Big Book, Big Ideas: Art book hopes to gain attention for Armenian contemporary writers

The over-sized book has a big mission
The girl who tries to turn the pages of the book is so small that she can hardly manage the job. In a while another little reading-lover approaches and, with the book lying on a table, they are more able to look at its big pages.

It is too big a book for little readers and it’s size is the first impression even of grownups. And that’s the point.

The coordinator of “From Ararat to Angeltown”, Emily Artinyan, says she intentionally designed an oversized format to gain attention – and then let the attention turn to the content produced by Armenian writers.

“I have published the book mainly to draw the attention of the mainstream Western publishers to the Armenian writers contributing to the book,” says the London-based Artinyan, who is 36.

Artinyan says she got the idea for such a book in 2004 when she was in Yerevan and regularly met contributors to “Bnagir” literary magazine.

“I found out at one of the meetings the writers have significant difficulties with printing and publishing both at home and abroad,” says Artinyan. “I decided to make a book and include a selection of their works in it. One of the major aims was to attract western mainstream publishers, and that is the reason the book has the format.”

“From Ararat to Angeltown”, published in London in the end of 2005 is a limited art book edition with 250 copies. The format of the book is unprecedented. The book is of large format (A1 when open) so that photographs of the writers are printed close to life size, a hopeful metaphor for the book’s power to bridge physical, linguistic and cultural divides. The size is 420 mm x 597 mm.

This bilingual Armenian/English book contains newly translated works by six contemporary Armenian authors, all members of the avant-garde literary group “Bnagir”, based in Yerevan.

It is a lithrogaph on offset paper, has been hand-bound by Artinyan.

The choice of the title is not accidental either. It has meaning in itself, a metaphor Artinyan says, for stories and poems from Armenia to the West.

Who will give me back the city where I was born?
Shall I see again the blue of its summer sky?
Maybe the beggar could answer my question,
but I don’t ask him.

In a poem by Marine Petrosyan called “Yerevan is a Big City” the lyrical hero has a monologue while walking in the streets, where the personal love drama and the tragedy of the distorted city intertwine.

In the neighboring “street” is Karen Karslyan’s “Love at Every Sight” poem – a woven plot of endless energy of youth in a story of American adventures and love in Yerevan.

“Love” – a poem by Violet Grigoryan is a comment on human and spiritual love – its first part in evangelistic style and words praise the bodily, sexual love, while; the second part the love to Christ is humanized and intimated with the everyday narration.

Side by side in the streets are the works by six contemporary Armenian authors – Vahan Ishkhanyan, Violet Grigoryan, Vahram Martirosyan, Karen Karslyan, Marine Petrosyan and Gohar Nikoghosyan that were selected and included in the big book by Emily Artinyan.

“I am sure those beautiful pieces by these authors, will get large response in the West and the book will become means to publish them abroad,” she says asserting she believes the publication of Karen Karslyan’s “Love at Every Sight” poem in LiNQ, an Australian literary journal, one of the achievements of the book.

“The beautiful works in the beautiful book” are not that cheap pleasure. Its hardcopy is sold for $195?, and the softbound for $125. It can also be obtained at www.bertramrota.co.uk and amazon.co.uk and through Artinyan’s dealer.

According to the author of the project 40 of the 250 copies are already sold. The buyers are various – from individuals to educational institutions, publishers and libraries.

“The price is relatively high for a book, but one should keep in mind this is a collection edition and is aimed at professional readership,” explains Artinyan, by email from London, where she lectures at the London School of Arts.

Artinyan says besides selling, it is planned to send some 30 free copies to some of the London-based publishing houses and representatives and that she hopes to exhibit the book in London and Yerevan.