Reading Zabel Yessayan as Never Before in a New Edited Collection

Author and social advocate, Zabel Yessayan (1878 – 1943?), was one of
the most outspoken critics of sectarianism and one of the greatest
proponents of solidarity across identities and creeds. These significant
aspects of her literary and political interventions have nonetheless
failed to garner much attention. A pioneering new edited volume of
translations by Dr. Nanor Kebranian – Zabel Yessayan on the Threshold:
Key Texts on Armenians and Turks as Ottoman Subjects – sheds an entirely
fresh light on these forgotten yet timely aspects of Yessayan’s legacy.
This collection of hitherto unread, unrecognized, and even previously
unknown pieces comment on the need for unity across imposed identities
and against the horrors of social inequality.

Through meticulous archival research and unparalleled close readings,
Dr. Kebranian unearths and presents a series of eleven seminal but
overlooked writings that speak directly to current engagements with the
history and contemporary realities of Armeno-Turkish relations. This
book is therefore a first of its kind in broaching the often hidden or
lost experiences of the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Ottoman
past. It is also one half of a larger project, which will culminate with
the forthcoming publication of Yessayan’s original Armenian texts – as
well the Armenian version of Dr. Kebranian’s introduction – in the
second volume of Pakine Literary Journal’s monograph series.

Readers can traverse a span of approximately twenty-five years – from
the period just prior to the First World War, through the Armenian
Genocide, and ultimately the exclusionary 1923 founding of today’s
Turkey – to discover the often startling and prescient dimensions of
Yessayan’s confrontation with imperialism. From interracial love and
religious violence to the prospects of Islamo-Christian women’s
solidarity, the stories and essays in this book resist received versions
of Ottoman history and Armenian memory.

As valuable, perhaps, is Dr. Kebranian’s deeply informative
introduction, which leaves no doubt regarding the immeasurable worth of
Armenian literature – and, accordingly, of Armenian language proficiency
– in advancing both scholarly knowledge and broader cultural receptions
of the Ottoman-Armenian past. With its probing analyses and questions,
the introduction initiates productive debates regarding the
possibilities and limits of both Armenian and Ottoman Studies today. Dr.
Kebranian’s breadth of knowledge and expertise in history, literature,
and law serve to direct readers towards a clearer and more complex
understanding of the Armenian literary heritage.

ABOUT DR. NANOR KEBRANIAN: Dr. Kebranian is a published scholar and
translator, having received her doctorate from Oxford University with
fellowships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and Oxford’s Clarendon
Fund. In addition to her appointment as Assistant Professor in the
Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at
Columbia University, she has also held research positions at Queen Mary
University of London and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Aside from her own published translations, she has commissioned and
edited several published translations of Armenian literature and
scholarship. Her much-lauded edited volume, “Captive Nights: From the
Bosphorus to Gallipoli with Zabel Yessayan” (Trans. G. M. Goshgarian),
appeared with The Press at California State University, Fresno in 2021.

BIBLIOINFO: Nanor Kebranian (Transl., Ed., and Intro.), “Zabel Yessayan
on the Threshold: Key Texts on Armenians and Turks as Ottoman Subjects”
(London: Gomidas Institute), 144 pp., illust,
ISBN 978-1-909382-75-6, pb., UK£20.00 / US$24.00. To order please

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