- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 9, 2003 

Novel Approach to Student Life: New fiction departs from traditional style

The 24-year old author introduced his book (with help from low-tech amplification) at CCEA.

"We will remain utopians dreaming of the ideal but in fact feeling disgusted by its realization."

This expression taken from Karen Karslyan's new (and first) novel "X Frames/Sec", reflects the 24-year- old author's view that his world has become one in which words have lost meaning or become mutated by computer symbols and trademarks. In this world Armenians write emails in Latin script and English and Russian expressions used in Yerevan mix with curses, lashing the shore of a reader's attention.

The book has a specific flow, carried by its main character, a university student and his friend "Kid", in the streets of Yerevan. ("getting vomited out of the Mashtots Avenue bookstore and jabbering they turned left to Aram Street")

Presentation of "X Frames/Sec" took place on May 2 in CCEA (Center for Contemporary Experimental Art). The book, which contains Karen Karslyan's romance, "Fragments of Personality" series and other works, was published in "Bnagir" literary magazine as its fourth issue. Before publication it had been placed on the website (

Karslyan wrote the novel in 2001. Prior to the online version, he couldn't find a publisher for his book, he said, because the text contains obscenities.

"I tried to publish it in the Writers Union, where first books of young writers are published," says Karslyan. "The president of the Writers Union said that he agreed the book should be published, but as president he couldn't do that. Then there was another place where it was refused. If there wasn't Bnagir I should have raised money and I don't know when it could be published."

Bnagir is the first and the only literary periodical, where there is no censorship. Texts which are not published in other places because of frivolous content find a home there. Bnagir's last two issues have been published through a US embassy grant.

"The courage of language used in this book is very interesting," says poet Marineh Petrosyan. "The freshest and the timeliest of current Armenian are brought into literature. It's the layer of language that hasn't penetrated the field of literary language yet."

Petrosyan says most contemporary Armenian literature follows the pattern of 19th century romanticism. "Any political or social change is not firm if it hasn't been reflected in linguistic thought. That's why it's a paradox that remote from political positing Karslyan's literature becomes actual in terms of realization of language perception."

The sourceof the story is an entrance of the "Lezbos University", a fictionalized version of Brusov Linguistic University, where the author is working on his post-graduate degree and teaches American-English literature.

The book was received during a reception at the art center, known for its avante garde installments..

Karslyan's novel characterizes the university as a place in which "those standing outside had the least chance of hunting a chap inside unpleasant blend of menstruation odor and 'anti-vampirant' perfume".

The university is called "Lezbos", as during soviet times the institute was famous for the great number of girls studying there.

The boys in "X Frames/Sec" lined around the university entrance hoping to meet girls (like in real life Brusov) include "Kid" who "having gripped the hands of several girls he was introduced to he eventually came to feel a deadly ache beginning somewhere in the testicles".

The novel is weighted with accounts of students' sexual desires and includes "a middle-aged mediocrity, John S. Cheeks the American".

The stream of writing takes boys away from the university through Yerevan streets and the streets in their turn fall into the stream of the author's reference to the unconsciousness (sidewalks turned into rail-tracks). " . . . and the half-mad piper sliding on these tracks … in quick motion, squeezing his fingers into the pipe eye-sockets, roving pipe-pants, pipe-coat, pipe-nose, pipe-ass".

Karslyan's technique of writing has a propensity for animation, where cartoon is presented as text. It's like in "Fragments of Personality" series, where a mouth comes closer to an ear for telling something but without telling anything a mouth turns into an ear.

"I always wished to make a movie," the author says. "However, as it's not possible, I reproduced my desire in text… text movie. A movie dictates people with what speed they must watch it, 24 frames per second. That's why the novel is titled "X Frames/Sec"… X is indefinite space of time. Movie director Godard says, 'movie is a truth 24 times per second'. I say that literature is a truth X times per second. Literature cannot know how long it takes to read it."

The book's stream of consciousness writing includes the sexual fantasies of a daughter in a Diaspora family in which the torrent of thought co-opts the dream of text itself: ". . . they are tying me up fast with elastic radio-waves and atmospheric precipitations".

The novel ends with the words "You have successfully installed the program".

"If there is no proper program a computer won't open a file," explains Karslyan. "People turn into computers. Some realities or alternative thinking are installed in people, they read and imagine many realities in different way in accordance with new installed program. For instance, in the romance a balloon symbolizes the death of an individual, how the air is slowly leaving him and he dies, and in another part it symbolizes breasts of a mother.

"It is an installation package so that a reader could understand that type of files and the reality would take shape of pluralism. What I've written in the end of my novel, saying that the text has been installed in people, makes the process of people's transformation into computers more prominent. It's a protest against computers. People must be reminded every second that they are people."


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Day of Remembrance

May 9 is Victory Day, when Armenia remembers its war veterans with ceremonies that include laying carnations and standing in formation near the Eternal Flame above Yerevan.



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