the land' and the dwellers of the steppes that
`lived as a slave' bring `in their blue eyes' a vision as `vast as
those steppes.'  Thus they wage battle to destroy the City, so utterly
`that it can never, like a phoenix, rise from the ashes'. They intend
to reduce it to ashes and to cast the ashes to the winds `so that it
is carried away never to return'.

Revolution here is that collective, social earthquake that brings down
barriers that separate the masses from `the far distances'. The
uprising against the state, the Church, the landlord and the
capitalist is both a political act and an elemental blossoming of
hitherto unlived potentials, of confidence, of energy, of strength for
life. As they ready themselves for the final assault, the masses feel
that:

    If they wanted they could give suns a new tempo and a new way...
    If they wanted they could hurl far suns up toward the sky above;
    If they wanted they could bring down suns from the skies...
    If they wanted with a brave will, burning with the fire of the world -
    What things could they not accomplish, the frenzied mobs...?
    (translated by Shant Norashkharian)


Charents's particular, universal and humanist sense of communism is
also evident in his poetry that deals directly with the Bolshevik
Party and the October 1917 October Bolshevik Revolution. He did of
course endorse Bolshevism as a political force striving for political
power, but also as one that was designed to free and enrich the lives
of those `many millions' who suffered impoverishment, illness,
ignorance, war and carnage. `The Story of Majgal Sako', though not of
the highest artistic order, is a touching account of why and how many
ordinary young peasants became Bolshevik activists. Returning home
from war Sako discovers his mother and father utterly impoverished and
humiliated. Wealthy landowners have stolen his family land. No one but
the Bolsheviks seemed willing to correct this injustice, this
indignity, this theft not just of the foundation, but the very
condition of their lives.

Charents does not daub the poem with sloganeering images of
non-existent factory workers or mass peasant uprisings. Instead real
depictions of Armenia and the Caucuses - then provincial outposts of a
decaying Tsarist Empire - illuminate the lives of ordinary people, a
suffering people, but a people who retain pride and their dreams. Not
dreams of `communist revolution', `Marxist theory' or `the
dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry', but simple, and in
their very simplicity, grandiose, dreams of a life to be lived free,
with dignity, respect and a modicum of material comfort.

Charents's insistence on portraying life in its actual, particular,
specific manifestations, in the actual everyday of the social process
frequently proved irksome to ultra-left and hack critics blinded by
formulae about `the leading and revolutionary role of the industrial
proletariat'. HH Surkhatian exposed the vulgar aesthetics of these
critics in a 1925 defence of Charents. He writes that one such critic,
K. Vanantetzi:

    `...did not approve of the fact that Charents in his epic poem
    (Amenaboem) also recalled the victims of the imperialist war, the
    refugees, the inhabitant of Van and Mush, as well as the porter
    from Yerevan, Sogho the teacher and others. Vanantetzi's
    misfortune is that he is afflicted by the disease of wishing to
    become the voice of an industrial proletariat that does not exist
    in Armenia. (Questions of Literature, Yerevan, 1970, p114-115)


Of greater dramatic force than the story of Sako is `At the Communards'
Wall in Paris' that synthesises the grand and the everyday with the
individual's subjective and psychological conditons. Charents pays
homage to revolutionaries executed after the fall of Paris Commune of
1871 explaining that that the Bolshevik victory is a latter day
realisation of their ideals. However as an authentic human revolutionary
he describes his own moments of inescapable human frailty and failure.
`Comrades' he exclaims `I too am of your flesh, in me are your ashes
resurrected.' But his is flesh that is human, touched by weakness, fear
and cowardice. Honouring the courage of his heroes Charents confesses of
how he once `saved his own skin'. He `crawled away like a cat in the
dark' while another revolutionary stood firm and ended on the gallows,
but with head held upright `as if he was brandishing a red flag in those
blue-turquoise eyes of his', `as if with that look he was levelling
numberless enemy battalions and armies.'  

A different measure of Charents's conception of communism features in
his reflections on the relationship between Bolshevik power and the
future of the Armenian people. Here he knits into his communist vision
his own enduring preoccupation with the Armenian cultural and social
revival. In `Nork' communism appears both as a process of industrial
reconstruction and as a spiritual and cultural revival by means of which
the Armenian people can now participate in an epic world adventure.
Taking the form of a gentle polemic Charents rejects the melancholy of
Vahan Derian's poetry that he believed expressed the historically
passive and hapless spirit of a vanquished people. Derian's was:

    `That final song that clung to
    Our land's unproductive tree
    Dreaming a deluded dream
    Divorced from the wide, wide world.'


