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Hovhannes Toumanian
1869-1923

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The different steps of Toumanian’s creations
Verses
Poems
Legends and ballads
Quartets
Stories
Fairytales
Translations
Criticism and discourses
Studies and analyses
Educational games
Proverbs
Great men according to Toumanian

Phases of Toumanian’s Creative Life

Toumanian’s creative work started in 1881 with a pretty verse ‘My Dear Soul’ and ended with a magnificent four-liner devoted to Doctor Grigor Saghyan –‘You are right…Bring Your Cup’. Between these two poems Toumanian’s entire life unfolds with logical stages of formation, maturing, establishment of emotional and ideological boundaries. There were glorious moments of inspirations and there were moments of creative emptiness, however the inner dynamics of his mind and soul and the search for the meaning of life have never stopped. The formation of that life was greatly conditioned by a number of personal and public factors. By splitting Toumanian’s life into phases, we can explain the logic behind it. Prof. Edward Jerbashyan, in his research Toumanian: Issues of Creation, has broken Toumanian’s creative life into six periods: a/ 1881-1886, b/1887-1892, c/1893-1900, d/1901-1905, e/1906-1914, f/1915-1922. Relying on such division, let us briefly introduce each of them.

1881-1886

This period includes the poet’s studentship at first in Janaloghli, then at Nersisyan School in Tiflis. The few poems written in this period that have reached us bear the influence of prior authors and their styles of expression. A. Injikyan describes this period as a time of accumulating life experience and impressions, looking for meanings and ideals. While in Janaloghli he wrote Lullaby, the Armenian Merchant, When the Severe Winter Passes. During his years at Nersisyan school he wrote The Lament of the Patriarch, Why Are You So Sad, Let the Wind Blow, March, Advice to The West Armenian. All these bear the influence of traditional poetry of the time. However parallel to these, Toumanian wrote The Dog and the Cat, and The Unfortunate Merchants. Later Toumanian wrote: ‘One time I used to write many popular legends and fables using a lot of dialect language. But as I did not keep them in due way, many were lost – only The Cat And The Dog and The Unfortunate Merchants remained.’ In these works his interest towards people’s folklore and live popular language was identified which later became one of the main characteristics of Toumanian’s creations. Indeed, later, these ballads were considerably changed and brushed up by the author obtaining perfection, but ‘Toumanian quality was there from the beginning’ (L. Hakhverdyan).

1887-1892

This was a period of plunging into the life of the society and obtaining social recognition. His first publications in Nor Dar newspaper were unsigned. ‘The young author apparently was not confident about his capabilities and therefore was apprehensive to disclose his identity before the society’ (Edward Jerbashyan). However soon, upon the advice of his friends, he published his first book. In 1890 the first volume of Toumanians ‘Poems’ was published in Moscow and in 1892-the second volume including several lyrical verses, six poems (Sako of Lori, Mehri, Alek, The Rejected Law, Anush, Maro) three ballades (The Sun And The Moon, The Cat and the Dog, Akhtamar), translations. Toumanian’s poems are being published also in periodicals – at first in March, then in Taraz and Horizon literary magazines. This period is peculiar for active search of the author’s creative identity, overcoming influences and forming his unique style and form. Although the author himself, while evaluating the works of his first book has considered them as ‘rough and in their preliminary form’, however, they clearly demonstrate the early expressions of Toumanian’s mature thoughts and forms. Some of his poems brought such a fresh breath into the literature that the young author once and forever established his place in the Armenian literature enjoying fascinated appreciation of critics and contemporaries.

1893-1900

1893-1900 refer to the third period which conditionally can be named as preparatory before the creative high flight. If we judge from the quantity of published materials, then the period is not very rich – A small collection Dashnakner (1893), publications in Akhbyur periodical, edited version of the Sako of Lori, translations form Bayron and Lermontov, articles in the press. After tremendous acceptance of the book published in Moscow, this is not much. This seeming break, in fact, was a period of intensive investigation which resulted in masterpieces at the beginning of the century. He continued to work on a number of poems and ballads (The Damned Woman, Peter-Paul, The Eagle and the Oak), creates wonderful pieces of prose (Gikor, The Pride of the Poor, Lives of the Brave, Bear Hunting), acts as a essayist and literary critic. In the 1890s Toumanian undertook writing plays and dramas which, however, remained unfinished and unpublished. Starting from 1895, he began collecting material for fulfilling the dream of his life –writing the fairytale poem The Firebird.

