The Daredevils of Sassoun Ride Again! Armenian News Network / Groong November 20, 2017 By Eddie Arnavoudian Welcoming the traveller at Yerevan's Central Railway Station is a commanding statue of David of Sassoun the main protagonist of the Armenian national epic `The Daredevils of Sassoun'. For their own sake no representative of the Armenian elite should pass before him! Astride his famous talking Colt Djalali, wielding a Thunderbolt Sword, David is ready to strike - but today not so much against foreign invaders, as against the ruling classes of his own nation that have hijacked the land and devour it like any foreign conqueror. Not just David but all the Daredevils, in their morality, their principles and their actions, are as stern judges before whom our contemporary state and elite, rotten to the core, stand condemned. Anyone with a heart, anyone with a sense of solidarity for her/his fellow beings will see in the tale of these Armenian Daredevils a passionate damnation of contemporary global elites, the 1% and their accomplices whose greed and injustice wreak havoc for humanity. It would insult the common folk and their troubadours who created and spread the tale to narrow it to a battle against imperial-colonial conquest alone. This it surely is and majestically so. But it is a great deal more! It is also an envisioning of a just and egalitarian social order; it is the constructing of a universal common people's Utopia dreamt of and fought for throughout the world and throughout history. Two welcome volumes help us appreciate `The Daredevils of Sassoun' in our brutal century: Artashes Emin's English translation of Nairi Zaryan's masterly 1966 prose rendition `Davit of Sassoun' (2016, Kindle NOTE 1) and Azat Yeghiazaryan's `The Poetics of the Daredevils of Sassoun', (282pp, 1999, also available in English! See NOTE2). Both show the Daredevils riding again, this time for us, to rid our world too of the pestilence that has gripped it. I. An Armenian Utopia, a peoples' history of Armenia `The Daredevils of Sassoun' was born in the age of 9th century Armenian resistance to imperial Arab invasion. For over a thousand years it was preserved orally, exclusively by the common people. Until 1873 when it was first put into print there had not been a single acknowledgement of its existence in written, `official' Armenian literature. For the elites the epic simply did not exist! Never told to aristocratic courts, so never having to pander to ruling class prejudice, never censored by Church ideologues, across the centuries the epic was infused with the concerns, preoccupations and hopes of ordinary men and women. Azat Yeghiazaryan cautions against tying protagonists and their adventures to any particular historical personalities or events but argues persuasively that in its substance `The Daredevils of Sassoun' grasps defining features of the Armenian common people's socio-historical experience of oppression, exploitation and resistance and their dreams and ambitions of a better world too. This socio-historical veracity is vouched for by many a troubadour who circulated the tale from village to village. Even as they gave the story their own individual artistic stamp they adhered consistently to a core they affirmed as the `History Of Our Forefathers', `The History Of Our Betters' or even as a `History Of Armenian Kings (AY226). 20th century short story writer Stepan Zoryan, an Armenian Sean O'Faolain if you will, or a Turgenev, hearing the tale told when a young boy remembers that: `Tellers and troubadours...passing through town and village acted as if they were books or history teachers (Stepan Zoryan, Collected Works, Volume 12, pp396-416) For Stepan Zoryan, as for many others this Armenian national epic lives as an alternative history of the Armenian common people that telling of their suffering also figures the kind of world they desire. In its socio-historical substance `The Daredevils of Sassoun' is wholly at odds with the classical, `official' tradition of Armenian historiography written generally by men of the Church. Adorned with kings, princes, bishops and generals classical texts, always valuable and often literary and historical masterpieces still represent history only from the point of view the elites, the aristocratic and Church feudal estates. Here the common people are usually depicted with scorn and contempt. Their social and economic experience, their suffering and their hopes are absent. In the case of `The Daredevils of Sassoun' however, Stepan Zoryan writes that: "...independent of our historians, the common people produced their own, oral, history...that in many respects was more extensive and profound... (It) performed a vital role in darker times encouraging the people with stories of David's heroism, assuring them that evil lords cannot reign for ever and that one should never resign oneself to oppressors... While our religious leadership and in part our historians explained the disasters that befell the people to have been caused by their sinfulness and then sought to console them with visions of afterlife, the people themselves (through this epic) explained those disasters as the result of rapacious plunderers' greed. The people consoled themselves with a far more realistic hope - the fight for freedom (ibid)." The classics are not a history of the people of Armenia. But `The Daredevils of Sassoun' is! Knitted into fast paced fantastical episodes of derring-do by gigantic superhero Daredevils battling against monsters, dragons and invading tyrants - all metaphors for or direct agents of oppressive and exploiting forces - `history teaching' folk troubadours describe the foundation and defence of the state and society of Sassoun. Before us we see erected a state in which there are no ruling classes, one in which the people can live without being subjected to the selfish whim and whip of Emperor, Sultan, King, Prince or Bishop or their agents. Colouring their tales with threads and themes from previous epics, myths and fables, troubadours secured the mass circulation of a social vision that forms a veritable `peoples manifesto'. One could venture to suggest that it also contains and preserves something of the programme of the violently suppressed 10-12th century peasant Tontrag movement whose radical demands and proclamations were put to flame by Armenian feudal elites. To appreciate the radical, nay revolutionary, impulse of `The Daredevils of Sassoun' one must try to imagine the world inhabited by teller and audience. Foreign domination, plunder, destructive taxation, violence, abduction and enslavement, forced religious conversion, land confiscation and forced migration. Almost intolerable conditions were made worse by selfish Armenian elites sitting atop a social order exploiting its own people. Worse still, in this hellish world bishop and priest insistently counselled obedience, resignation and passivity. The Daredevils of Sassoun stand opposed to this! Against the Church's slavish knee bending this is a paean to armed resistance. Listeners could not but have been enchanted by a tale that preserving the historical truth of their social experience also contained a message of hope for a possible future. For a people downtrodden as was the Armenian peasant in the 18th and 19th centuries to be told of the Daredevils' resistance and this as the history of their forefathers and ancestors, to be told of their fighting spirit and this in defence of a land free of all exploiting and oppressing estates, free of plunder, pillage or taxation, all this would certainly serve to inspire self-respect and hope among a humiliated people. Something of the force of the hope inspired by the tale is captured by Raffi in his massive two-volume novel `Sparks'. In Branch Four Little Mher, David's son is chained for centuries in a cave. But, Raffi reminds his readers that: `One day Mher will smash the chains and atop his colt will leap from his cave to wreak revenge on our enemies and cleanse Armenia of evil...One day he will come forth from his dungeon and spread light and justice across the land.' (Quoted in `Bibliographic Notes on `The Daredevils of Sassoun' by Manouk Abeghian, Collected Works, Volume 1, p520-521) Today the evil plaguing Armenia that needs cleansing is that of a corrupt, greedy and plundering Armenian elite that has brought darkness and injustice to the land and its people. II. The ideal state Unfolding in Four Branches `The Daredevils of Sassoun' traces their fortunes across four generations. The longest and most popular is the Third that tells of David of Sassoun's monumental battles against foreign invasion and conquest. However, Branch One being about the character of the House of Sassoun founded by David's grandfather Sanassar is critical to grasping not just the battle against foreign forces but the entire saga that is immensely broader. In its first cycle this folk drama shares something with the earlier Armenian `Pagan Epics' (AYp23), both containing state-building narratives. But in Sassoun the state being established is of a radically different order to that recorded in classical Armenian historiography. In its essential forms it is a free egalitarian peoples' state. Returning to Armenia from extraordinary boyhoods in Baghdad, Sanasar and his brother Baghdasar (Baltasar) are twice offered `official' Armenian thrones. Intent on building their own state they