Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series To Be Presented To Armenian Readers

We are glad to announce that the publications of The Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series are coming out soon. We are sharing with you the Foreword of the series by Razmik Panossian, the Director of the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Foreword to the Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series by Razmik Panossian

The Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series is an ambitious multi-year translation project, initiated in 2015 by the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Its principal aim is to reduce the schism between intellectuals in Armenia and current approaches to the social sciences and humanities in the western world. Within the framework of the Series, ten books will be published, none of which, to our knowledge, have previously been translated into Armenian.

Inspired by the long Armenian tradition of translating the most advanced thinking globally into Armenian, the Translation Series focusses on the most influential contemporary academic texts (20th and 21st centuries) that have had significant impact on the thinking of philosophers, social scientists, researches, and students in what is broadly called the West. These important books have influenced the evolution of social science disciplines, the research questions asked, analytical frameworks and, ultimately, on how the world is interpreted or understood by a wide range of intellectuals and policy makers.

Selecting the texts to translate was not easy. Indeed, we started with hundreds of suggestions, but had the means to publish ten to twelve books only. We used three criteria to select the final texts: (a) the wide impact of the book on multiple disciplines; (b) its current relevance in academic circles; and (c) variety in approaches and languages. Some important texts, especially in historiography, had to be left out due to their limited impact beyond the discipline of history. We hope to include some of these in the second round.

The books being published in the first phase of the Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series are the following:  

  1. Giorgio Agamben, Quel che resta di Auschwitz. L’archivio e il testimone (Homo sacer III).
  2. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism.
  3. Alain Badiou, Le Siècle.
  4. Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left.
  5. Simone de Beauvoir, Le deuxième sexe.
  6. Michel Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir.
  7. Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere (selezioni).
  8. Jürgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit.
  9. Jean-Francois Lyotard, Instructions Païennes and La condition postmoderne.
  10. Edward Said, Orientalism.

Interestingly, four out of the ten books turned out to be written by French thinkers.

Translators have been working on their respective texts during the past two years. Each translator was matched with an editor to finalise the texts before publication. The books will be published in the order in which they are ready and will include explanatory notes from the translators. Giorgio Agamben’s Quel che resta di Auschwitz. L’archivio e il testimone, translated by Marc Nichanian, was the first to be ready, it is published by Actual Art. The books in this series will be published and disseminated by four different publishing houses in Armenia.

To help us with the selection of the texts and of the translators, as well as to advise us on various issues pertaining to translations in general, we set up an Advisory Committee of eight experts from Armenia and the Diaspora, representing multiple disciplines and approaches.[1] The books were chosen after several rounds of deliberation by the Advisory Committee. The translators were chosen through an open call for interest, based on their experience and samples of work. In both cases, while the final decision lay with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Advisory Committee was indispensable in giving invaluable advice.

Two of the ten books being published are translated into Western Armenian, and eight into Eastern Armenian. The selection of the translators determined the number of books to be published in each variant of the Armenian language. We hope to improve the balance between Eastern and Western Armenian translations in the future.

Translating such complex texts into Armenian is not an easy task, especially into a language that has faced the twin challenges of its “sovietisation” in Armenia and “ghettoisation” in the Diaspora. Another aim of this series is to enrich the Armenian language – in both its Eastern and Western variants – through the translation of new concepts, using Armenian rooted words. This has meant in some cases the coining of new words or terms, the revitalisation and adaptation of older words, or giving new meanings to existing words.

In all cases, the overriding approach has been to avoid using foreign terminology. There is much discussion and debate among the translators behind each word or term within these books. In fact, a number of workshops were held with the translators to discuss terminology and other issues related to translation. We have strived to be consistent with the terminology between the books, but without enforcing words onto translators. The use of terminology is explained in notes. In addition to the actual books, another output of the Translation Series is a multilingual glossary which will be useful to the translation community in Armenia and elsewhere. All books are being translated from their original languages: French, English, German and Italian.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series has four different components. The current ten books comprise the first component, which is the largest: a) translating from foreign languages into Armenian. The other three components are: b) translating cutting edge social science texts which have universal value from Armenian into foreign languages, c) translating important texts from Turkish into Armenian, and d) from Armenian into Turkish.

We will be working on these components in the near future. Each component has its own reason: to present to the world the best examples of Armenian thinking, to encourage dialogue between Armenian and Turkish scholars, but the overriding objective remains to enrich the social sciences and hence the worldview of intellectuals in Armenia and the Armenian-speaking Diaspora, by making influential global literature available in the Armenian language.

Finally, implementing the Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series is not only linguistically challenging. It also entails considerable logistical and administrative work. We have been fortunate to have ARI Literature Foundation supporting us. Without their expertise, commitment and organizational support, the initiative would not have succeeded. Needless to say, we also thank all of the translators and editors for taking on this challenging task. Finally, our gratitude goes to the Advisory Committee, who despite their busy schedules gave us time and advice enabling us to bring to light this Translation Series.

Razmik Panossian

Director, Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Lisbon, November 2019

[1] The Advisory Committee members are:  Shushan Avagyan (American University of Armenia), Vardan Azatyan (Ashot Johannissyan Research Institute in the Humanities, Armenia), Hagop Gulludjian, University of California at Los Angeles, USA),  Smbat Hovhannisyan, (Yerevan State University, Armenia), Armine Ishkanian (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK), Raymond Kévorkian, Université Paris VIII, France), Ardashes Margosyan (formerly of Aras Yayıncılık Publishing, Turkey), Ara Sanjian (University of Michigan at Dearborn, USA).