Khachik Dashtents – A Writer of Epic Spirit

Khachik Dashtents – A Writer of Epic SpiritArmenian poet and novelist Khachik Dashtents was born to a family of a shepherd on May 25, 1910, in the village of Dashtadem in Sasun, Bitlis vilayet, Western Armenia. The name of his birthplace would later serve as the basis for his literary pseudonym, Dashtents.

Going through all the atrocities of the late 19th and early 20th century, Dashtents lost his family and had to wander around numerous orphanages, until eventually finding home in the American orphanage in Alexandropol (now Gyumri), where he also would receive secondary education.

In 1932, Dashtents graduated from Yerevan State University. In 1940, he graduated from the faculty of English at the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages.

Since his very first steps in literature, Dashtents became a favorite of his readers. The national motifs, authenticity, ethnographical thoroughness, and his descriptions of the traditions and lifestyle of Armenians incorporated in his works were based on the experience the writer had gathered over the years of his life.

Dashtents’ first poems were noticed by great Yeghishe Charents himself. Charents, widely recognized as the main poet of the 20th century in Armenia, is known to have been looking for poets with their own unique style and spirit. By blessing Dashtents’ first poems, Charents was the one who contributed to the young writer’ entrance to big literature.

In this regard, two letters of Charents are preserved – one of them was addressed to the director of an Armenian publishing house Eduard Chopuryan and the other to renowned artist-designer Tachat Khachvankyan. Charents asked them to pay due attention to Dashtents’ book and ensure its high-quality publishing.

In 1936, Dashtents left for Moscow and entered the Institute of Foreign Languages. Having obtained brilliant command of English, Dashtents became engaged in translation, though he wasn’t very determined as to what to exactly translate initially.

The solution to Dashtents’ confusion was given by prominent Armenian lyric poet Avetik Isahakyan, the then president of the Union of Writers of Armenia. Isahakyan advised Dashtents to finish the work started by diplomat Hovhannes Khan-Maseyan, the translator of several works of Shakespeare into Armenian. Dashtents thus passionately devoted himself to the continuation of Khan-Maseyan’s mission, making it his goal for life.

When the difficult years of WWII began, Dashtents along with his expansive Shakespearean library, vocabularies, books, and manuscripts moved to the town of Irind (now located in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia). During the day, he worked on a par with the collective farmers (known as kolkhozniks throughout USSR), most of whom were refugees from Sasun. During the night, he resumed his literary activities.

Dashtents’ works are filled with an epic spirit and folklore-ethnographic motifs, as first of all evidenced by his novel “Khodedan”, which, according to Dashtents, was influenced by his impressions from the numerous conversations he had with his countrymen in Irind.

But perhaps the central work of Dashtents is the novel “Call of Plowmen”, which tells about the heroes of the Armenian national liberation movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Call of Plowmen” reflects the historical-artistic views of the writer. Based on eyewitness accounts, the book depicts selfless warriors of the national liberation movement, fidayis, peace-loving peasants who were merely engaged in taking care of their fields, lands, and water. Due to harsh circumstances, these peasants had to rise to the protection of their human rights, as well as honor.

Dashtents based the “Call of Plowmen” on folklore materials such as epic and lyric songs and traditions, as well as scientific studies in the fields of ethnography, geography, and history.

Dashtents died in Yerevan in 1974 at the age of 63. After him was named the school number 114 in Yerevan.

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