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Toby Litt
Toby Litt

Toby Litt is a senior lecturer in creative writing at Birkbeck College, London. He has published three collections of stories and eight novels and also writes the comic Dead Boy Detectives.

Photo: Katie Cooke


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Armenia


I love Armenia. That’s putting it blandly. I feel Armenia has things to teach me that I very much need to learn. If I’m writing something, and I want mentally to check whether it’ll travel, I think: Would this play in Armenia? Wouldn’t they think it was just trivial?

 

I have made three trips to Armenia – the first and last, for the British Council; the second and longest, to make a pair of radio documentaries for the BBC.

 

In Armenia, it’s quite normal for people to talk about events from five hundred or two thousand years ago in the firm belief that they are more important than the latest recession or war.

 

301AD is one date. That was when the Armenians established Christianity as the state religion. The first country in the world to do so.

 

One more recent date, however, dominates all others: April 24th 1915 – the beginning of the Armenia Genocide. To a great extent, all subsequent Armenian art is a negotiation with the fact of the Genocide – just as all Jewish art, even if it chooses to ignore the holocaust, is, even so, choosing to make a point of being able to ignore the holocaust.

 

That said, younger Armenian artists are living in the same rapidly technologizing and anonymizing world as any New York or Shanghai artist. They know in Yerevan that they are not at the centre, linguistically or culturally. But Armenia has always been a fulcrum upon which history turns – and Armenians have a certainty this will be true again.

 

On my most recent visit to Armenia, I met with a group of younger writers. Two of the most interesting of them – Aram Pachyan and Hovhannes Tekgyozyan – have generously let the Writers’ Hub publish translations of their stories. More, I hope, will follow.

 

Aram Pachyan’s ‘Journey by Bicycle’ is a mini-picaresque around Yerevan, inconsequential details becoming more and more charged. Hovhannes Tekgyozyan’s ‘The Day of the Butterfly’ takes place at the treacherous intersection of the mundane and the mythical.

 

I hope you enjoy reading them.


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