Armenian Mourning – Word-Image Essay – 04/30/2023 – Entretempos

Perhaps this is the most personal Essay ever published here. It’s been a week since we buried Nuver Der Haroutiounian, my beloved grandmother, at the age of 95. With all the Armenian rituals that help and strengthen ties – and also pain – she went to earth and to heaven. I don’t understand most of the words of the Armenian liturgy – one of the oldest in the world, celebrated in classical Armenian (krapar) and sung by a choir – but I know they reach my deepest self, even though I don’t have a defined religion.

Instead of just written words for this Essay, I decided to also bring songs. The following poem is by Hovhannes Tumanyan (1869-1923): Armenian writer, poet, translator, and political activist. He is considered one of the most important figures in modern Armenian literature, and works by him are loved and appreciated throughout Armenia and the diaspora.

The chants are from liturgical music composed by Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), composer, ethnomusicologist and Armenian priest. He is considered a seminal figure in Armenian music, having collected, transcribed and preserved thousands of Armenian and Kurdish folk songs, as well as having composed his own musical pieces. When I was little and I got into my grandparents’ car many times, this was the CD that was playing. Since then, I like to listen to these songs wherever I go.

A tribute to this woman, with whom I lived deep Armenian stories from far and near.

Armenian Mourning

Armenian mourning is a gift,
A bottomless, endless sea.
In that dark vastness my soul floats,
Lamenting, in mortal pain.

Now furiously she rises
And look for the blue coast,
Now, tired, she disappears,
Seeking peace in the depths.

But she can’t find the bottom,
It can’t even reach the shore…
In the burn of Armenian sorrows
My soul languishes eternally.


Nuver Der Haroutiounian – 1927-2023

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