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AUA Press Launches the Armenian Translation of Susan Sontag’s Book

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YEREVAN, Armenia — On October 10, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Press hosted the official book launch of the Armenian translation of Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others. The event featured a presentation and a bilingual reading by the book’s translator Gayane Tevosyan (CTr. ‘19) and editor Shushan Avagyan.

“It was 2019 and I was a student in the Graduate Certificate in Translation program at AUA. Our professor Shushan Avagyan, who is also the editor and director of AUA Press, introduced the book to us, and we translated passages from one of the chapters as part of our practicum in translation. This is how I began my deep dive into Sontag’s world,” Tevosyan explained in her introductory remarks. In early 2020, at Avagyan’s request, Tevosyan undertook the translation of the whole book.

As Tevosyan mentioned in her introduction, “Some parts of the translation were done during the 2020 Artsakh war, which made it emotionally difficult to accomplish but, at the same time, uncannily easy in the sense that we were so close to the horrors described in the book: war crimes and cruelty, staging photographs, the international community’s indifference, and so on. In fact, I wrote my translator’s note on November 9, just a day before we learned about the end of the war and its painful outcomes. In her book, Sontag analyzes how people view other people’s pain, juxtaposing images of man-made horrors and criticizing viewers, the consumers of those images, for their indifference and ignorance.”

Regarding the Pain of Others simply had to be made available to the Armenian reader; it was as if written for us,” Avagyan noted in her speech, adding, “Sontag’s formalism, informed by her conception of the writer as a witness of conscience, materializes remarkably in this book-length essay, which contemplates the political role and the social duty of the artist. She explores the ways pain is inflicted, viewed, and represented, the ways images, language, and metaphor create—and distort—reality. And as a witness of conscience, Sontag offered more than just her writings. She actually journeyed to and staged acts of resistance in war zones, as in Sarajevo, for example.” Avagyan wanted the Armenian reader to perceive the translation of the book within this trajectory, as an extension of Sontag’s act of resistance against war.

Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) Dr. Hagop Yacoubian articulated best the importance of the initiative, “I was very happy to learn about the process of the project and how this all started as a professor-student collaboration. I think both the process and the outcome are beautiful. I look forward to reading the book.”

Copies of the Armenian translation of Regarding the Pain of Others are available in libraries throughout Armenia and can be acquired free of charge from AUA’s AGBU Papazian Library.

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.