Alaverdi, 18 km west of the Teghut forest, not far from the border with Georgia. Images of machineries and the copper mine of the Armenian Copper company. While the marshrutka stops for petrol, the troupe approaches the building that lodges the mine. At the entrance, while the sound of the machineries starts, Nadezhda's voice is back off screen.
In the process of writing verses there is something similar to recalling things that have never been said. M talked about the muttering of lips “that remember”. I had the feeling his verses existed before being created.
Noise of machineries
The poems started like this. A musical phrase obsessively vibrated in his ear, first shapeless, then more and more defined, but still wordless. I often happened to see M trying to get rid of one of these refrains, to shake it off, as if trying to escape its power. He would shake his head, as if to get out a drop of water that had gotten into the ear during a bath. But nothing could shut it up – not the noise, not the radio, not people chatting in the same room. At some point, words suddenly made their way through the musical phrase, and the lips started moving.
At first lips moved silently, then a whispering started, and finally a new rhythm. The music within had resolved in semantic units and the memory had developed like the print on a photo sheet.
Exterior day: Sevan in the early morning, view of the lake from the isle-peninsula. Water, ochre houses in the town opposite the lake. On the isle, the path rises to the San Karapetian church. The stones of the ancient sacred building and then again view of the lake from above, while Osip's voice is back off screen.
On every island life flows in a noble waiting. I lived for a month on the island of Sevan, enjoying the stillness of lake water at a four thousand feet height.
I rejoiced from the unblushing fire of poppies. Vivid to a surgical pain, big, too big for our planet, incombustible, hollow-mouthed moths. Fire in my hands, as if a smith had gifted me with his cokes.
Exterior day: some Armenian tourists are having a picnic near San Karapetian.
In my heart I drank to young Armenia, with its houses in orange stone, its white-teethed people's commissaries, and its powerful language we are not worthy to speak.
The journey starts again on another marshrutka, with other passengers. The driver announces when we are supposed to arrive in Yerevan, then starts singing an Armenian song. While travelling, he starts reciting all the sounds of the Armenian alphabet for us.
Arrival in Yerevan. The train station square, the warrior David.
By taxi, the troupe transfers to Matenadaran, the Museum that preserves the most ancient manuscripts in Armenian. At the entrance, on the lay-by that dominates the town, we meet [XXXX].
This Museum keeps one of the richest collections of ancient manuscripts in the world. We started collecting Greek and Armenian two thousand years ago, maybe earlier. The first Matenadaran was in Sis, then in Echmiadzin, our spiritual capital. In 1920, the collection was confiscated by Bolsheviks, but then it was given back and transferred here in Yerevan. When M was here, this Museum didn't exist yet. But these papers brought him here. He said he was looking for the truth, the truth that “allows us to better understand ourselves within tradition”, he said. Here you can understand Armenian culture, its connection with Europe through the Greek world. Europe was born here, M knew it, and if he came back to Armenia today he would come to the Matenadaran to read our history in these papers. And he would go back to the Ararat, where everything started.
Night on the road after leaving [XXXX] and the Matenadaran. In the morning, the journey continues on a rented car towards Khor Virap. From the plain, the immense Ararat emerges, and M's voice resumes off screen.
I was lucky enough to see the clouds celebrate sacred functions to the god Ararat. I cultivated in myself a sixth sense – an “araratian” sense: the mountain's force of attraction. Everywhere destiny takes me, that sense will never leave me.
The immense mountain's drunk all the air.
snow, snow on rice paper,
the mountain floats to my lips.
I am cold. I am happy.
Images of the church, the walls, the mountains. The interior, candles, churchgoers. While images of the monastery's interior flow, with travellers preparing their offers, M's voice starts off screen.
From Khor Virap the journey continues towards Karabakh, through Vayots Dzor. From the car we see the valley on top of which is the monastery of Tatev.
The teeth of sight chip and break when looking at Armenian churches for the first time. The Armenian language is resilient like booths of stone. Yes, of course, words with massive walls, layers of air in the semi-vowels. Is that the whole enchantment? No! Where does this attraction come from then? How to explain it? What sense to make of it?
If I accept, like something deserved and non fading in time, the covering of sounds, the stoniness of blood, and the solidity of stone, my journey to Armenia will not have been in vain.