By Dennis Abrams
Writing at hetq.am, Anush Kocharayan spoke with Arevik Ashkharoyan, literary agent and owner of First Armenian Literary Agency about her take on trends in international literature, as well as the interest in Armenian authors in the international market.
You represent Armenian writers at international literary platforms, mainly in Europe, coming into contact with foreign contemporaries in literature and their propaganda. Generally, what trends is the international literary market guided by?
It’s hard to speak of definite trends, since everything depends on what literature we’re talking about. If we look at bestsellers in this context, the trends are clear: they are those books that are not of very good quality and easily read, sometimes even very cheap pornographic or erotic literature.
For younger readers, it’s fantasy, which is now widespread and comes in diverse forms, including supernatural beings in stories about historic or mythic figures. Of course, the detective genre with a mix of mysticism is even now at the center of attention.
But if we’re talking about ‘good’ literature, which, nevertheless, doesn’t have large readership, such literature doesn’t have any specific trend. Most conversations with very serious European publishers are about the fact that the book has to be good: it doesn’t matter what it’s about, who’s the author, his or her nationality, or in what language the book was written.
Considering this, it becomes difficult to separate clear criteria in general terms.
The works of Armenian authors that the agency selects to represent on the international stage – what makes them stand out?
As the head of a private enterprise, I am free to choose the books that I like, but that doesn’t mean that I also don’t listen to the advice of experts. The main criteria at this time is the genre of the book and the date of publication.
At this stage, we mainly represent novels because they’re in great demand. They must be published in recent years because the matter of contemporaries is discussed greatly on the international stage.
Of such authors, whose works have attracted interest in the international market and why?
The greatest interest at this time is Aram Pachyan’s novel Goodbye, Bird. I think the interest is because the book presents issues that are relevant for youth all over the world – regardless of nationality or place of residence.
Using allegory, the novel describes a young man in a close society and establishing himself and making a choice between “bad” and “good.” One of the unique characteristics of the novel is the impact of each person’s childhood experiences on a person’s entire life. These are universal issues.
The other book that also enjoys interest is Hovannes Tekgyozyan’s novel The Fleeting City, which also touches upon many contemporary issues.
On one occasion, in conversation, you said that European publishers are particularly interested in the works of female writers.
Yes, when they see our catalogue where only male writers are represented, they always ask if there aren’t female writers. In European countries, it’s even obligatory to maintain [gender] parity. Of course, it’s not worth it at the detriment of professional quality. Our agency will soon announce a competition for female [Armenian] writers so that we can discover new names and provide an opportunity to publish them as well.
The term ‘literary agency’ is quite binding. Nevertheless, you can already speak of success. I know that Gurgen Khanjyan’s Yenok’s Eye was published this year by America Star Books.
Yes. Also, we have signed a contract with Turkey’s Kalem agency for the Turkish publication of Hovhannes Tekgyozyan’s The Fleeting City. The book will be published by Ayrinti Publishing House. There are a few contracts with Georgia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Germany, which are in progress.
The First Armenian Literary Agency has been in business for three years, representing the books of Armenian authors in the international literary market and establishing ties with foreign publishers. The agency represents 40 Armenian titles, the majority of which are fiction. There are also poetry, children’s, and non-fiction titles.