New Issue, Old Debate: Literary magazine faces same censorship as predecessor
The publisher of the journal had warned the distributor that two of Yerevan’s five major bookstores had previously rejected Bnagir.
“Inknagir” was founded by poet Violet Grigoryan, who edited “Bnagir” magazine before it shut down. That journal, too, had run afoul of traditional standards, for allowing sexually-explicit language.
The second issue of “Inknagir” – published in 250 copies and sold for 1,000 drams (about $3) — came out three weeks ago, more than one year since its maiden issue in November 2005.
According to the distributor, bookstores are refusing to accept “Inknagir” because of lyrics to songs that appear on page 38 of the 160-page magazine.
The lyrics, meant to voice a “punk” attitude, use language common to American “alternative” poetry, though, as in America, not the sort of language likely to make mainstream.
The songs are written by 23-year old Areg Arakelyan and 22-year old Arman Martirosyan. Arman said he feels bad his lyrics caused problems for “Inknagir”, while the second author says he’s glad for the attention.
Yerevan’s largest bookstore, Bukinist, known for its diversity of books on sale and where texts by Russian and western authors with explicit sexual descriptions and arguably racier language can be found, also refused to sell “Inknagir”.
Bookstore director Khachik Vardanyan says that he returned the magazine after reading the song lyrics, reasoning: “How can I put it on sale?”
Asked how the store could sell books in Russian with more explicit language, he answered laughing: “Maybe in 10 years’ time I will look at ‘Inknagir’ it will seem ludicrous for me that I did not accept it in the past. I don’t know.”
The predecessor of “Inknagir”, “Bnagir”, was a pioneer in challenging literary mores and Armenian cultural sensibilities. It was dismissed as pornographic by literary critics and banned by two bookstores – one of which refused to sell reprints of a book of poetry by Grigoryan, even though it had be published in soviet times and won a Writer’s Union prize in 1991.
“When two bookstores refused to sell the 4th issue of “Bnagir” three years ago, we thought it was the matter of their taste, but today when all bookstores in Yerevan refuse to do it, we already feel the pressure of public censorship, which is very unpleasant,” says Grigoryan. “It shows that our society is becoming more intolerable, which is very alarming.”
Nevertheless, the magazine is on sale at Artbridge and Akumb bookstore cafés, which the “Inkngir” editor calls “islands” where “we don’t yet feel like foreigners in this country”.