Our Literature Has Mostly Been Leading Us into a Dead End So Far

The third article of the PEN Charter mentions peace, good understanding between nations, and respect. How realistic is this after the war?

It is realistic to the extent that we consider the existence of such literature possible. I believe that the world is created through literature. This cycle in which we have been caught up for more than a hundred years has also been created through literature, to a certain extent. So if we have literature where a different kind of world is possible, then the existence of that world also becomes possible. From this point of view, our literature has mostly been leading us into a dead end so far.

Do you consider the First Artsakh War to be sufficiently reflected in our literature? To what extent is the young generation informed about this war and the victory?

Yes, there is relevant literature about the war. Simply recalling Levon Khechoyan is sufficient. But to what extent the young generation reads his work, or to what extent this resonates with the youth – that is a different question. Also, the purpose of literature is not to inform. The news media deal with the duty of providing information. Literature is supposed to narrate and create reality. Perhaps nothing exists until it exists in literature. Does the “victory” exist in our literature? I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I haven’t seen it, in any case. The war definitely exists, but I don’t think the victory does. The victory existed in the propaganda, news, and in textbooks, but I’m not sure it existed in our literature as well. In general, if the literature is not written on the orders of someone, it does not provide a clear black or white picture; there is no definite victory or defeat. It is multi-layered, because life and the world are multi-layered, human beings are multifaceted, and the victory itself could be a defeat in literature.    

Before the Second Artsakh War, there were mutual visits and some contact at the level of non-governmental organizations and people-to-people diplomacy between Armenians and Azerbaijanis as well as Armenians and Turks. In your opinion, why was none of this able to plant the seeds of tolerance among the Turk and Azerbaijani people, why were they unable to reject this xenophobia?

Yes, such attempts were made. But I see an issue with the wording of this question. This wording is very technical, very operational – you find such wording in program proposals, for example. This wording oversimplifies the prolonged dialogue that occurred through various programs of people-to-people diplomacy. Those programs have helped the two sides to get to know each other, to see the issue from the other’s point of view and thus to come one step closer to finding a possible peaceful resolution to the conflict. Perhaps the explanation for why they failed lies in the fact that these were always marginalized efforts, engaging a very small circle of people. There were no changes in the positions of policymakers, nor in the overall situation. The circle of this dialogue and the people it engaged did not expand. But this is a topic that should be pondered separately, so that lessons can be learned. And I need to say here that there is literature that can be read in order to gain a better understanding. For example, as part of one of such projects in 2015 (Acting Together), a Turkish and an Armenian writer have traveled along with the project team and have kept diaries/travelogues. The diary of the Armenian writer, Anna Muradyan, was published in 2018 with the title Wall on the Armenia-Turkey Border. It is worth reading because it gives one a unique opportunity to observe these processes from within. My piece, the oblique book, is another “window” into this world. Both of them provide the reader with an insider view of the workings of reconciliation projects.