1901-1905

This short period is the peak of Toumanian’s creation. Levon Hakhverdyan writes – ‘In 1903 it became clear who Toumanian was. His book ‘Verses’ was published - very rich in content, sublime in art: it was the most luxurious publication ever during Toumanian’s lifetime. It was crystallization of everything that Toumanian had written before, since 1882’.
Thanks to his friends, Toumanian afforded some recreation and treatment in Abastuman and other resorts where he worked very productively. The result of that inspirational creative period were the re-written Anush, the third version of Sako of Lori, the second option of Maro, The Poet and the Muse, Towards Abyss, David of Sasun, The Siege of Tmkaberd, Parvana, and some magnificent pieces of poetry that were concluded in the above mentioned book published 1903 which became possible thanks to generous sponsorship of Duchess Mariam Toumanian.

1906-1914

This period is characterized by active social- political realities – from the first Russian revolution up to beginning of the First World War. In1908 Toumanian published another volume of verses in Baku. Besides, the poet wrote poems for children and published them in the magazine Hasker, in the textbook Lusaber and in the booklets of the series called ‘Children’s Library of Hovhannes Toumanian’ published by Duchess Mariam Toumanian.
Toumanian as a children’s writer forever entered the soul of every Armenian child since very early age. The study of the writer’s heritage of this period shows that he wrote very few lyrical verse - about twenty masterpieces among them Descent, The Birth, Invitation of Spring, etc. He also didn’t write his beloved great poems. He was engaged in editing and retelling folk stories and elaborating and refining new literary sources into literary pearls. A Drop of Honey, The Pigeon’s Monastery, The Giant, etc. Prose prevails in Toumanian’s creations of this period. Fine-tuning his clear and laconic style of narration, Toumanian reaches perfection in his short stories, fairy tales and in translations form other languages. Let us innumerate a few of them: Gikor, Bear Hunting, My Friend Neso, Uncle Khechan, The Deer, The Brave Nazar, The Lord and the Servant, The Death of Kikos, The Liar, The Carnival, Brother Axe, The Liar Hunter, etc. During this period Toumanian wrote most of his articles and essays for Horizon periodical which began publishing in 1909. In these publications Toumanian addressed all major issues that were of public concern and gave smart and deep comments to them. His ideas about literature, theatre, folklore, history and science are still up-to-date. Summarizing this period we can state that Toumanian was one of the central figures of Armenian reality at the beginning of the 20th century.

1915-1922

This is the last period of Toumanian’s life and creations. During this period, his life was undividedly connected with the destiny of his people more than ever. The First World War, the Genocide, revolution, his active and selfless public life, his personal tragedy because of deaths of his beloved son Artavazd and his two brothers, shattered the Poet’s life and reflected in his creations. In his essays and speeches he shared his contemplations with contemporaries about the cruel destiny of Armenians, their historical past and present and his belief in their bright future. In this period the number of his epical creations decreases giving way to lyrics. In 1916 his book With My Homeland was published which included verses both from previous years and new, patriotic ones, such as Our Vow, In The Mountains of Armenia, Sad Songs, The Last Days, Interment. We should separately mention From the Height, Illusion, Reading of the Universe, The Farewell of Sirius and, of course, the magnificent crown of his entire creative heritage - his quatrains. In the course of 1916-1922, Toumanian wrote more than fifty quatrains. In 1920 he published a selection of thirty quatrains. The book entitled Verses which was published in Constantinople in 1922, was Toumanian’s last work to be published.
Each of the periods of Toumanian’s creative life has had a specific development, closely associated with his own destiny and the destiny of his people. The Poet’s inner world, his spirit vibrantly reacted to the ebbs and flows of the time. But his way has always been a holistic one as step by step he has approached perfection in his art and immortal heights of wisdom in his soul.