The dying poplar that symbolises the backward and decaying nation is
`saved from the axe':

    `The scythe was already nearing
    The saintly poplar of our land
    That stood, still, cold and frozen
    In the plains of Ararat
    When another storm, a salvaging one
    Thundered from the north, life-giving
    Like a running spring river
    It washed over our mountain land.'


The storm was the Bolshevik Revolution. It `enthused the poplar with a
new blazing joy'. Now the poplar-nation hears and scents `song and
rose.' Instead of the `hapless, wilting hamlet of Nork' a `new Yerevan
arises and gazes deep into our new soul.' The nation breaks out of its
stultifying isolation, it `puts its ear to the woes of the world' and
begins to `feel the crises of the world'. Doing so it does not cease to
be itself. On the contrary it discovers and rediscovers itself. It
recovers the power and the energy `to resuscitate the forgotten streams
of our' own land. As the `old ash falls away from its face' the nation
begins to `contribute its own original chords to the emerging symphony
of the world.'  No more are the people `sorrowful and pitiable', `lost
somewhere in the vastness of the globe'. Once again they:

    `Carry within an inexhaustible flame
    And the dream of a life without fear...' 
 

Now both fully Armenian and fully citizens of the world the Armenian man
and woman in the company of men and women of all nations:

    `For the first time soar 
    Towards the fiery unknown farness 
    In search of a burning container 
    Into which to pour their flaming desires...'
 

Reject Charents's communism and Bolshevism, question the politics of his
poetry, still it is almost impossible not to be seduced by these images
of free men and women, freed from centuries of social, political and
psychological oppression, freed from passivity and the sapping burdens
of inferiority and now confidently relishing in life before them. 



II. DEFENDING THE BRIDGE

By the late 1920s and early 30s, with the growing ascendancy of an
anti-democratic elite in the Soviet Union many were already speaking of
a revolution betrayed. Charents was among those who saw clouds
gathering. `Epic Dawn' and `Book of the Road' can in certain significant
respects be read as his own specific and precocious response. Contrary
to certain claims neither volume is primarily a reaction to Charents's
past - to his alleged 1920s `ultra-leftist period' or the earlier 1915
Genocide. They do return to these but only to evaluate them as part of a
total engagement with the present. `Once again' Charents cries out in
the opening of `Epic Dawn' `there is battle all around' (p11). `It is
the present that now raises its voice/like a sea of awesome passions' he
exclaims as he maps the terms with which he will fight the hacks who
regarded his poetry, and the literature of his allies such as Bakoontz
and Mkrtich Armen, with terrible trepidation.

The opening poems of `Epic Dawn' record Charents' battle against
`knights of petty conspiracies', against mediocrities and careerists
`who had neither struggled to attain heights, nor experienced fear and
weariness'. With wide references to industrial labour and
construction, economics, politics, art and culture these poems
reproduce essential aspects of life in the Soviet Union. They
constitute in effect a protest against and a challenge to the
transformation of literature into state propaganda to a vulgarised
theory of `socialist realism' that would conceal an emergent elite's
corruption.

Charents's primary preoccupation was the degradation of literature, a
degradation that was symptomatic of the degradation of political and
social life as a whole. In `Letter to My Poet Friend NN Written from
Yerevan' he protests that instead of poetry there is `plenty of paper
and ink.' `We have established a new life' yet `we do not have fitting
songs.' 

    `We sing of love, we sing of death
    We sing of struggle and of labour
    But in our songs today
    There is no love, no thought, no life.'


Increasingly dominated by `self-satisfied poets' `charmed by their own
song, art and literature was being reduced to `singing each others'
praises.' Silencing life's `thousand-tongued songs' the hacks produce
lifeless homage to steel and labour. Instead of echoing a world in which
`thousands live, suffer sadness, weariness and joy', instead of singing
of people's `living emotions', `forceful passions' and `the thousand
feelings of their hearts' these poets:

    `Sing of the one-eyed, one-legged dummy with no arms,
    They sing of man who has a grammophone
    In his lungs, who 
    Can utter only excruciating sounds
    And has no enthusiasms, no passions and no loves.'