twice decline. They first request a plot of land from King Tevatoros on which to set themselves up. Tevatoros responds `I have no heirs when I die, the whole kingdom will be yours, make it your home (loc 430).' Sanasar refuses (loc 432) and a generous Tevatoros offers them Sassoun. Having established themselves, the brothers go off to seek the blessings of King Gagik of Armenia. `My boy' Gagik says, `I have no son, when I die, this Kingdom will be yours (loc590).' Sanasar declines informing King Gagik that he has his own state of Sassoun. The state that Sanasar builds has nothing that resembles the hierarchical oppressive class feudal order that existed in `official' Armenia. A discussion as they set about their business says it all. Baltassar asks: `Shall we build our fort first, or shall we begin with houses for these poor people? And Sanasar replies: `Their houses come first. These poor people will not survive in the open under the sun.' So they started building (loc460).' Sassoun is free of exploiting and pillaging classes and soon becomes a magnet for peasants and labourers from surrounding lands. `People in other lands heard of him (Sanasar) and said to each other: `Brother why are we sitting here waiting for robbers to hit us once and again and take away our possessions? By God, let us move to Sassoun where Sanasar and Baltassar reign; two powerful, fair strongmen. They levy no taxes and there is no pillage (loc606).' In Sassoun there are no whip-wielding Sultans, Kings, Lords or Bishops. Though formally king and prince Sanasar and Baltassar live life in the same conditions as the common people. They are socially speaking equal, not superior to any other `citizen' in a society of egalitarian principles (AY50-53). So: `Slowly but surely people from other lands moved to Sassoun, its population grew and the town became a true city (loc606).' Contrast this with our modern Republic of Armenia whose thieving `leaders' impoverish its people and drive hundreds of thousands from the land! Sanasar and Baltassar, Sanasar's son Big Mher and grandson David of Sassoun possess the qualities of genuine popular leadership that are in harmony with the nature of the state of Sassoun. Everything they do is driven by an imperative to serve people and community. They have nothing of the ugly greed, the grasping, the violence, oppression and exploitation that is the defining feature of ruling elites in unequal societies. Remarkably, and most telling for our day, the Daredevils strike out not only against foreign conquest and oppression but against wage-cutting employers, price fixing merchants and, yes, forces that destroy the environment! Moreover their solidarity and support for the common people is not limited to nationality or to any given state boundaries. Having consolidated the House of Sassoun, Sanasar strives for the welfare of people and environment beyond Sassoun's own borders. Leaving Sassoun on an adventurous journey to win over his beloved he encounters and slays a greedy monster who drinking the river dry causes drought and desertification. Sanasar with his: `...Thunderbolt Sword split the insatiable man in two and said `Your thirst is quenched, you will no longer crave water.' The waterway opened up and the river flowed freely over the field, the trees revived and the grass became green, the flowers cheered up, and they all exclaimed from every side: `May your road grow green wherever you go Sanasar (loc705).' Further on Sanasar lays low a sadistic dragon `that sits at the source of water' and threatens `the whole Green City with death by thirst (loc871) unless its citizens `give him a virgin maid to devour every week, so that they make take a little water (loc884)'. Sanasar's son Big Mher is everything modern heads of state are not! While still a teenager he feeds the people with game he hunts on his estates. He bare-handedly kills a lion that blocks imports of wheat and bread and so causes shortages, price rises and starvation (loc1128). Acquiring the reputation of being `father and mother of the poor' the people of Sassoun hope that Mher's son David will be `his father's son' (NZ95). And so he is! David represents a genuine national leadership. Though a King he does not use this formal status or his super-strength to live at the expense of others. He insists on finding a job `so that I can earn my living (loc1830).' `You shouldn't be the only one to feed us' he tells his uncle. `Get us work to do, so that we may sustain ourselves (loc1942).' A far cry from modern elites living as parasites at the expense of the laboring population! This remarkable `King' also acts as a protector of laboring classes. He explodes with rage when told that cattle