During her literary career, Zabel Yesayan published 13 books, as well as numerous articles in Armenian and French in the local and international press, made appeals and speeches from high tribunes, and until the end of her life her struggle had just one name: justice. We interviewed Melissa Bilal, an Armenian professor born in Turkey and living in the United States about the literary works, social activities and modernity of the Istanbul-Armenian writer.
Melissa Bilal has been interested in Zabel Yesayan’s literary works since she was a teenager. Throughout the years, she began translating into Turkish, studying her literary heritage in the archives. She is convinced that Yesayan is one of the pioneers of Istanbul-Armenian feminist literature. “Her works in Armenian and French, her speeches and letters highlighting political issues had a fatal and life-changing effect. She has never been shallow in her deeds or speeches. Zabel was unique.”
Zabel was a wise woman and emphasized the role of women in the upbringing of generations. In her works and writings, she condemned xenophobia, class and racial segregation.
SrpouhiDussaphas left a crucial mark on Zabel Yesayan’s literary identity and political views. She used to be a frequent guest at her house. Melissa Bilal notes that Zabel’s experience of numerous “escapes and returns” were documented in her literature. “She was one of the first Armenian women to study at the Sorbonne University. Communicating with women in Europe, especially French feminists, and attending their gatherings inspired her to write articles on women’s rights and on strengthening their role and status in the society”.
Zabel was a wise woman and emphasized the role of women in the upbringing of generations. In her works and writings, she condemned xenophobia, class and racial segregation. “A woman should be free in her thoughts, deeds, desires”. During the massacres of 1909, she stood out not only for her literary works, but also as an intellectual figure. She used to collect eyewitness testimonies and published them in periodicals. She was collecting information about orphans and providing them with needed aid..
In addition to publishing literary masterpieces, she taught at the Yerevan State University and was a member of the Writers’ Union, representing Armenia everywhere.
Before the exile, she moved to homeland and settled in Yerevan. In addition to publishing literary masterpieces, she taught at the Yerevan State University and was a member of the Writers’ Union, representing Armenia everywhere.
Melissa Bilal and her colleague are going to publish a book about 12 famous Armenian women figures, including Zabel Yesayan. According to Bilal, Zabel’s works are still relevant nowadays. In her works, one can see the sufferings of Armenians in 20th century, as well as now, because of the Artsakh Third war. Yessayan conducts a class-based study of war, showing the impact of cruel consequences on ordinary people and generations. The Istanbul-Armenian writer was among the first who spoke about the post-war traumas.