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Yervant Odian: Ընկեր Բանչունի (Comrade)

This is a lovely little satire on socialist revolutionaries. We are introduced to Comrade Panchoonie as a child. He learns to speak at a late age but, once he does, he is reluctant to stop. He becomes very argumentative and violent when he does not get his own way, terrorizing his family and his classmates. As an adult, his brother, a successful businessman, supports him, solely to keep him out of the way but, when the brother falls on hard times, the support dries up and Comrade Panchoonie, left penniless, comes to realize the injustice of the capitalist system and becomes a socialist. He makes his way to the small town of Dsablvar, determined to lead them on to the path of true socialism.

Most of the book consists of a series of letters he sends to his comrades, firstly from Dsablvar and then from Van. In Dsablvar, Panchoonie finds the people reluctant to accept socialism. It is a peaceful community which has good relationships with its Kurdish neighbors and where people generally work hard to earn a living. Unfortunately, for them, they are ignorant of international capitalism and workers’ rights. Panchoonie, in a superbly funny set of sketches, teaches them, threatening the local land-owner, the priest and the new schoolmaster. Not only do they not become socialists, Panchoonie’s actions result in the entire village being burned to the ground! In Van, he is also unsuccessful, calling the women who work in the local clothes factory out on strike. The result is that the factory owner goes bankrupt and the women are left without jobs or with far worse jobs than they had before. The letters, written in mock seriousness and always ending with a plea to his comrades for money, are very funny as Panchoonie, Quixote-like, fails to see the errors of his ways and persists in his fantasies. This is not an easy book to find but if you do find it, you will certainly enjoy it.

Publishing history

First published in Armenian 1911 by Tparan ew Gratun Nshan-Papikean
First published in English by St. Vartan Press 1977
Translated by Jack Antreassian