“One of those edifying and very beautiful traditions was our ancestral pilgrimages. I hope for the moment when every person from the provinces who reads these lines will arise and draw near spiritually to their native province and that they will remember their parents and siblings, who went like regiments together with their compatriots in fervent faith to the holy sites of pilgrimage and in prayer and holiness sacrificed to their undivided consubstantiality: the Christian and National faith, hope, and love.
I, as a stray of the Cappadocian land, shall remember only a couple of ours.
How could we forget Vartavar, the Pilgrimage of St. Garabed, of whose sons offered in pilgrimage I am…”
-Der Garabed Kalfayan, the “Shepherd of Yettem” on “Our Holy Places” in his Սոփերք Եդեմական/Yettem Writings.
Today, the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the “Feast of the Birth of St. John the Forerunner,” that is, St. John the Baptist. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” as the quote from the Book of Isaiah was used to call him, St. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus Christ’s revelation as the Son of God. Preparing and pointing to Jesus Christ, the source of salvation and all life, St. John the Baptist helps us ready ourselves for the most important source of all. For this reason, Ս․ Կարապետ (The Armenian title of the Forerrunner, St. Garabed/Karapet) is one of the most revered saints in Christendom and has held a special place in the lives of Armenian Christians. Many churches are named St. John the Forerunner (though many of the churches named St. John are named after the Evangelist and Apostle, as opposed to John the Baptist). Last year on this feast, we discussed two monasteries named Surp Garabed: one in the region of Mush and the other in the region of Gesaria, modern-day Kayseri in Turkey. Fr. Garabed Kalfayan, born in the village of Չօմագլու/Chomaklou near Gesaria, is describing St. Garabed near Kayseri and the practice of dedicating children, especially boys, to and at the monastery. Years later, when Aris Kalfayan was ordained a priest, he took the name of the monastery, Garabed, as his priestly name.
Father Garabed Kalfayan wrote several books, including the book of short essays from which the quote above about the Monastery of St. Garabed comes. His most well-known book, however, first published in Armenian in 1930 and then translated into English in 1982, is a book about his native village of Chomaklou. In English it is titled, Chomaklou: The History of an Armenian Village. The book is one of many published in the years following the Armenian Genocide known as Յուշամատեան/Houshamadyan, “Memory-Books.” This genre flourished in Armenian writing between 1920 and 1980, when there were still people old enough to remember life in their villages before the Genocide. According to the website houshamadyan.org (named after this genre of books), “Following the genocide, various individuals and compatriotic associations that sprung up in different diasporan communities assumed the worthy task of saving the history and culture from being lost, and handing it down to future generations. In this fashion, those individuals sought to remember and restore the life of the native village or town in all its facets and detail.” You can find a rather complete list of the books written in this fascinating genre on the houshamadyan website. Many of these books can found in the collection of the Zohrab Information Center. In these books, minute aspects of daily life in the village were recorded, as well as history, folk songs, customs, details of the local linguistic dialect, education, and more. Der Garabed Kalfayan’s book falls squarely within this genre.
This genre of Armenian literature is obviously a direct response the Catastrophe of the Armenian Genocide. While an ethnographic impulse of documenting village and provincial life had begun in the nineteenth century, for instance Karekin Srvandztiants’ careful cataloguing of folk songs and customs in the provinces, this is different from the exhaustive collection of details and memories about villages that were already gone. As Krikor Beledian notes in his discussion of the “Provincial Literature” of the Kharpert region, there is a categorical difference between the fiction writers in the provinces before the Genocide and those who wrote fiction based in the now-extinct villages after the Genocide. For someone like Tlgadintsi, “the narrative pertained to an existing world, even if beset by apprehension” but for his students who wrote in Diaspora after the Genocide, “the land no longer exists and its image appears mixed with recollected memory, amid nostalgia and longing” (270, from the volume on Armenian Kharpert). Beledian is discussing fiction writers, but we can make a similar distinction between the ethnographic gathering of Srvandztiants and the Houshamadyan books obsessively narrating lost lands after the Genocide. Critics and scholars like Beledian and Marc Nichanian have written extensively about fictional literature in relation to the Genocide, but there is much less written about the unique genre of the Houshamadyan. These books are often cited and used as the repositories of information about pre-Genocide village life they were meant to be, but they have not been fully explored as a literary genre in their own right. Much could be said, for instance, about the nearly obsessive presentation of the details of daily life in individual villages that had been irrevocably lost.
|By Aris Der Garabed Kalfayan, a Houshamadyan book about the village of Chomaklou, present-day Çomaklı, in central Turkey. This is the English translation. The Zohrab Information Center also has a copy of the original Armenian version.|
|Hovakimi tʿoṛnerě||The Grandchildren of Hovagim, by Hagop Asadourian. A fictionalized account of growing up in the same village as Der Garabed Kalfayan, Chomaklou. A series of short stories about early life in the village as well as the deportations of the Genocide. In Armenian. English translations of some of these stories appear in the Spring 2004 issue of Ararat.|
|Lusaber pashtōnakan ōrkan Sebastats‘ineru hayrenakts‘akan miut‘ean kedronakan varch‘ut‘ean||
The periodical of the Sepastia (Sivas) Compatriotic Union, one of several such magazines produced by Armenian Compatriotic Societies in the aftermath of the Genocide. The Zohrab Information Center has the first 21 issues of this periodical, dating from 1938-1956, as well as several other magazines published by various Compatriotic Societies, such as the newly acquired copies of Arkeos.
