In conversation with… Shoghakat Mlké-Galstian

On being involved in the film…

I knew Garo and about his intention to make a film but never imagined that I’ll be in it, especially because I didn’t know that Varoujan had a wife, as we never learned anything about her at school. In general, we never heard about our writers’ wives much.

And when I was offered her role, I started reading Varoujan all over again, this time very differently from how I read at school, where I found his Western Armenian somewhat intimidating. And I realised that he is still very underrated, as he’s much bigger than we thought, after learning only 1-2 poems at school. What I wondered next was who this great man fell in love with, because she had to be very special to be loved by a genius like him.


On Araxi …

People often see writers’ wives as their inspiration, but I think more than inspiring him, Araxi was understanding him and his work. They knew very well in what time period and country they were living in and what their fates could be. This is her strength – knowing it is not easy to be a prominent poet’s wife in a country with a complicated political situation and war looming – but she still made a conscious choice to be with him and share his life, even if there was lots of initial opposition from her family to their marriage. Araxi was this pillar Varoujan has leaned on, and we’ll never know whether he would have produced the same works if she wasn’t with him.

On being an artist’s wife…

In general, I think because Armenian art was very socially conscious in the beginning of the century, the wives of famous writers, philosophers and artists were not only looking after their children and families, but they were the strong mental and moral support for their husbands, knowing the country they live in can fall apart any minute and the fate of the nation affected severely.

On feminist interpretations of Varoujan…

He clearly worshipped women and had this collective image of a woman in his poems, reminding me of Narekatsi and Shnorhali, as it is something almost religious. At the same time his love for women is very sensual, and in a strange way maybe it was easier for him to publish those poems in the early 20th century, talking about women’s bodies and lovemaking explicitly, because it sounded like a fantasy and imagination. Also, while the feminist readings of his works would be different now, then the attitudes were different and many people wouldn’t find it offensive. His attitudes to women can be analysed and overanalysed, and interpreted in various ways – but the fact is he wrote beautiful poems, adoring and worshipping women, and that’s what I love about Varoujan.



Shoghakat MLké-Galstian is an artist and actor who plays Araxi’s role in Taniel.