herders have to wait for their food and be satisfied with leftovers. `Leftovers are for dogs' he exclaims as he forcibly takes away the portions he needs (NZ89). Elsewhere this `king' warns that `if anyone cuts a grain of millet from the wage of my brothers, David's doom shall descend on your houses (loc2036). When rebuilding the Maruta Monastery he not only joins in the hard physical labour but insists that `workers and master craftsmen' are paid well and threatens `don't ever let me hear that any of them was left unpaid (loc2247).' The actual social relations that prevail in the House of Sassoun are not feudal. They are those of an imagined collectivist egalitarian community. But any explicit or `realist' depiction of an ideal state without oppressing and exploiting classes, a society without Sultan, King, Prince and Bishop would have been beyond the scope of those who fashioned this epic in the deepest feudal ages when the social hierarchy would have been regarded as eternally fixed, by Divine ordination! The troubadours circumvented these limits in creative style using all the facilities offered by the epic folk genre with its combination of elements of fable, myth, fantasy and folklore. Using epic forms troubadours retained a formal feudal hierarchy but eliminated its essence. Labels denoting the class structure of feudal society remain in place but royal or princely titles accord no privilege or status and no social, economic or political power over others. Kings and Princes, Bishops and Priests have either been reduced to figures of no social importance or their titles have become almost personal names and no more. It bears remarking here that with written classical Armenian culture suffused with religious and Christian sensibility `The Daredevils of Sassoun' is singular in its rigorously secular narrative, one in which religious ritual, observation and fervour is absent. In most epics royal, aristocratic or privileged protagonists exploit extraordinary strength and prowess to secure power, advantage and wealth, to conquer and subjugate for their personal advantage. But not with the Daredevils! In his battles David has nothing in common with Msra-Melik's imperial-class theme tune of `where is my war booty, where are my taxes, where is David's head?' David `from the field of battle takes neither slave nor booty' (p109, 130) and wants only for the people to be free of pillage, plunder and usurious taxation. The Daredevils do not abuse their strength and their powers. They are modest and display no tendency to boast, or to act in domineering or authoritarian manner. In this epic moreover there is none of that humble subordination or obsequious bending to one's superiors one encounters in epics fashioned for royal or aristocratic courts (AY78, 79, 82). Such is the state and society that the Daredevils and David in particular will wage awesome and fierce battle to defend. III. Defending the people's realm Some of the most colourful and uplifting passages in the adventures of the Daredevils are those of resistance to the Caliph of Baghdad and the Meilk of Msra, known otherwise as Msra Melik. In rapid-fire dialogue there glows an uncompromising dedication to the right of people to independent statehood. Conflicts reach a peak when David of Sassoun personally measures strength with Msra Melik who seizing the opportunity of Big Mher's death when David is `still in the cradle', subjugates Sassoun. In images redolent of Ottoman violence: `Msra Melik raised an army and came to wage war on the House of Sassoun. He took Sassoun and put its people to the sword. He rampaged and plundered Sassoun, enslaved the people, levied heavy taxes and took away cattle, sheep, horses and gold without count, to the land of Msr. Msra Melik made Sassoun his vassal and taxpayer, appointing Craven Vergo governor (loc1535-37) But David grows to become an indomitable giant of a strongman and takes up the cudgels for Sassoun's right to self-determination. `I am no taxpayer to Msra Melik' he announces. `Msra Melik shall rule over Msr, I shall rule over Sassoun (loc2272).' About this there will be no negotiation! Having endured centuries of foreign conquest it is understandable that a dream of independent statehood would be integral to the Armenian popular imagination. So it is in `The Daredevils of Sassoun' that was almost certainly appreciated as a tale of resistance against imperial conquest. Msra Melik is after all little different from Ottoman Sultans who for centuries made life for Armenians a hell on earth. But in the same vein as its radical envisioning of the state of Sassoun, `The Daredevils of Sassoun' presents the question of national liberation in extraordinary