Another letter-poem, to the novelist `Aksel Bakoonts Written from
Leningrad', confronts the same miserable condition of contemporary
Armenian literature. Poetry should be `a flag unfurled to the heart, the
mind, the spirit and the desire of the rising, coming generations.' Yet
it is composed by men, who believe that `the essential is the plumage'
and who readily `chop the wings off the eagle' and `cage its plucked
naked skeleton'. Charents, who always demanded the highest artistic
standard opposed that careless, thoughtless spouting of verse with
officially dictated content that was beginning to prevail. He wanted
`dedicated and concentrated effort' so that no `rust settles on our
work'. For as `long as we have not learnt to look at each word with
love' and `with a noble sternness':

    `It will be hard for our word to fire horizons
    Or reach the coming rising generations. (p37)


But today those who rule the roost have neither passion nor care and
write with no knowledge or feeling: 

    Read them with an honest heart - and tell me
    Have these men ever actually worked?' 


These poems provide a personal evaluation of Charents's own journey from
a youth who `was like a rushing river' to a mature poet `whose wild
heart no more gallops through the fields like the unleashed stallion.'
Combining a trenchant criticism of the times with remarkably honest
personal self-criticism they are rich with images of the will to strive,
to struggle and never to waver. They are also exhilarating statements
about being alive and kicking, about the ups and downs of life and the
struggles to overcome the odds it presents. 

There was a time when Charents also betrayed his muse, times when he had
chosen `a cold lover' who to `sing songs of metal dreams' and carry him
`without love or passion' to `some new metal world.' He too had once
`cut his heart away from life and land', had shunned life even as it
stood before him ample with `fields of thoughts awaiting harvest',
beckoning `like a sea of awesome passions'. It is to this life that he
now seeks to return, but more mature.  

    `My spirit descends no more into petty issues
    Does not waste itself with bombastic words
    Such does the husk in the field become heavier
    When it is filled with solid, wise yield...'


`Instead of the drum' he now `holds a copper stringed lyre heavy with
thought.' (p18) and determines to `pass it through life's thousand
coloured ocean' (p19):

    `We have arrived now at that border from where
    There commences a new and hardy ascent
    Let us wipe away from our thoughts the dust of vain desires
    And once again embark on the journey, the grand journey. (p37)



III. THE THEORETICAL AND CULTURAL WARRIOR

Charents engaged with life, revolution, communism and the future of
the Armenian people not just as a poet but also as an intellectual and
literary theorist. A skilled polemicist, contributions he made
improved the quality of Soviet literary debates. One significant such
intervention was an `Open Letter' to the `Literary Newspaper' that was
never published in his lifetime. It gives important aesthetic and
social-political definition to the then current formula of literature
and art as `national in form but proletarian in content'. Attention to
its detail, and to contributions from Charents's allies shows these to
be, despite politically necessitated convolutions and Aesopian forms,
effective arguments for an authentic art. They opposed writing to a
schematic order that would conceal the flaws and corruptions of
everyday life in the Soviet Union. They also feature as a defence of
the literature of small nations from the threat of a resurgent
great-Russian chauvinism within the central Soviet elite.

Genuine literature, Charents argues, requires that it be `national in
form', a form that embraces and in some fashion expresses actually
existing life, life in its particularity, life as it is lived in a
definite land, society and people with their own specific history and
tradition. National form also requires that the author's language and
style flow and develop organically from this environment. `National
form' Charents summarises `expresses itself' as `a realistic and
concrete unfolding of content':

    `...in such a way that the author's language and style, as well as
    the descriptions of the people and their conditions...are adequate
    to the given national environment.' (p133).


This demand for `realism', for `concreteness', for `adequacy' in
literature was a polemical counter to the unreal, propagandistic
abstraction and lifeless generality that was so common in so much
literature of the time. To underline the point Charents quotes and
tellingly so from a famous and controversial article by Mkrtich Armen:

    `The proletariat and the peasantry that is written about in those
    works are not the proletariat and the peasantry or Armenia. Nor,
    however, are they the proletariat of Russia, Azerbaijan or
    Georgia, because there is no proletariat outside its national
    environment, no general, abstract revolutionary proletariat
    independent of concrete conditions and concrete environment.'

