Posts Tagged ‘Hagop Oshagan’

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

 

Death of Hagop Oshagan
(February 17, 1948)

 

His writing has remained unknown by the general public. However, Hagop Oshagan was one of the most important novelists and literary critics in twentieth-century Armenian literature.

 

He was born Hagop Kufejian on December 9, 1883 in Sölöz, a village near Brusa, in western Turkey. He lost his father at the age of five and endured much hardship during his childhood. He studied for a short while in the seminary of Armash, but he was essentially an autodidact. His voracious reading was the main source for his learning.

Hagop Oshagan

Illustration by Zareh Meguerditchian

 

He became a teacher at the age of 19, when his first short story appeared in the newspaper Arevelk of Constantinople. He started to make a name for himself in the short period of literary renaissance that followed the Ottoman Revolution of 1908, both as a short story writer and a critic. He joined with Gostan Zarian, Taniel Varoujan, Kegham Parseghian, and Aharon Dadourian to create the short-lived literary group “Mehyan,” which published the journal of the same name from January-July 1914 and attempted a literary renovation.

 

Hagop Kufejian was on the April 24 lists of the Turkish government, but was able to elude persecution for the next three years, despite being arrested several times. In early 1918, disguised as a German officer, he managed to flee to Bulgaria, where he remained until 1920. He married and would have three children. His elder son, Vahe Oshagan (1921-2000), a poet and literary critic, would become one of the leading names of Armenian literature in the Diaspora during the second half of the twentieth century.

 

Hagop Kufejian adopted the last name Oshagan in 1919 and returned to Constantinople, where he worked as a teacher and was active in literary life. He published his first book, a collection of short stories, The Humble Ones, in 1921. In 1922, together with Gostan Zarian, Vahan Tekeyan, Shahan Berberian, and Kegham Kavafian, published Partzravank, a literary journal that tried to be a qualified literary voice.

 

The occupation of Constantinople by the troops of Mustafa Kemal in 1922 provoked the escape of many Armenians from the city. Oshagan also left and, after living in Bulgaria from 1922-1924, he became a teacher in Egypt (1924-1928), at the Melkonian Institute of Cyprus (1928-1935), and at the Seminary of Jerusalem (1935-1948).

 

In the last twenty-five years of his life, Oshagan put together a prodigious amount of literary production, including several lengthy novels. Particularly important was the eighteen hundred-page novel The Remnants (1932-1933), which he left unfinished and was intended to be a novel about the Armenian catastrophe of 1915. Barely read at its time, it became an object of cult followers during the past thirty years, as well as the subject for important literary studies.

 

Aside from his fiction, including also plays and many literary essays, Hagop Oshagan wrote the ten-volume Panorama of Western Armenian Literature (1939-1944), a collection of monographs about the most important literary figures of the period 1850-1915, which he intended to be the “novel” of that period in Western Armenian culture. He only saw the publication of the first volume in 1945. The remaining nine volumes were published between 1951 and 1982. This cemented his fame as the most important name in Armenian literary criticism.

 

Oshagan passed away in Aleppo, where he had gone to visit the areas that had been the scene of the Armenian deportation and killing in 1915. He died from a heart attack on February 17, 1948, and was buried in the local Armenian cemetery. He had not been a writer for the masses in his lifetime; nevertheless, twenty thousand people attended his funeral. Every year (until the recent Syrian civil war), the students of the Karen Jeppe College of Aleppo went to the Armenian cemetery at the beginning of the school year to pay their respect at his tomb.

 

 

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THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee[ANEC])

Birth of Hagop Oshagan

(December 9, 1883)

When Hagop Oshagan, one of the foremost Armenian writers of the twentieth century, passed away at the age of 65, he left many thousands of pages of published works in newspapers and many more that were unpublished. In Beirut alone, 33 volumes of published or previously unpublished works bearing his name were published after his death, between 1958 and 2013.HagopOshagan

He was born Hagop Kufejian in the village of Sölöz, near Brusa, in Asia Minor. He was a dropout from school and an autodidact, who read voraciously the classics of the nineteenth century, including Dostoyevsky, his inspiration for his novels. He published his first story in 1902, but his literary career started after 1909 in Constantinople. By 1914 he was already known by his literary criticism and his short stories. He became, along with Gostan Zarian, Kegham Parseghian,  Taniel Varoujan, and Aharon, the founder of the short-lived monthly Mehyan, with the hope of starting a literary movement among Western Armenians that was cut short by the genocide.