form! Consistent with the social structure that prevails in Sassoun and of the moral constitution of its leadership, the struggle for national independence is indivisibly a struggle to defend Sassoun's egalitarian order. It is a battle for national independence intended to secure and sustain the principles of an established egalitarian society. It is battle waged against attempts to impose not just foreign rule but an exploiting class structure alien to the character of Sassoun. It is impossible to imagine the Daredevils fighting to free Sanasar's Sassoun only to impose on it a feudal social hierarchy of `official' Armenia that would have ruthlessly taxed and pillaged the peasant, in a manner not terribly different than Msra Melik. Conflict that pits Armenian against Arab in national terms is entirely secondary and of no significance. What fixes Msra Melik as an enemy is not that he is Arabic or non-Armenian - after all the Daredevils as the epic shows are linked to foreigners and Arabs through scores of blood, family, marriage and other ties - but that he is seeking to force on Sassoun an unjust social regime. Msra Melik is the epic anti-hero not on account of his foreign, Arab nationality but on account of his role as representative of a pillaging and plundering class that is foreign and alien to the social, egalitarian character and the common people of Sassoun. At every stage of action-packed adventure it is the social rather than the national aspect that is the driving force of the narrative. At the opening of Branch Two, on Sanasar's death Msra Melik `enters Sassoun without a fight' and demands: `Forty bushels of gold and precious gems/Forty short women to turn the millstones/Forty tall women to load animals/Forty gorgeous virgin maidens/Forty stallions of identical stature and colour/Forty heifers of the same stature and colour/Forty draft oxen and forty milch cows.' (loc1037) The contest between Sassoun and the invaders will reach its peak when an enraged Msra Melik launches war against David to assert and reclaim his rights to such exploitation, and that with seven years of arrears! David's response underlines the radical, social and indeed the egalitarian quality that defines the Daredevils' struggle for national freedom. Proclaiming that `Msra Melik shall have Msr' David does not say in parallel that `David shall have Sassoun'. He says that `Sassoun shall belong to its people'. `Msra Melik shall have Msir and the land of Sassoun shall belong to its people! Let them live on their own, and we shall live here on our own (loc2400). There is no doubt that speaking of the `people' David refers only to the common people not to a ruling, exploiting privileged landowning aristocracy or clergy. The Daredevils are defending Sanasar's Sassoun in which such an aristocracy or clergy did not exist. David of Sassoun and Msra Melik represent two opposed state-social systems, one egalitarian and serving the common people, the other a state in the service of greedy and violent elites now attempting to impose their cruel regime on Sassoun. In this sense the Daredevils' struggle against foreign conquest takes on a double aspect. It is war against foreign powers seeking to conquer Sassoun. But it is also war against attempts to impose a social order utterly foreign to the principles governing the State of Sassoun. Today without doubt the Daredevils would certainly do battle against contemporary Armenian elites whose conduct and the social order they defend are indeed as foreign to the common people of Armenian as any imposed by Msra Melik's conquistadors! The social and class rather than the national core that defines the drama of the independence struggle appears again at the conclusion of a monumental duel between David and Msra Melik. Msra Melik is now shown to be a tyranniser over his own people as well. As the grand duel comes to its end one of Msr Melik's soldiers approaches David and says: `May God keep your house erect, Davit! If Msra Melik has called you to war, why do you fight us? What are these unfortunate men to blame for? Each one is the light of a destitute home, the sole-begotten of a family. Some have left senile parents behind, some young brides, others a house full of kids. Msr Melik has brought them all here by force; He is the enemy of Sassoun, the one you should fight (loc2892) This David understands completely! So after slicing Msra Melik in half, he dispatches Msra Melik's troops with a declaration of humanist solidarity, one that recognises Sassoun's non-negotiable rights to independence but simultaneously also affirms the common interests and visions of all common people irrespective of race or nationality: `Davit said: `Go poor