By Gayane Danielian and Harry Tamrazian in Prague
Armenians mourned on Thursday the death of Hrant Matevosian, a man widely recognized as their country’s most prominent and accomplished contemporary novelist. Matevosian, 67, passed away in his Yerevan home late on Wednesday after a long struggle with cancer.
The Armenian government, underscoring a nationwide high regard for Matevosian and his literary legacy, formed a special commission to organize funeral services for the deceased. President Robert Kocharian described him as a moral “teacher” of several generations of Armenians.
“Our society has always felt and will feel the need for his weighty and authoritative word,” Kocharian said in a statement offering his condolences to the family of the writer.
Born in a village in the northern Lori region, Matevosian rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s -- the most prolific period of his life. He was one of the bright personalities in the last generation of Soviet writers who went against the official cultural doctrine of “socialist realism.” Matevosian was a writer of little man from the countryside, a reporter of his small tragedies. His novels and short stories have been translated into more than 20 foreign languages.
Matevosian's fiction offered stories of hard-working men and women, desperately trying to overcome the anger at toughness of an everyday Soviet life, ridiculing and laughing at the local Communist bosses.
Matevosian belonged to a generation of talented Soviet writers such as Chingiz Aitmatov of Kyrgyzstan, Nodar Dumbadze of Georgia, Andrey Bitov of Russia. They were for decades rejecting the Russian-centric mono-cultural ideology imposed by the Communist propaganda machine and created by the 1980s the so-called “literature of nationalities,” which the Soviet regime could hardly tolerate.
Aitmatov, who now serves as Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to Belgium, on Thursday described Matevosian as "one of the classical authors and great masters of Soviet and post-Soviet literature".
"We were from the same generation and I knew him well. Matevosian was very active with his literary writings during the Perestroika years," Aitmatov told RFE/RL from Brussels.
Concern for the future of Armenia and its people had been a major theme of Matevosian’s discourse since the Soviet collapse. His last two works written in the 1990s remain unpublished. “I am now the loneliest person on earth because none of my friends is alive,” he said in an RFE/RL interview in 2000.