He was on the Turkish list of targeted intellectuals, but he managed to escape persecution and arrest, and lived in hiding in Constantinople until early 1918, when he surreptitiously crossed the border into Bulgaria, where he married Araksi Astarjian. They would have three children, Vahe, Anahid, and Garo, of which the first two would be writers. (Vahe Oshagan would become one of the leading intellectuals of the Diaspora in the second half of the twentieth century.) They returned to Constantinople after the Armistice. Kufejian started to use the name Hagop Oshagan around 1920 in the newspaper Jagadamard. He became a teacher and continued his literary production. In 1922 he published another short-lived journal, together with Zarian, Vahan Tekeyan, Shahan Berberian, and Kegham Kavafian, but the new attempt at a literary revival was cut short by the retreat of the Allied forces from Constantinople and the victory of the Kemalist movement in Turkey. He left the city, as many other Armenian intellectuals and much of the community did, and moved back to Bulgaria. After 1924, Oshagan worked as a teacher, first in Cairo, then in Nicosia, at the Melkonian Educational Institute, and finally, after 1934, at the Seminary of Jerusalem. He forged his reputation as a charismatic literature teacher, and a demanding literary critic.

Oshagan published two collections of short writings in the early 1920s, but then he focused on his novels. His literary life was defined by the Catastrophe (he practically coined the term Aghed to name the event that had swept over Western Armenian culture in 1915), as he shifted into the literary reconstruction of the lost world. His magnum opus, Mnatsortats (The Remnants), a three-volume novel published in 1932-1934, depicted the life of a Western Armenian family and the complicated Turkish-Armenian relationship on the eve of the Catastrophe. However, he was unable to write a projected final volume where he intended to represent the deportation itself. The first volume of this novel has just been translated into English by G. M. Goshgarian.

He also wrote the “novel of Western Armenian literature,” Panorama of Western Armenian Literature, a monograph that encompassed the period 1850-1915 in ten volumes, of which only the first was published at the time of his death, and the last nine were published in the next quarter of a century.

Hagop Oshagan passed away in Aleppo on February 17, 1948, on the eve of a planned visit to the killing fields of Der Zor. He was buried at the Armenian Cemetery of the city, in an imposing funeral attended by some 20,000 people.

 

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In the first decade and half of the twentieth century, poet Taniel Varoujan rose to become the most remarkable name of Armenian literature. He would have become an internationally known name had not his exile and assassination trounced his career during the Armenian Genocide.

            Taniel Chibukkiarian was born in the village of Perknik, in the vilayet of Sepastia. After attending the local school, in 1896 he went to Constantinople, where he attended one of the schools of the Mekhitarist Congregation of Venice. He then continued his education at the Moorat-Raphaelian school of Venice from 1902-1905. In 1905 he entered the University of Ghent, in Belgium, where he followed courses in literature, sociology, and economics. He adopted the surname Varoujan (from an Armenian word that means "male dove") when he started to publish his poems. In 1906 he published his first volume of poetry, Shivers, followed the next year by a booklet that contained a long poem, The Massacre. He graduated in 1909 and returned to the Ottoman Empire. The same year he published a new volume, Heart of the Race, which TanielVaroujanestablished him as a poet.

Returning to Sepastia, he became a teacher between 1909 and 1912. In 1910 he married his student, Araksi Tashjian, vanquishing the opposition of her father. In 1912 they moved to Constantinople, where he became the principal of the St. Gregory the Illuminator School until his deportation in April 1915.

               He published a new and even more powerful collection of poetry, Pagan Songs, in 1912. In late 1913 he joined forces with four young writers, Kostan Zarian (1885-1969), Hagop Oshagan (1883-1948), Kegham Parseghian (1883-1915), and Aharon Dadourian (1888-1965), to create the group "Mehyan." They issued a manifesto that called for the renovation of Armenian literature and language, and founded a short-lived but important monthly journal, Mehyan, that published seven issues (January-July 1914). Due to aesthetic divergences, Varoujan left the group after the third issue (March 1914).

                The poet had three children: Veronica, Armen, and Haig. His wife was pregnant with their third child, when Varoujan was included in the Turkish black list and arrested on the night of April 23-24, 1915, by the police with hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and leaders. He was deported to Changr (Chankiri) together with many of his colleagues, where they lived in a sort of internal exile for the next two months. On August 26, 1915, along with his friend, the poet and physician Rupen Sevag (Chilingirian, 1885-1915), and three other Armenians, they were taken to Kalayjek. On the road, following a previous plan, a group of Turkish chetes (irregular soldiers) attacked the carriage that transported them. They were forced to take their clothes out, and then savagely assassinated. The same day, Varoujan’s son, Haig, was born in Constantinople.

            The poet’s papers had been confiscated at the time of his arrest. In 1921 his wife Araksi was able to recover, after paying a hefty bribe, his unfinished last book, The Song of the Bread, which was published the same year in Constantinople.

               After his death, Varoujan’s works were published in no less than thirty editions over the past nine decades. Collections of his poetry have been also published in French and Italian. His daughter Veronica Safrasian (1910-2009) lived for many years in New York, while his younger son Haig (1915-2002) passed away in Fresno.

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