In addition to my treasured copy of Selected Armenian Poets, I am also in receipt of a sturdy, tastefully done two-volume set of Armenian translations by Samvel Mkrtchyan, whose gifted, tireless effort is making English and American literature accessible to readers of the Armenian language. His powerful, musical rendering of Joyce’s Ulysses alone is enough to earn him the status of Giant in Armenian letters. In reading it, one almost forgets the book was written in Joyce’s own lunatic English — the Armenian is that effective. And I expect a similar result as I slowly make my way through his rendering of voices as diverse as Spenser and Poe, Faulkner and Eliot, Shakespeare, Whitman, Sandburg, Melville, Williams, Yeats, Thomas, and Pound. Will I understand it all? No. But my understanding will grow, and I relish the revelations the process of reading in another alphabet and language involves. The fact is, for me, even when reading English, literal meaning is only part of the equation, and often not the largest part. Words and the spaces between them are inspiring and disturbing, and I wonder and wander among them as I would maps and pillars and towns. A book is an ancient pyramid or temple in ruins: beware the scorpion within, the sudden hand on the shoulder, the unexpected breath, the veil, the whisper, the call. And yes — that is your name written on the wall.
From the Translator
Armenian Translations from English and American Literature