men, farmers, workmen, rank and file, enjoy peace in your homes. Let your land be yours, and our land shall remain to us. You will plough your land, we shall plough our land, you will reap your harvest we shall reap ours, you will eat your bread, we shall eat our bread. Let us live together in peace. There is no harm in peace (loc3075).' Here again a standard in foreign policy. Yes resist foreign elite aggression and expansionism but do so through building solidarity with their common people of your neighbouring lands. IV. A critical reservation `The Daredevils of Sassoun' is rich in its emancipatory, egalitarian and critical drive. Unfortunately, there is nothing radical, emancipatory or egalitarian in its depiction of women and their treatment in society. The position and role of women never rises above the subordination and subjugation characteristic in medieval or rural village communities. It is for women to obey and not to speak. When against his wife's wishes Big Mher prepares to visit Ismail Khatoun, his wife Armaghan surrenders saying `I have no power over you. I am a woman. My tongue is tied (loc 1342)'. On Big Mher's return, Armaghan first refuses to have him back but again succumbs: `what can I say, a man is the head of the house, woman is the feet; a woman cannot go against man's wishes. Come to my bed (loc1453).' Casual violence against women, regarded as normal, is presented in an almost light-hearted manner. `Stentor Ohan became furious and kicked his wife in the ribs (loc2945).' Women appear as objects of men's desires, mothers for their children and in their beauty as trophies for winners in male competitions (NZ143). Male sexuality is laudable but women's is dangerous. Women never feature in commanding or independent roles. If they do, they are malicious as in the case of Ismail Khatoun or licentious as in Stentor Ohan's wife. Demeaning, deprecatory references to women are standard fare. `Now they know that they are the only real men, while our men are mere girls (loc 420).' `Should we have a whole nation slain for the sake of a girl (loc222)?' `Braid Peach has ruined many a man already (loc752).' `If you fail to come, you'll be more of a woman than myself and should wear this veil on your head (loc1317).' `Even old hags of Sassoun can catch a jailed beast (loc 2164).' `Being a woman, she put up with her womanly fate (loc3733).' One cannot but ask if women so disdained were part of the enraptured audiences listening to the tale? The dissonance between the epic's radical, critical spirit and its accommodation to the subordination and subjugation of women juts out ugly from an otherwise wonderfully beautiful tale. Can anything be done to cleanse and redeem it? A positive answer emerges in any reading of the text and an appreciation of its historic plasticity. Transmitted orally for a thousand years the 'The Daredevils of Sassoun' constantly evolved and developed. It has reached us endlessly altered and enriched, enhanced and sometimes tarnished, all in accord with the spirit of the times in which it was told. Just because it today exists in written form does not forbid further evolution. A 21st century rendering could enrich it further with a universal spirit of equality between women and men. And for such an enterprise there is within the epic itself solid foundation. When David's marriage is being considered, the role and function of marriage recalls Royal Courts where women are betrothed by men to secure advantageous political alliances (NZ134). David rejects such arranged marriages (NZ139). He loves Khantut, not Chmshkik and he will court the woman he loves. So he sets off for Khantut's home. On arrival David's first instinct is to satisfy his sexual passions (NZ144)! But Khantut will have none of this. Yes, she is happy for sex but it must be part of fuller human relationship! She demands to be treated as a human being, not as a sexual object (NZ145). `Well read and shrewd' (loc3571) she is conscious of and insists on women's equality: `If you are your father's son, I am my father's daughter. A lion is a lion, whether male or female (loc3448) Here textual and historical licence for a narrative that would generalise Khantout's consciousness to all women and would present a vision of society in which women and men of all races, of all nationalities, of all faiths are equal in every respect! V. Twin peaks of Armenian culture The visionary and utopian quality of `The Daredevils of Sassoun' is testimony if any were needed that radical, egalitarian even revolutionary thought is no artificial, foreign or alien contraband smuggled into Armenian life. That it has deepest indigenous roots has been noted by many, including Yeghishe Charents