“Sparks” (Gaidzer) is the longest novel by celebrated writer Raffi (Hakob Melik-Hakobian, 1835-1888), a multibranched narrative divided into two volumes and running over seven hundred pages. After Jalaleddin and The Fool, it was Raffi’s final and most ambitious novel to address the grave implications of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 for the future of Armenia. It was published in the troubling aftermath of the Treaty of Berlin, which had shunted Armenian aspirations and sacrifice aside and raised the specter of what became known as the “Armenian Question.” The heroes Raffi brought to life in its pages sparked intense controversy in Armenian circles of the day and influenced the ensuing struggle for national liberation. Following its publication, Raffi was branded a “nihilist”; his home was invaded by Russian state police, all his manuscripts were seized, and he was subjected to house arrest. It was against this background that the novel was greeted with popular acclaim on its first appearance in Tiflis in 1883.
Donald Abcarian, who had previously translated Jalaleddin, The Fool and The Golden Rooster by Raffi, has rendered into English twelve selections from Sparks that manage to give the flavor of the lengthy novel.