The Last of The Three

Viken L. Attarian, Montreal, 5 March 2011

Yesterday, my uncle, Pierre Attarian, son of Hovsep Attarian of Yozgat and Zorah Amirian of Dikranagerd passed away in a Beirut hospital. He had been submerged into a coma for over two weeks due to a severe brain haemorrhage and the resulting unrecoverable damage.

Yesterday, his heart stopped working. After a long series of sad episodes, it just could not take life any longer and gave up.

Viken L. Attarian, Montreal, 5 March 2011

Yesterday, my uncle, Pierre Attarian, son of Hovsep Attarian of Yozgat and Zorah Amirian of Dikranagerd passed away in a Beirut hospital. He had been submerged into a coma for over two weeks due to a severe brain haemorrhage and the resulting unrecoverable damage.

Yesterday, his heart stopped working. After a long series of sad episodes, it just could not take life any longer and gave up.

Pierre was the last survivor of the trio of Attarian brothers who were a towering presence in the Armenian cultural and intellectual scene of Lebanon for close to four decades, starting in the late fifties. He was the youngest brother of my father, writer, essayist, literary critic and publisher Alphonse Attarian (Armen Tarian) and the poet, essayist and political and community leader Karnig Attarian.

Pierre had inherited the common physical trait of the three Attarians, ironically, from his mother Zohra. A relatively shorter stature with a proportionately larger head full of hair. Of the three brothers, he resembled her the most.

He was also the lesser known of the three. Because he was much younger than the other two, his was more a role of behind-the-scenes. Like his brothers, he was an active member of a collective that called for a cultural revolution in the late sixties and started publishing the Ahegan which was politically unaffiliated and advocated a modern critical approach to the analysis of literature, and the graphic and performing arts; only in the pursuit of true excellence; art not closed on itself, but open to the world. Like his brothers, he was an active member of the Lipananahye Kragan Shrtchanag, the Lebanese Armenian Literary Circle which his brothers had helped found, and which has been the focal point of progressive intellectual activity in the Lebanese Armenian community for over half a century.

For all of his life, he worked at the firm of the great Lebanese architect Louis Tabet, and has had an important input in many of the famous projects of the firm, from official residences, to hotels, to apartment complexes and office buildings.

His greatest love has been the cinema. He was a lifelong worshipper of the art, an ardent collector of literature about the topic and a great source of information. The cinema section of his library was probably unmatched at the time. An ardent reader like his brothers, he was also a great fan of French literature and the chansonnier tradition.

My uncle, had an unmatched sense of humour and wit. He had an uncanny sense of the absurdity of human existence and could give an ironic twist to any story he told. Had he lived in the West, he would surely have become either a successful stand-up comedian or a humourist.

His last significant creative act was his collaboration with a group of friends and family to posthumously edit and publish my father’s manuscripts. In a sense, I don’t think he ever recovered from the untimely death of both of his brothers who never made it even to seventy years of age. He outlived them in a sad world which had stopped making sense a long time ago. It was not the one that he had worked hard to rebuild in his youth. I am at least glad though that he witnessed the great victory of the people of Egypt against tyranny. I am confident he felt somewhat vindicated, that what his family stood for was not in vain.

I saw him last about five years ago when he attended a special event honoring my contribution at the AGBU in Montreal. He sat at my table, next to my friend (also now deceased) the great mayor of Mount Royal, Mrs. Vera Danyluk. He was somewhat uneasy as he always shunned the limelight. His Parkinson’s Disease had started to advance. He looked at us and said smiling:

"I am trembling all over, but I am not afraid". It just said it all.

And now, the three are united once more.

  1. Condolences on the Loss of Your Uncle

    You eloquently eulogized Pierre Attarian, whom I did not know or know of. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your Uncle. With the passing of a generation a life we knew passes along as well.
    I remember Ahegan, but not much other than the word. I remember reading an article about it in one of the newspapers in Beirut and Simon Simonian comes in mind, but I am not sure if he was the one who wrote it. There was a play of word, when the author referred to Ahegan as Ah Yegan. For the benefit of our English only readers Ah Yegan means, ah, here they came. Please forgive my ignorance but give credit to my candor, I do not remember now what Ahegan means.
    Now that your father and his two brothers have passed away and for the benefit of the rest of us to refresh our memories of Ahegan, could you please write about it. Who along with your father and two uncles published Ahegan? How long was Ahegan published? Was it a literary or social periodical? How did it end up? Are copies of the issues archived somewhere, such as in the Madenataran?
    Beirut was the cultural capital of the Diaspora and I do not think that any Diaspora community henceforth, including the present day fragmented Beirut, will ever equal it in its hey days.
    With sympathies, Vahe
  2. Sincere condolences Viken

    Sincere condolences Viken. I never met Pierre but knew of him when I lived in Damascus.


  3. Condolences

    Dearest Viken

    I am not sure, dear Viken if you remember me: Hovik Nersessian, son of Khachik (from Erzeroum) and Zevart (from Dikranagerd) and a graduate of AGBU Hovagimian Manougian. I did communicate with your mom recently when I came through her email by a mere chance and wished to recall my very very good old days of Lebanon….

    Dearest Viken,

    Although I was not at all close to your late uncle Pierre, but definitely extremely close to your dad as well as uncle Karnig through my personal interests, affiliations and family relations….

    Please pass my sincere sympathy to all and feel proud for being an Attarian; I am sure you fully deserve that ‘nomination’, regardless of your values and social presence.

    All the best Viken and best regards to all remaining Attarians please.


  4. Condolences


    Dear Viken.

    I am really sorry. My sincere condolences for yor uncle Pierre Attatian.

    Asdvadz ir hokin lusavore.


  5. Ցաւակցութիւն

    I share your grief for the loss of your dear uncle.

    Աստուած հոգին լուսաւորէ:



  6. Ahegan

    There is an opinion that Ahegan is linked to the flame & fire. One other opinion links it to the mounth of April, according to the old Armenian calendar .
    Viken definitely will be very precise to give us the right information.
  7. With Pierre in Summer of 1955

    With Pierre in Summer of 1955

    Viken, I have had the occasion to know your uncle Pierre in the summer of 1955 just before my last academic year at the School of Engineering of the American University of Beirut. As a pre-requisite for my graduation as civil engineer, I had to spend that summer with a reputable engineering and/or architectural firm. So I was admitted to the firm of architects Antoine & Louis Tabet.

    Your uncle Pierre and another young man – named Khatchig Krikorian, if my memory does not fail me – also worked there. The Tabet brothers were both well known Lebanese architects, with many landmark buildings to their credit in Beirut and the countryside. On the other hand, those two industrious Armenian professionals, I must point out, performed a substantial part of the actual project production work in tandem. With very preliminary conceptual ideas handed to him by his elder brother Antoine, the competent and good-natured Louis Tabet would then add his own sketchy freehand notes and some layouts. That would complete the fundamental design, whereupon Pierre and Khatchig would, with the accompaniment of a quality Arabic-Armenian-French mix of humor and whistling, roll their sleeves and embark on the design development and the preparation of architectural drawings for the entire project at hand.

    To sum up, they were a major asset to the architectural design team of Antoine & Louis Tabet.

    I thought these passing reminiscences would be of some value to you, Viken. They are, to me, coming from that remote summer of 1955 which I cherish to this day. My condolences, and I wish you well in your endeavors.

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