Gayane Tevosyan (C Tr. ‘19)
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Gayane Tevosyan (C Tr. ‘19) Translates Susan Sontag

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YEREVAN, Armenia — The American University of Armenia (AUA) is happy to share that Gayane Tevosyan’s (C Tr. ‘19) translation of the final chapter of Susan Sontag’s book “Regarding the Pain of Others” was recently published in Granish, an online and print publication of works by Armenian writers, literary critics, translators, and publishers worldwide.

Tevosyan notes that translating Susan Sontag is a great responsibility for any translator because the author raises global issues “which cannot be ignored and absolutely must be listened to.” The final chapter of “Regarding the Pain of Others” involved a precise and meticulous translation to fittingly convey Sontag’s message adorned with her deep philosophical ideas that are straightforward and to the point. 

“Another challenge was her writing style which, I think, is very unique. Her texts are very informative, written with deep and thorough analysis, illustrations, and an unconventional vocabulary. Some parts needed additional explanation to cogently convey the author’s thoughts. Throughout the book, Sontag skillfully uses word plays that require a translator to read the text, discern the intended purpose, then go back and read it over and over again, in order to fully grasp the real meaning hidden between the lines. Finding the right meaning of those parts was like trying to solve a puzzle and the more you engage in this process the deeper you dive into her world of puzzles and mystery,” Tevosyan elaborates on the challenges of translating Sontag.

In her book, Sontag speaks about phenomena that ring true today. Those include but are not limited to staging pictures of war and people’s indifference “regarding the pain of others.” Tevosyan draws parallels between Sontag’s imagery and Armenian realia following the 2020 Artsakh War. “When you read her book you get the feeling as if Sontag was trying to take the rose-colored glasses off people’s eyes. She is trying to say: ‘What are you doing? Please stop!’ This was the main message that the author was trying to convey through her book,” remarks Tevosyan. “The rewarding moments from this translation is that now it will be available to a larger circle of readers and it will be an eye-opener for many people, including our compatriots.”

The chapter was edited by Dr. Shushan Avagyan, assistant professor at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) and Director of AUA Press. “Sontag’s ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’ is a unique work on war photography and its political uses, which was very influential at the time of its publication in 2003 and has been ever since. It changes the way people see, record, and perceive man-made catastrophes,” comments Dr. Avagyan. The rights to the book were acquired by AUA Press in February 2020 and the Armenian version of the volume is planned to be published by the Press in 2022.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.