in his much maligned but ruthlessly honest `At the Crossroads of History'. Against the dismal and the disastrous, the absurd and the pathetic, the humiliating and the useless history of sycophantic, selfish and exploiting Armenian elites that have brought the people and nation to the edge of ruination, Charents writes of the common man/woman: `They lived life as serfs; Yet in this deepest dark they dreamt of the sun For centuries, with folk rhymes They sung their just and noble thoughts, And alongside fables They created their genius ancient epic Into which they put the red idea, the immortal vision Of their future life...' (Yeghishe Charents, Collected Works, Volume 4, 1968, p210) Beyond its utopian and egalitarian dimension, or rather woven into it, the 9th century `The Daredevils of Sassoun' is a powerful statement of universal humanism that invites us to place it besides Grigor of Narek's 10th century `The Book of Lamentations' as one of the twin peaks of Armenian culture. One secular, the other deeply Christian, both are magnificent artistic offerings of a promise of emancipation from the dark forces of human history, delineations of a perfected human being in a free society that has appeared and reappears in the best of human life, culture and history. If the state of Sassoun built by Sanasar, represents an imagined popular political ideal, then the moral qualities of its protagonists and of David in particular represent an imagined ideal individual who is the realisation of human potential at its noblest. In his revolt against injustice, in his determination to give his all to vanquish evil, in his challenge to all illicit power and authority, in his dedication to community and people, in his moral rectitude and generosity David is representative of a healthy, unbroken, dignified and free human being. In Narek's `Book of Lamentations' the protagonist appears as the refutation of everything David of Sassoun is. Man/woman is greedy selfish, violent, warlike, oppressive, deceitful, and destructive. But in magnificent poetry Narek's ambition is to convince all that they can emancipate themselves and become 'ideal' even godlike. Put differently one could say that Narek's project was to help men and women develop in the inspiring image of the Daredevils of Sassoun that the poet may even have known about! ***** Hovhannes Toumanian judged this national epic to be `an expression of popular collective experience accumulated across the centuries, a `treasury of spiritual potential' and the `expression of the moral principles espoused by the people' (AY276). Leo, that demanding and unsparing historian and critic, was also correct when writing that in `The Daredevils of Sassoun': `Before every Armenian (we can add `and every reader of English too') is placed a story that the more you think about it, the greater the beauty you see in it.' (From Manouk Abeghian, Collected Works, Volume 1, p533) But alas today, as Azat Yeghiazaryan notes in his introduction to Artashes Emin's translation, among us Armenians the epic `lacks freshness', has become bookish and removed from everyday life: `We know and love our epic, but at the same time we conceive it as a purely literary text; its real characters departed from this world long ago# (loc135)' Do we have the artist, the poet, the novelist, the writer who will help to restore freshness, who can free the tale from being a purely literary text, who is able to recover its vision for our times, who will take the grand Utopia of the Daredevils and the form of state they fought for and reintegrate these as intellectual and artistic weapons into our 21st century battles for a better world for all, for Armenian, Arab, Turk, Kurd, Irish, Palestinian, English, Native American, Indian and all other peoples across the globe. NOTE 1 Most of the quotations are from this text and are referenced according to Kindle locations of Nairi Zaryan's text as for example loc1234. Where I have not been able to refer a quotation to this version, I indicate the page reference to Zaryan's original 1966 Armenian version as follows NZ followed by page number. NOTE 2 I am hugely and deeply indebted to and inspired by Azat Yeghiazaryan's commentary - the best ever written I wager! I have tried to indicate wherever I have borrowed ideas, examples, quotations or other information by referring to AY and then a page reference - thus for example AY123. For those unable to read Armenian here details of the English edition: Daredevils of Sasun: Poetics of an Epic, Translated by S. Peter Cowe. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2008. 270pp. References are to the Armenian version.
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