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Jan 09, 2014 (1)

Here’s a little unknown story.

In the summer of 1997, after I came back from my psycho-vac, I ended up teaching conversational English to a classroom of Armenian students in Yerevan.

In theory it should have been an easy job … one just talks and play word-games and get people to enjoy trying something as scary and illogical as English (seriously, who in hell came up with p-q and b-d as letters that won’t get constantly reversed or turned upside down in non-English speakers minds?) Anyway, I took the hard road and decided the best way to have fun in this class was to get them to perform a play … and, you say, after reading the title of the Oscar Wilde drama up above, what better way to approach Amateur Drama 101 than with something that hasn’t been updated into modern speak since it was first translated from French in 1900? Because trying to explain “thee” and “thy” to a classroom who were just hoping to be able to say hello to their cousin Aram in Glendale might not have been the smartest move on my part, though one of my students did say she had heard someone, at some point in time, had translated the play Salome (1893) into Armenian, but she had no idea who or when.

Jump forward in time to yesterday, around 10-ish in the morning while I was at work. The Internets is fabulous, for I discovered who it was who first translated the play. Not everyone is familiar with the name Vahan Terian (Վահան Տերյան), which is a shame since his original poetry is both sad and beautiful (though not necessarily in that order), but, in 1910, he translated the French original into Armenian. And not only is the Internets fabulous but someone sainted soul actually uploaded the original translation … sadly in PDF format, but still! The whole play! translated! online! hurrah for exclamation points!

Here is the mission I’ve given myself. I want to simultaneously translate the original French into an updated English version plus translate it into modern Armenian while transcribing Terian’s original. This won’t be easy for numerous reasons. First, I’m terrible at transcribing. My ability to read Armenian is limited, but the uploaded PDF file seems to be the only version I can find online, unless someone can clue me in to where to look. Also, my ability to translate Armenian is comically absurd. There are children laughing at my attempts in Gyumri right now and I haven’t even started. Perhaps, one day, someone will read this and think helping me is a good idea, but there aren’t a lot of native Armenians in the world, even less so on-line, so I never take radio silence personally.

What I am going to present here are three versions of the play. The first is the original, taken from Project Gutenberg. The second is my attempt at an English translation and the third will be the Armenian. I’ll add notes from the Terian transcription as I go along, though I haven’t figured how exactly (I’m making this up as I go along). There are about 30 pages to the original play, depending on the font, so I’m thinking of publishing a page at a time, just to avoid confusion (mine). Of course, as always, if anyone reads this and wants to help, correct and ridicule, any assistance will only make the translations better.

With that said, the game, Mrs Hudson, is on!