“The creative process gives me happiness and satisfaction […] I sign my name with the spiral, a symbol for eternity. Life is eternal, and yet we are in this world to do something; to give birth to composition,” this is how Nune Sarkissian once described her love for writing and art.
Children’s author Nune Sarkissian has written 14 children’s books in Armenian, Russian, Ukrainian and English, and now when she is the First Lady of Armenia for already a year, her love for writing doesn’t stop as a brand new book – The Adventures of the Blue Hippo and the Pink Mouse – is set to be published very soon.
In an ARMENPRESS exclusive with Angela Hambardzumyan, First Lady Nune Sarkissian opened up about how she is writing the book with her 6-year-old granddaughter Savanna, her dreams and many more.
Mrs. Sarkissian, your father is a journalist and your mother is a teacher. You are a philologist, you write and paint. Has the family environment contributed to the development of your professional preferences?
A family’s environment and taste is affecting all children and teenagers. It is in the family where I received the attitude for work, learned to use my time correctly and not be lazy. Everyone around me was working. My grandfather, for example, was a translator at ARMENPRESS. I remember how he was staying late into the night at the office to translate the lengthy speeches of the first secretaries of the Communist Party to ensure the publication of Armenian-language transcripts in the morning press.
I grew up listening to conversations about books and theater, studying international treasures of arts in the library of our house. It was a great joy for me when we would host guests. Every guest had their own character, story, and I was greatly interested in them.
You have written articles about artists. What interesting episodes of that period have impressed you?
A London theater had staged a musical by [Charles] Aznavour about French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Armen and I went to the premiere and loved it. Lautrec is a famous painter of the Post-Impressionist period. He was from a noble family and had disabilities due to disease and had taken up arts. In his works, there are many women working in circuses – the only women not averse to the painter. This very drama was pictured in the musical, through the wonderful songwriting of Aznavour.
After the performance we had dinner with Aznavour, congratulated him and wished for the performance to be on stage many years. Alas, Aznavour’s Lautrec musical was cancelled few months later. I was not aware of the reason. Perhaps this operette was staged in the wrong place at the wrong time. This genre has major competition in England, hasn’t it?
Armen and I attended the last performance also and we shared that sad day for Aznavour with him, comforted and encouraged him by saying that the performance must definitely be repeated. We also talked about the town of Akhaltsikhe of Javakheti [Georgia], where Charles’s mother and father were born. This way we formed a closer friendship. I wrote an article about Lautrec, which was published in Yerevan in the Aravot newspaper and the Armenian press in the Diaspora.
Aznavour had written a wonderful music. Perhaps Armenian theater directors will find Lautrec and stage it again because it is a beautiful and interesting play.
We all know Charles Aznavour not only as a wonderful artist, songwriter and great Armenian, but also a caring and kind man. You’ve had the chance to know him personally, tell us how he was in daily relationships?
Aznavour was a very humane personality, without grandiose and showing off. He was calm and even-minded among friends. He was a persona who reached global greatness; however everything was harmonious in him, without any bragging. I never saw any fake lines in our conversations. I am amazed by Aznavour as a poet and singer, as a person and an Armenian.
I can’t not ask about the books you write. When and how did you decide to write for children?
I began writing when I was 7 years old, and it happened by itself.
Later I was writing for the children-youth Soviet newspapers and magazines, I was very active in the school’s literary group. I’ve written fairy tales always, but they were published from 2005. My husband encouraged me in this matter. I was skeptical but Armen reassured me that I have an ability to talk to children and pass down messages to them.
About passing down messages: What are the main values that little readers can learn through your stories?
Life has changed, it has become harder and faster. Everything is different than before. We would only dream about or even read in science-fiction books about the things that today children are doing. The computer and television information has grown significantly for children and in these conditions preserving simple human values has become important. Through my fairy tales I try to pass down kindness and love to children and to sow the important values of family, diligence, friendship, courage and helping one another.
Speaking about her new book The Adventures of the Blue Hippo and the Pink Mouse, Nune Sarkissian said her 6-year-old granddaughter Savanna was the one who made the illustrations. “We would make up stories about these two characters, and eventually we decided to make a book out of it”, she said.
The book will be out very soon in London and Yerevan, in both Armenian and English.
– Is Savanna living in Armenia?
– Armen and I have two sons, Vardan and Hayk. Vardan is married and has three children. My sons work in London. My grandchildren are currently here in Yerevan. They are improving their Armenian and math.
Asked to comment on her love for London, where she lived for many years when her husband Armen Sarkissian served as Armenia’s Ambassador before assuming the presidency, Nune Sarkissian said:
“For me London is wonderful because it is a center of global culture. There is a variety of selection of concerts, operas, ballets and films, lectures and exhibitions. The best singers of the world seek to perform in London, and the best painters seek to have exhibitions there. But with this said, Yerevan is my city, and my beloved city.”
Was leaving London difficult?
I’ve traveled a lot and I have lived in many cities. During all those years I have visited Yerevan, which is my home.
Many politicians say they couldn’t have achieved serious success if not for the sophisticated and dedicated women by their side. What role did you have in Armen Sarkissian’s achievements?
I agree. But I think that also every successful woman very often has a smart man by her side.
On one occasion you said you’ve sacrificed many dreams for your family’s welfare. What do you dream about today?
I dream for children in Armenia to be healthy and joyful, for them to receive education and acquire a profession, for the families to be prosperous and happy, and for war to never happen.
April 7 is approaching, the Motherhood and Beauty Day. What will you wish to women?
I am wishing health and happiness to our women on this occasion. Dear women, the shine of your eyes, your smile, your encouragement to your husbands and children, your ringing voice and joyful laughter captivate everyone. Therefore, continue being strong, optimistic and viable for educating the new Armenian generation.