Saturday, December 10, 2011

Samvel Mkrtchyan: Ulysses in Armenian Translation

What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit . . . .

I will go to my grave, no doubt, grateful for Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. I won’t say I understand them in any conventional, ordinary sense. In the presence of language of this depth, grace, and magnitude, I seek neither Reason nor reason: I listen with my life, and in my bones. Scholars have their approach. I have mine. In my mind, the books are as much music as they are literature. I embrace them as I embrace the symphonies of Beethoven.

I feel the same way about the Armenian language, which I’ve heard spoken throughout my life and have yet to master; which I taught myself to read when I was in my twenties; and which has always, in ways subtle, apparent, and obscure, informed my own writing, to the extent that what I write naturally lends itself to translation. I know this for a fact, having worked directly with Samvel Mkrtchyan, who has translated my work along with that of Faulkner, Eliot, Shakespeare, Saroyan, and now Joyce.

In terms of Ulysses, especially, I am staggered by his accomplishment. In giving this masterpiece of English literature to his native land, Mkrtchyan has also contributed immeasurably to world literature. His translation of Ulysses — a labor of many years, replete with notes, illustrations, and photographs, beautifully designed by his own hand — is truly a gift for the ages. When I think of the toil, the long nights spent with aching neck and bones, the restlessness, patience, and defiance that are part and parcel of such a task, I return to my own small life inspired and renewed.

It is, of course, logical to ask if and how I will read this book. Of the if we will quickly dispense: books live through their readers; it is my joy and responsibility to respond. And of the how: aloud, from cover to cover, in a voice that tells of my own memories and trials, almost but not quite laughing to the end.


Translated into Armenian
with a foreword and notes

“Translation of the unabridged republication
of the original Shakespeare and Company edition,
published in Paris by Sylvia Beach, 1922”

ISBN: 978-9939-53-778-8

Yerevan, Armenia


735 pages

Chronology. Forty-eight Color Plates. Pictorial Appendix. 


vazambam said...

Wow, William--that's a double undertaking: First for the translator and now for you--good for the both of you.

I wish you well in your journey, Odysseus-Ulysses Michaelian.

William Michaelian said...

And a journey it will be, even if, in truth, I am a man named Nobody.

Visions by VEE said...

I'm not sure if this website is maintained but I would like to express my amazement and sheer delight when my friends in LA informed me that Ukyssis has been translated to Armenian. I have been an avid reader and big fan of Joyce and have read most of his work,
Dubliners, the Artist, the Wake and of course Ukyssis. And now as I am reading in Armenian I am amazed the magnitude of this work. At
Times it feels like everyone in Dublin speaks Armenian and the Joycean word-phrased has been translated maintaining its original melody, sarcasm and humor. I would like to learn more about the translator and how the project evolved. And now, let me make an honest although self degrading statement. I never thought we Armenians are sophisticated enough to embark the translation of Ukyssis. inwoild like to talk more if anyone send responds to this.

William Michaelian said...

There isn’t much more I can add. As you likely already know, the translator passed away December 7, 2014.

As for Armenians being sophisticated enough, I don’t see it quite that way. The achievement was Samvel’s, and his gift, like Joyce’s, transcends all borders and boundaries.

Visions by VEE said...

So sorry to hear that the translator has passed away. I would've loved to embrace and thanks him for the monumental work he had done. As far as Armenians not being sophisticated, I apologize for my statement and as you said genius great minds goes beyond race and nationality. I wish you were in New York, I would've loved to have a cup of coffee with you and talk for horse.