Asbarez: Sona Van’s ‘Libretto for the Desert’ is Now Available Online

Sona Van (left) with actress Beata Pozniak

LOS ANGELES—Award winning Hollywood actress Beata Pozniak has narrated the most famous work of Armenian-American poetess Sona Van, who speaks about the Armenian Genocide and the phenomenon of war and violence to the English-speaking world. The presentation ceremony of the audio version of the book “Libretto for the Desert” took place at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

In “Libretto for the Desert,” Van’s subject is the Armenian Genocide, also known as the Great Catastrophe. Her parents and grandparents were driven into exile due to this horrific event. Van’s poems reflect a personal connection to this history, as well as the universality of loss, persecution, and intolerance.

Sona Van addressing attendees at her audiobook presentation

Van is the winner of numerous international prizes and medals, including the Homer – European Medal of Poetry. “Libretto for the Desert” has come a long way. It has been presented around the world including China, Kenya, Republic of Africa, Russia, India, and, recently, at the Medellin of South America during the world’s largest international poetry festivals and presentations. This book has been translated in 23 languages worldwide.

Van uses poetry as her instrument, saying it is “the most useful tool to rescue compassion, empathy and tolerance — to find common ground for a dignified coexistence and mutual survival of the human species in an otherwise endangered universe.”

A scene from the presentation of Van’s “Libretto for the Desert”

“For me, the words life and happiness cannot be separated, because one becomes meaningless without the other. I declare war as personal enemy of women since it operates on our sons’ young blood and muscles, taking away our God-given right to be happy. Therefore, the women have the strongest motive to kill the war machine. I hope that this audiobook will help me connect with more women with the same passion to stop the war machine. I believe the collective female power is the most potent and least utilized force, and if properly used it can totally change the world. In the present era, when we are all so helplessly hooked to digital web and social media, the audio book technology offers the most powerful alternative to reading. Audiobook technology must be appreciated, because it takes us back to the roots of poetry as an oral tradition,” stated Van.

In 1994, actress, poet, and activist Beata Poźniak introduced the first bill in the history of U.S. Congress to officially recognize International Women’s Day in the United States. In her work, Poźniak is drawn to strong female characters, both on-screen and in the audiobook world. Her roles, which have ranged from the first female President of the world on television to Catherine the Great, are a testament to her values as a human rights activist.

Sona Van during an interview at the Grammy Museum

“Sona Van is a wonderful person, a wonderful poet. I love the power of the words with which she builds her poetry. It is universal and can appeal to different generations. It is crucial that many generations will listen and read the book ‘Libretto for the Desert,’ and the audio book is the most suitable one for the modern generation. It is essential to see that a woman of strong character speaks up with the voice of another generation. Her words mean so much, and I am so glad that I gained her trust to narrate her extremely powerful words that touch many people. I loved the images, and they stayed with me for a long time. What is nice about Sona’s book: that the poetry is dedicated to the victims of genocide and war for many people from around the world. I am a victim of war in Poland by the soviet regime at that time. My parents also went through the second World War so there are many stories there, and we are here to pass on the message through the power of word. We hope, that it will never ever happen again, and I think women have that power,” noted Pozniak.

This moving audio experience is the result of a profound collaboration of friendship and philosophy between author, Sona Van, and narrator, Beata Poźniak. The women are the recipients of the 2019 International Maria Konopnicka Prize, which promotes literature and cultural achievements of outstanding women. Van and Poźniak are women’s rights activists, and their strong stance against war and genocide is paramount in guiding their lives and creative endeavors. The two met in New York through a mutual Armenian poet friend, and as Poźniak describes of her experience reading Van’s poetry, “I kept hearing a voice full of pain and anguish, but also hope. The vivid images wouldn’t let go of me. This is when the idea came about to create an audiobook.” The result is a powerful, sensory experience where voice and language combine to fully envelop the reader.

Sona Van (left) with Columnist Harut Sassounian

Based on this book by Sona Van, world-renowned Armenian musician Vache Sharafyan wrote his music for the orchestra called “Requiem for the Desert,” which became one of the cornerstone illustrations of the audio book. The world premiere of this requiem will take place this fall in Yerevan, Armenia.

Harut Sassounian, a publisher and editor-in-chief of the California Courier, highlighted the political role of art: “It is wonderful that art tells about our Genocide. It is an easier way to convey our history of Genocide and the demand for justice rather than our political work.”

Sona Van signing copies of her audiobook

Sona Van’s “Libretto for the Desert” is now available on online bookstores, including Amazon, Audible, and Blackstone Library.

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS