IBNA – Farshad Shirazi:
Ahmad Nourizadeh is poet, translator, researcher, and founder of the School of Persian Armenian Studies, has been active in a vast realm of Armenian history and culture and has travelled to many countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Canada and America. He was born in October 1951 in Ghazian district of Bandar Anzali. His father was a firefighter of the Fisheries Organization who passed away in 1984. His mother was a hardworking woman that had to work in the houses of other families to maintain her poor family with seven sons and a daughter.
Recalling his memories of the past, Ahmad remembers how he wept and pressed his father for New Year clothes, and how his father had to borrow money from the acquaintances to buy new clothes for him, as well as for all other kids. That time in Ghazian district, there was a man named Sharbatuqli, a Turk who walked around with new suits and clothes on his shoulder and the kids chose the suits and took their fathers to buy them. Later at high school age, Ahmad and his brothers realize that they should not press their father for new clothes and had to suffice with a single suit for years as mother mended them to last longer.
Ahmad has travelled around the world, is awarded by the President of Armenia and even received an honor's degree from the University of Erevan.
We have talked with him about everything, from poetry and translation to all other things in life and Nourizadeh has responded to all questions with a smile on his face.
What is your main specialty – poetry or translation?
My main specialty is translation of Armenian culture and
literature – both poetry and prose. I have got an anthology titled 'A Hundred Years of Armenian Poetry' that includes the works of more than 74 Armenian poets. You know that translating is not easy. In order to compose a poem you may focus on a mental background and compose your poem based on that motivation. But translating a poem also includes a matter of choice. You should consider the time and place of the audiences and see what the artistic interests of a Persian-speaking audience are, and then try to translate from that kind of art. As I said, I am working on literary realism and other poets can pick other works and subjects. How did you begin learning Armenian language?
Somehow I started this cultural activity in 1969. I had learnt the colloquial and conversational Armenian at age 5 with the help of a dear lady called Arshi Babayan – 'Arshalous Babayan'. She taught me the alphabet. I began translation by working on a few new books by Armenian poets, like 'Galost Khaniyan' nicknamed 'Khanness' – the books were 'The Miraculous Power' and 'Greetings to You, Oh Man'. Then I went to Isfahan University.
The university had an 'Armenian Studies' department and there I learnt the written language of Armenian well. Then I improved in translation, went to Armenia and kept on studying Armenian Language and Literature to professorship degree at the Northern University of Armenia. At the moment I have got about 30 books all of which are either translations or compilations. Some of them have reached third print that is an achievement for any author in the present printing situations. I have read somewhere that the Armenian languages are rooted in Iranian ones. Please elaborate on this.
The old Armenian language that is known as գրաբար (grabar) is highly influenced by Pahlavi Ashkani language. Let me bring an example. In Persian you have 'poshtibaani' for the word 'support' and they say 'baasht-banel'. Well there are similar origins. 'Expensiveness' is 'geraani' in Persian while they say 'taang' that is similar to Iranian expression 'tang amadan' (hard economic pressure). These interactions are common between all neighbor countries and are also common between Armenian and Persian due to long history of relations and cultural affinities. Tell us about your relationship with Armenians. How did it officially begin?
I started my cooperation in 1973 with the translation of 'The
Miraculous Power'. At the moment I have 30 books of about 7000 pages the most outstanding of which is the book 'History and Culture of Armenia'. This is a compilation, that is, I have spent many years of sleeplessness on writing it down. And what is the content of this book?
It is the history of Armenia from pre-Christian millennia to 1990 that coincides with the downfall of the Soviet Regime. Another book of mine titled 'Apple Garden, Rain and other stories' is a collection of prose by well-known Armenian writers. And how did you find connections in the embassy and important figures in the country?
I have had no connection with the embassy except for the time the Armenian Embassy sent invitations to my address to speech gatherings. Yet recently Mr. Michaelian Armenian ambassador in Iran awarded me a golden medal that very few artists in the world have been given. Don't the Armenians try to tighten the relationship with you?
No, they just issue visas or invite me to their country when necessary. You have travelled to many countries for the promotion of Armenian culture and arts. Which countries?
Syria, Lebanon, Canada, Austria, and some other countries. I have made speeches in Damascus and Aleppo that are important cities of this country, as well as in Lebanon. Moreover I have made a speech in Toronto, Canada. How much do you make use of Armenian poetry?
I have only translated them, and do not take them as intellectual help. I have translated the poems of more than 89 Armenian poets mostly from the second decade of the 19th century to the second decade of the twentieth century. For instance 'A Hundred Years of Armenian Poetry' focuses on the last 19th to the late 20th centuries. The book was well received by Iranian critics. What do contemporary Armenian poets have to tell us? How do you assess their poems?
Contemporary Armenian poetry is inspired by the poets' lives. And as citizens they are inspired by everyday phenomena. And of course this is not limited to a particular school. But since I am interested in social realism I prefer to translate such poems. To what degree are the Armenians aware of your cultural activities and precious services to them?
They are fully aware of this and have often praised me in the Armenian media and other places from Armenia to Lebanon, Syria, Austria, Canada and the U.S. In these countries they respect my works and know me well and have written a lot on me as well. The Armenian nation has been appreciative. Tell us about your poems in Armenian as some of them are put in Armenian schoolbooks.
Some of my verses are included in Armenian schoolbooks both in Iran ad in Armenia. It is called 'Masis Sar Che', that means, Masis is not a Mountain. The Armenians praise Masis to the state of divinity. It is interesting that no Armenian book has ever reached second print except for this one. Do Armenians of Iran know you as well?
Yes, they do. Some Armenians migrated to Iran after the genocide from Ottoman Turkey. They reside in Iran now. Some others have migrated in the years between 1887 and 1895 from Armenia. How do you define your relationship with Armenian culture and arts in a framework?
Let me show you a magazine…This is the most valid Armenian monthly magazine that is published in Iran. They call me a Persian-speaking son of Armenian nation. They have admitted this. I know that you have converted the works of many Armenian writers to Persian. How well do you know them?
I have translated verse and prose from Armenian literature. The verse literature I have included in 'A Hundred Years of Armenian Poetry' and the prose literature are published in some volumes including 'Apple Garden, Rain and other stories'. Have you translated works by avant-garde writers to Persian, too?
Yes in the same book. If you take a look, I have chosen works by well-known Armenian writers. I do not mean well-known writers. I mean contemporary writers.
Contemporary writers of Armenia feel a historical bereavement. What do you mean by historical bereavement?
I mean the Great Massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. You mean that all contemporary writers just focus on this?
No, but all writers are affected by this historical bereavement, and yet focus on the everyday lfie in front of them. So the contemporary Armenian writers talk about today's Armenian life – the social, political and cultural life?
In my collection, there are works by such writers. For instance, Estepan Zoriyan is an authentic writer in this regard, as well as Ghostan Zariyan, or George Mahary. What is the gist of their works? What do they have to offer apart from the genocide? I mean the events that take place today in 2012.
These writers reflect the common life with their own viewpoints whether it is surrealism or modernism. They try to show the real social life and great pains of the Armenian man. Of course they do not insist that this man is necessarily Armenian. What is this great pain in their opinion?
Unemployment in many countries. How about unemployment in their own lives?
They have a thousand other pains. For a long time they were under the dominance of the soviet regime and when they set free and established the independent Republic of Armenia, they have suffered from many pains and unemployment as well. An artist should express the social problems of his time. How difficult was translating these works?
With no exaggeration intended, I should confess that in know Armenian better that Armenians and I am even familiar with Old Armenian known as Grabar. It has a long history and is originated in Pahlavi Ashkani, this helps me a lot when translating these works. How did the audiences face the translations of 'Peter I', 'Apple Garden…' and other works?
'Peter I' of course does not relate to the Armenians. I have just translated it from Armenian language and the writer is Aleksey Tolstoy. This is a historical novel penned by a Russian. I have added footnotes to make the text more clear for Iranian readers. Is Armenian – like Persian – moving towards more simplicity?
No, of course there are new emerging schools of Armenian literature especially in poetry by poets who have no historical background, and as today's poets speak of things under the title of postmodernism that has nothing to do with the real lives of the mass. I say this because I have travelled there for speech and know them in person. The life of Armenians after the Soviet regime is even harder than before. They are living a difficult life. Economically?
Yes, but they are free now. Among all your translations, which one is your own choice?
The book that took seven years of my life and makes a survey of the Armenian verse including over a hundred poets, 'A Hundred Years of Armenian Poetry'. All these poems are included in this anthology. They could be introduced to Iranian poets of the time, but more than that I like 'The History and Cultrue of Armenia'. What else are planning to publish on Armenian culture and arts?
At the moment I am translating some collections of poetry by eminent poets 'Vahagan Davetiyan' and 'Baro Serag'. Have you ever translated a work by an Iranian poet?
Yes, 'Vera Rand' is an Armenian-speaking Iranian poet. I have translated Rand's "Flying Fall". I read somewhere that you believe that poetry can be 'meaning-fugal'. With the emergence of postmodern poetry in recent years, the postmodern poetry is getting more attention. How do you find their poetry?
The only school that I fully trust in is the literary realism. As a poet and translator I only work on realist works and believe that this school can truly express the needs and spiritual tensions of the poet-self. In order to succeed in the cultural sphere, I advise poets to pay attention to literary realism. Read such books and learn from this school. So do you acknowledge the works of postmodern poets as true poetry?
I respect all poets of my country Iran and I am interested in many of them. I have long acquaintances with some of them and translated their works to Armenian. Mohammad Hoquqi believed that poetry occurs in language. And a foreign poet says poetry is making the impossible possible. What is your definition of poetry?
In my opinion, poetry is to discover the reality of life and expressing it to the best in a poem. When you discover a reality, you should present it in the best form of art in order to satisfy your reader. The expression should also be tangible for them. What place does poetry hold in your life?
Poetry is the whole of my life. I was born with poetry, lived with it and hope to leave the world with it. For poetry is the only truth discovered in life. Poetry is the most beautiful art given to human beings. Painting is also another kind of art and the painters can claim it to be the most beautiful. But I prefer poetry as the most beautiful. You have been acquainted with a cycle of poets from Nosrat Rahmani to Nader Naderpoor. How did you get familiar with them?
Since 1973 that I started translation, I have made friends with many poets of the country because of my personal interest in Persian poetry, including Nosrat Rahmani, Nader Naderpoor, and Esmail Shahroodi. I used to live in the house of Nosrat Rahmani – with his mother and brother. Tell us a little of your memories with Nosrat Rahmani.
I have many memories with Nosrat that I have related here and there – even with poets like Esmail Raha and others. My best friend was Nader Naderpoor. He had a house on South Amirabad Street and I used to sleep there. When did you first publish your poems? And where?
My first poem was published in a local newspaper titled 'Setareh Soheil' in Bandar Anzali. Do your poems belong to the past or the present?
I have never written a poem that has nothing to do with the present. I am a realist poet and my works are realistic, but sometimes I have also added the spice of love to them. In my books of poetry such as "Let Jasmines Spray Perfume", "At Lonely Night and World Winter" and the last that I will publish under the title of "When I Recall You" I have actually made use of my mental memories, and address someone that is alive in memories. I have a collection of poems on this that will be soon released. Do you believe in Blank Verse?
The White Verse of Iran was pioneered by figures like Shamlou and others. I even respect the advocates of New Poetry but personally I prefer the realist poetry over others. A poet used to say that all happenings happen in form. What do you think?
They are the formalists. I accept form as an ornament for poetry but do not accept that form is all a poem is. The lyrical poetry has always had its own fans with a large number of audiences. The lyrical poetry in Iran is rooted in the fifth and 6th centuries and the Iraqi School. What place does this hold in the present Iran?
We have many schools of poetry and arts in our country, from formalism to realism and other schools. But I would rather stick to the realist school. Do not end it here, please! Lyrical poetry is a dominant part of your poems.
I have many lyrical poems but still I prefer the realistic ones where human being is the center of poetry - that is, one should accept the human reality and expand it. And one of your poems you like most?
There are many poems in 'At Lonely Night and World Winter'. But there is one that I like more than others: At Lonely Night
When the world was ruined to the most sorrowful memory
My heart went astray as far as your blues
And I knew nothing
Where to settle my moments down
At lonely night everywhere
Was ripe with memories
And all memories were your blues
At lonely night I grappled with your fancy
And it was beautiful
How many hours a day do you read?
I read for a few hours. But these days most of my time is spent on writing down my novel. The novel I am writing is titled 'In the Passageway of Suffering". This is a three-volume-to-be novel that is in fact my autobiography. The first volume includes my life since I was six years old. Apart from literature, what else do you study?
I have a large interest in contemporary sciences, including cybernetics and bionics. Bionics is the science of nature. But I mostly study in human sciences and sociology. As I believe that human being is a social animal. It means that if you remove human from his society, you will face an animal society. What do you plan to do in 2012?
I hope to complete the third volume of the novel in 2012 and then pick up other novels! What paintings do you like?
I am interested in the works of Shishkin , 19th century Russian painter. And your favorite music?
I have some cassettes by Haji Beigov, an Azerbaijani musician. Also I like Azeri music, especially the Layli and Majnun. What is your favorite sports if you ever decided to do sports?
At them oment I prefer hiking. In the past?
I was a footballer and had many footballer friends, like Ghafoor Jahani or Aziz Espandar in Anzali. A well-known footballer known as Akbar Kargar Jam – then the captain of Taj and right Half-back of the national team - was my friend. What books would you suggest to people?
I suggest scientific books and would like to advise the youth to learn more about human sciences, because this will play a key role in their future. Many phenomena happen in our lives without which we may lead a futile life. Many sciences: one is computer sciences and the internet. Anyone not familiar with the internet and contemporary sciences should begin to worry for himself. Contemporary sciences are in fact hacking us now. You wife is an artist. Have you ever sought her opinion when composing poems or writing books?
I make use of the opinions of many including my wife. We are in mental harmony. How about your make a living? Are you satisfied?
I the last decades of my cultural life I have worked in many newspapers including the Ettelaat – that is the most valid newspaper in the country. I have been the chief editor of provinces and then I decided to quit. I hope that the media conditions in the country change for better so that the journalists can made a better living. I regard a journalist as a worker who earns money by efforts of his pen. And hope that one day all cultural figures can be well-off by means of cultural activities.
- "A Hundred Years of Armenian Poetry" – translation & research - "Apple Garden, Rain, and other stories" – collection and translation
- "Peter I" – Aleksey Tolstoy
- "Let Jasmines Spray Perfume" poetry
- "At Lonely Night and World Winter", poetry
- "Greetings to You Armenians", poetry in Armenian
- "At Lonely Night and Dreams" poetry in Armenian
- "Flying Fall"- Vera Rand, translation
- "Amalia"- Nar Dess, translation
- "Hunchbacked White Poplars", poetry
- "The Miraculous Power" – Galos Khaniyan, translation
- "Greetings to You, Oh Man" – Galos Khaniyan, translation
- "Blue Lullabies", Mahagan Davetiyan, translation