The close connection between the fictional “Provincial literature” associated with Tlgadinsti and his students on the one hand, and the non-fictional Houshamadyan genre is exemplified in the writings of someone like Hagop Asadourian. Asadourian was born in the village of Chomaklou, the same village as Aris Der Garabed Kalfayan. Unlike Der Garabed, however, Asadourian wrote mostly fictionalized accounts. While his stories, most notably those collected in the book Յովակիմի Թոռները/Hovakimi tʿoṛnerě (The Grandchildren of Hovagim), clearly have an autobiographical bent, they are presented as series of fictional short stories, rather than the essays Der Garabed wrote. The first line of the book, published in 1965, is “Our village was a good village.” The use of the past tense squarely situates Asadourian in the tradition of the Houshamadyan genre, recording the explicitly lost past of the village, while his fictionalized accounts and the idyllic presentation of the village (before the Genocide) aligns with later writers of Tlgadinsti’s “Provincial School,” such as Peniamin Noorigian or Vahan Totovents. In fact, Asadourian worked and wrote alongside Noorigian on Nor Gir, “New Writing,” a literary magazine founded by a group of Diasporan writers in 1936 (on this point, see the Spring 2004 issue of the magazine Ararat, where some of Asadourian’s short stories are translated into English). As the introduction to some of his translated work in Ararat notes, even if Asadourian was influenced by the Provincial School of literature and its successors, he “went beyond village life to portray the torment of genocide, and the travails of life in exile.” A full account of the genre of the Houshamadyan would take into account a literary output like Asadourian’s, which sits uneasily at the intersection of Provincial Literature, its successor the “Longing” literature, the Houshamadyan proper, and later writers in exile.
In addition to the Houshamadyan books themselves, Compatriotic Societies bound people from the same village, city, or province in historic Armenia together in the post-Genocide Diaspora. These societies flourished roughly the same time period as the Houshamadyan books themselves. While an earlier tradition of Compatriotic Societies did exist, especially organizations founded by Armenians living abroad to help support education in the home villages—we can see an example of this in the picture above, of the front cover of the periodical of the “Evereg-Fenese Mesropian-Rupenian Educational Union.” The twin villages of Evereg-Fenese were in the same region as Chomaklou, and an organization was founded to support the schools in the town. Other such organizations supported schools in the villages and towns of historic Armenia in the years before the Genocide. After the Genocide, however, the newer Compatriotic Unions emerged as a way to support orphans and others from the home village who needed help, to support any of those who might have remained in the historic provinces, and also simply to bring people from the same village, now scattered around the world, together again. These Compatriotic Societies or Unions often had physical gatherings, but they also printed periodicals and magazines. These helped connect the far-flung members, who all had times to the same ancestral village.
Hagop Asadourian, in fact, was the founder of Arkeos, the publication of the Chomaklou Compatriotic Society. The Zohrab Information Center recently acquired a substantial number of the Arkeos publications for its collection, through the generous donation of Mari Louise Menendian, the granddaughter of Der Garabed Kalfayan. In the pages of Arkeos, named for the mountain in central Anatolia near the village of Chomaklou, Hagop Asadourian sets out a vision for the Chomaklou Compatriotic Society. While, he notes, there exist several pan-Armenian relief organizations, the need for an organization geared towards members of the same village—in this case, Chomaklou—arises because, “We, as Chomakloutsis, as children of one village, are better able to understand the pain and especially WE ARE ABLE and WE KNOW the work to be done amongst us in a better and wiser manner than any other organization” (from the first, 1925, issue of Arkeos). So, in the years following the Genocide, these compatriotic unions, such as the Chomaklou Compatriotic Society, flourished, publishing their own periodicals. For years, in the pages of these publications, people who were born in the same village and their descendants were able to stitch together a continuous life together. Through the pages of Arkeos, Chomakloutsis in New York could hear about weddings and births of relatives and former neighbors now living in Yettem, California. Similar publications for similar organizations did the same things for many of the cities and villages of historic Armenia. Through the Houshamadyan books and the meetings and publications of the Compatriotic Societies, many people did in fact “draw near spiritually to their native provinces,” with holy places like the Monastery of St. Garabed.
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