Needless to say neither for Charents nor Armen, nor for their allies,
did this formula imply a reduction of literature to exclusive Armenian
`national' or `nationalist' themes. One cannot `deduce national themes
from the conception of national form' (p135). National form does not
exclude consideration of international themes nor does it refuse
engagement with non-Armenian national groups, in Armenia or beyond. As
evidence Charents cites Mkrtich  Armen's short stories about Yerevan's
Turkish community and his own writings about Istanbul and Turkish
communists. But, he insists, this universal experience must be filtered
through the perceptions afforded by the historically inherited concrete
environment in and about which artists create and write. 

Literature that is genuinely `national in form', that engages with life
and so attains artistic validity must also however, and of inexorable
necessity, be `proletarian in content'. It must, goes the argument,
encompass the experience of the masses (here `the proletariat' and `the
peasantry'). The masses by virtue of the fact that they are the majority
of the nation define and constitute it in its essential character.
`National form' and `proletarian content' are, Charents therefore says,
`dialectically', connected. `Proletarian content' follows inevitably
from national form. National form cannot exist without proletarian
content. 

    `It is...an unarguable thesis that an authentic national form can
    be realised only with a proletarian content' (p145).


The logic of the argument is clear. If art is to be national, if it is
to consider life in its `concreteness', it must encompass the lives of
the majority, the masses, otherwise it risks narrowness and
one-sidedness and thus a loss of quality. The conception of the nation
as the majority that is implicit but essential to the argument is of
course not original to Charents, having been developed much earlier by
Mikael Nalpantian. Charents however extends it into the sphere of
literature as part of an argument for a genuine art and as a defence
of the rights of Armenian literature, and the literature of other
small nations, in the wider Soviet world.

The latter point is developed with some boldness in Charents's speech
at the First Congress of Soviet Writers held in 1932. The preamble
expresses a consciousness of the danger of great-Russian chauvinism in
Soviet Society. Charents speaks of fears that `the seniors (the
Russian intelligentsia) will not recognise the juniors (those from
small nations)'. He expects however that within the Soviet Union the
art and culture of previously oppressed nations will flourish in a
manner that was prohibited in the (Tsarist) past. For after all the
culture of each nation contains unique treasures that must be
`critically appropriated' by all as a condition for a richer Soviet
literature. So his proposals for large scale, high quality programme
of literary translation.



IV. ODES TO LIFE AND THE FUTURE

Both in public life and in his poetry Charents, as he himself admits,
made compromises and accommodations. But never did he become `prisoner
to thoughts learnt by rote' and never `did he yearn for the pitiable
song of the marsh' (p15). Struggling to survive amid mounting
treachery, deception and betrayal, he himself never betrayed comrade
or colleague.  In defence of his vision and conviction he also proved
capable of almost suicidal courage. Just as the Stalin cult was
gaining momentum, Charents submitted the `Book of the Road' for
publication. It included `Achilles or Biero?' a comical critique of
Stalinism, as well as lampoons of many an epigone of the time.  The
volume was eventually published, but bureaucratically truncated and
crippled. Still the censors could not censor Charents's ode to life
and to future generations.

Alongside the critique of Armenian nationalism and affirmations of
egalitarian principles, 13 `Odes' and `Words of Advice' stand as the
highest peaks of the `Book of the Road'. They are dazzling
contemplations of life untrammelled, of life moving towards its most
possibly rewarding. All of them gems, with little qualification, they
are inspirations to venture and to adventure; invitations to you and
to me to become `investigators of the unknown farness'; an urging to
us all to always go on and beyond as the very condition for
self-realisation and fulfilment. Charents welcomes every single
individual to the world.  They arrive:

    `Each and every time with complete uniqueness
    Each and every time different and original
    Each and every time with an infinite freshness
    And each and every time without limits.'


Inspiring each he also counsels responsibility and respect for others,
for life, for society. `Life has been passed on to you' and `you are
responsible for not letting it fall from your broad shoulders' (p367).
The garden of life `remains still chaotic and disorganised.' Great
efforts and `impossible drives' are need so that `each and every plot
of land becomes fertile' and for life `to become joyous' for all. This
is truly poetry for an unselfish age; an antidote to our egotistical
times, to the selfish and destructive greed that passes for
individualism today.

