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Lost in Publication: The Incongruous Life of a Diaspora Novel in the Age of the Global Canon
Current debates account for inequalities in world literature (wherein literature is conceived as a system) by tracing publication and circulation trends of a literary work. The model of approaching literature as one world system of inter-related, connected parts, each marked by its national parameters, may prove deficient for transnational literatures produced by diasporas. In the Armenian context, literature written in Western Armenian after 1915 is produced in the absence of publishing houses, and thus, offers a platform for inquiry into the inadequacy of the world literary system model. Often making its first appearance in serial form within newspapers, a literary work produced in the diaspora find eventual publication in book-form through funds provided by cultural institutions or community benefactors and private printing houses. Its re-publication, circulation, and archiving over time depends, for the large part, on the critical response scholars, intellectuals, and political or cultural institutions ascribe to it. In the transnational setting of the Western Armenian literary tradition, the sporadic and uneven nature of production facilitates the omission of many texts from diaspora’s canon, and more broadly, from world literature. The case of French Armenian writer, Shahan Shahnur’s novel, Nahanch? A?ants Erki [The Retreat Without Song] serves as an appropriate medium for exploration of the “life” of a literary work in the diaspora. Following its serial publication in the newspaper Ha?ach in 1929, the novel engendered a series of evolving critical response over the many decades. Quickly regarded as the Armenian diaspora’s emblematic novel, Nahanch? has enjoyed an exceptional circulation circuit, being heavily advertised, published and republished, translated, and included in anthologies and textbooks. This paper seeks to trace the exceptional life of the novel, from 1929 to the present, and subsequently interrogate the role of Armenian diaspora’s nationalism in its professed task of preserving cultural and literary traditions.
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19th-21st Centuries