Brother Sarkis has passed away, and it is his work and his memory that remain. For over forty years, we shared a common fate and friendship. Although we did not agree on everything, we were people of the same world. When I look back now I see that when we came together, or spoke on the telephone, we only spoke about Armenian language, literature and culture, as if it were the only topic in our lives.
His greatest source of fun was, when he managed to get hold of a newspaper cutting, a newspaper, a magazine or a book, to come up to me and tease me saying, “See this, do you have this? Did you know about this?” He always used to carry a piece, or bundle of paper in his briefcase, bag or in his pockets that he would share with others. He wouldn’t really wait until you replied, “No, I didn’t,” and would begin telling you about what he knew on the subject, and his feelings and thoughts. Every now and then, he would get into a mood, and announce his reproach by proclaiming, “You lot don’t show proper interest, son!”
I had become aware of many things that were already under my nose thanks to him. It was from him that I had first heard of Gülizar, the hero of the book titled ‘Gülizar’s Black Wedding’ which we recently published. It was 30-40 years ago, at the Şişli Cemetery, when he asked me, “Do you know about Gülizar’s tombstone?” and then he took me to the side of her grave, and so I became acquainted with Gülizar.
From Aras to Agos…
During the early days of our Aras Publishing House, we were packed into a room that measured 3 metres in width and 5 metres in length, fifteen square meters in all… There were 3 desks in that room, 3 people worked full-time at those desks, and 3 others would come and go within the week. Whoever arrived would take a seat at the side of the desk and begin to work. There were also two guest chairs, behind the door, and that’s where the guests would sit. If a third guest came, he or she would be left standing, in that narrow room. In fact, when the guest sat down, the door would not open fully, when it did, it would hit the guest’s knee, so it would remain half-open. We had three permanent guests: Sarkis Seropyan, Mardiros Balıkçıoğlu and Yelda. I wouldn’t be lying if I said they dropped by every day. Brother Sarkis and Brother Mardiros were both monumental men, they already didn’t fit side by side. Brother Sarkis was at odds with Paylin, and he would say, “I’ve told Paylin forty times, she still hasn’t fixed me a desk here.” And Paylin would nag back, “Brother Sarkis, the door won’t open because your knee is in the way, where am I to put a desk?” This dialogue went on for years, until one day Hrant came up with an offer, saying, “Come on brothers, let’s publish a newspaper”.
Publishing books hadn’t appeased Hrant’s excitement, he wasn’t satisfied, and he kept saying, “Let’s publish a weekly newspaper”… Meeting after meeting, Brother Sarkis was on Hrant’s side, and he kept egging him on. Six months went by, an finally Hrant said, “Let me leave, I’m going to publish a newspaper,” and he went with Brother Sarkis. I never forget his excitement. He brought the trial issue of Agos to the concert of the Sayat Nova Choir at the Maçka Mining Faculty and distributed in the foyer with great pleasure. He was flying with joy…
We have so many stories with Brother Sarkis. One time, while we were talking about lending books, he said, “You know, I lent some rascal my Complete Works of Hovhannes Tumanyan, and he hasn’t brought it back. I would immediately recognize that book if I were to see it now, the first fascicle, the first 16 pages were missing.” “Brother, I’m that rascal you’re looking for,” I responded, “I have your book, I kept it because I could not remember who I’d taken it from, but I have since photocopied the missing pages from another copy of the book I came across, and made your book complete”. Having repaired the book, I had found myself a way to make amends, and swiftly found and gave him the book. It remains a memory in his library.
Agos has now been left without Sarkis Seropyan. His fellow companion Hrant was shot downstairs, in front of the entrance to the building, Seropyan run downstairs, Hrant was lying there, on the floor, before his eyes. The horror and despair on his face remains suspended in photographs. Now they will meet on the other side. To chat, and to argue… I am sure Rupen Maşoyan, Hagop Ayvaz and Yervant Gobelyan will join in. Imagine the fun they will have! Alas, they are all moody types, all in their unique way. I am the one missing. Wait for me, I will come…
But rest assured I will work very hard until I come, and produce more work, so when I do come I can have my briefcase, my bag filled up with new books and newspapers. Otherwise, what would we have to talk and argue about… It’s all we know!