Grasping life in its immensely diverse, deeply layered and complex
forms these poems even as they may speak of socialist or communist
concerns reach beyond. An `Ode to Nature' can be read, if one so
wishes, as a Marxist philosophical statement on the relationship of
nature and society. But it is also poetry, and not simply verse, that
captures something of our eternal awe for nature, our unending delight
in it, our ambition to command and to exploit it but also that
overwhelming desire to be at one with its infinity and its grandeur.
It is in addition a history of our developing command of the forces
and resources of nature, and our abuse of it. `Eternally moving' and
`eternal in existence' nature is `Mother' to all things, the source of
light, of all life, of life's wealth and joys. But throughout history
exploiters have `seized command' of `her infinite treasures' and
`forged them into lock and chain' to enslave humanity. Today however
the multitudes `that for centuries yearned Nature's caress and
embrace', that had `sown but never tasted the yield' approach as
rightful inheritors.

`To the Builders of Cities' also allows for diverse appreciations that
express different histories and different experiences of individuals
and peoples. The poet advises the builders of cities to `mix the
thousand year old ashes' of `those who sleep for ever' into `the stone
of the city walls' and to `place their marble coffin' at the `the
city's golden gate':

    `For the ashes of the dead make the strongest cement
    The strongest and most enduring binding
    And it is with that that the land becomes land,
    The people, a people, the future a future...'


There can be no firm present that does not stand upon the
accomplishments of the past. Here is a possible poetic rendition of
Marx's formula that `men make their history own history but not in
conditions of their own choosing'. But the poem is, and without
contradiction, also an urging for men and women to absorb their own
particular cultural, national, emotional and intellectual inheritance
in order that they may live fully. Then again it is an affirmation of
a fundamental continuity in history, with every stage utterly
different but linked, with the past, the present and the future
becoming a continuing whole fashioned by the legacy from our ancestors
and by what we construct in our own time and bequeath to coming
generations.

Against all the harsh blows Charents held his faith and despite the
contracting horizons of his own life he urged the new generations to
`follow your path, though that path be stony'. He urged their will `to
remain ever unbent' and wished that their `yearnings be sleepless.'
Always encouraging them to adventure further he assured them that:

    `On your return your spirit will be richer
    Than the treasurers of a thousand caravans
    And as blessing you will bring inexhaustible wishes
    Gifting them even to those who wished you death and bitter loss...'


Here is nourishment for `rebellious spirits', for those `burning with
the fires of tomorrow', for those who, harbouring gigantic and
generous ambitions, `do not look back when only half way up the
mountain'. And even if weariness sometimes weighs down the wing:

    `When you are sometimes burdened 
    With a yearning that is like a sickness
    Mended with these lines, with this noble medicine
    Strive for the unknown farness and it will give you the gift of
    immortality.


In the absence of s body of adequate English translation (`Eghishe
Charents Land of Fire' translated by Diana Der Hovanessian and Marzbed
Margossian is entirely inadequate) an English language discussion of
Charents's art, the aesthetics of his poetry, its technique and its
inventiveness is not possible. But an indication of its magnetism is
evident in its power to attract across artistic and political
divides. Ardent nationalists marvel at the intently anti-nationalist
`Vision of Death' and assiduously seek to supply it with a nationalist
edging. Anti-communists acclaim the awesome force of `The Frenzied
Masses', quietly overlooking its encomium to the uncompromising class
struggle of the revolutionary proletariat.  Communist commentators
will sigh after an encounter with Charents's philosophical verse
judging them to be fine expressions of Marxism. Even apolitical
intellectuals delight in Charents's severely political poetry, while
post-modernists are also seduced by his legacy but appear to have
difficulty in clearly expressing their reasons.

 
* * * * * * *

Vahan Tekeyan writes that:

    `The saddest thing in life
    Because the most scornful
    Is not its passing but its
    Standing stationery in its old place.'

Charents was of those who never stood still. A `self-propelled,
unstoppable spirit', born in provincial Kars he became a communist and
then a world poet without ever ceasing to love his own Armenia. Through
his poetry he remains `destined to sing the song of a millions hearts'
and to offer to `days yet to come' all the `grand flights and the
passions' of his own better days and his own exuberant self. 

--
Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from
Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on
Armenian literature.  His works on literary and political issues
have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open
Letter in Los Angeles.

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