Ararat Editor Aris Sevag Passes Away
On Saturday, April 28 at 8am EST, Ararat editor Aris Sevag passed away at his home in Jackson Heights, Queens after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.
Born June 6, 1946, Sevag grew up in the tight-knit Armenian community of Philadelphia. His parents, Dr. and Mrs. Manasseh Sevag, recognized their sons intellectual curiosity from an early age and encouraged him to succeed while retaining a connection to his Armenian heritage. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania he traveled around the country working in various Armenian communities from coast to coast.
While Sevag was an accomplished educator, editor, and translator, many people did not know that Sevag was also an autodidact. During the 1980s, when he was teaching English at the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian school in Los Angeles, Sevag taught himself Armenian and embarked on a journey to become one of the world’s foremost Armenian translators. His passion for the Armenian language knew no bounds and he was also an avid collector of books. His personal collection of books, journals, and periodicals numbers in the thousands.
In the last two decades of his life, Sevag was best known to the Armenian community as a well-respected editor. He served as the managing editor of the Armenian Reporter weekly for 15 years until he stepped down in 2006 to join the Armenian General Benevolent Union. At AGBU, Sevag served as assistant editor of the biannual AGBU News magazine and as the editor of Ararat magazine.
Sevag has published more than a dozen literary, historical and other works, the most recent being Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian, which he published with leading Armenian American poet and author Peter Balakian.“Aris Sevag’s death is a great loss to the Armenian community,” Balakian says. “He was a great translator of Armenian literature into English. Aris lived inside of the language and he knew his writers in a deep and lived-in ways. And, he brought to every text a serious intellectual understanding of the writer and of the time and place and historical context. He made a rich contribution to Armenian culture, and he had a zest and passion for what he did, and his soulful love of literature will be missed by all his friends and colleagues. “
Professor George Bournoutian, senior professor of Middle Eastern and East European History at Iona College, worked with Sevag on numerous projects. Sevag edited seven of Bournoutian’s 20 books, including the forthcoming sixth edition of The Concise History of the Armenian People. The Armenian translation of the book, which was just completed in Yerevan, Armenia, will be dedicated to the memory of Aris Sevag. “Aris Sevag’s knowledge of the Armenian and English language surpassed many academics,” Bournoutian says. “He never said a bad word against anyone, helped all, and forgave those whom took advantage of him. He will be sorely missed.”
During his lifetime, Sevag published hundreds of articles in journals and newspapers around the world. Among Sevag’s unpublished translations are accounts of several Armenian Genocide survivors, a study on the orphans from the Armenian Genocide, histories of prominent Armenian families and works of literature. One of these literary works, Bedros Keljik’s Armenian-American Sketches was being serialized in the pages of Ararat since 2010 and before his death Sevag was able to publish seven of the 21 short stories in the collection.
During his memorial service last Monday at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Little Neck, Queens, his son Armen spoke about his father’s spirit and love of life. He concluded with the words, “As long as there are books to read and people to read them, his smile and spirit will live on forever.”
Sevag is survived by his wife Asdghig, his children, Aida, Alice, Ani and Armen, and his brother Paul.