Thursday, May 5, 2016

Death of Frederic Feydit (May 11, 1991)

French scholar Frederic Feydit was one of the most remarkable names in the field of Armenian Studies during the twentieth century, particularly because of his personal relationship and attachment to the Armenian people. In an interview in 1983, he declared to be “a citizen of the Diaspora.”
Frederic-Armand Feydit was born in Paris on April 15, 1908, and studied at the Lycée Hoche of Versailles. He became interested in linguistic studies at the age of sixteen; an Armenian family that had rented a room at his parents’ home had left to him, upon its departure, an Armenian elementary grammar and an Armenian-French dictionary.

He taught French at the school Samuel Moorat of the Mekhitarist Congregation, in Sevres, while he was following the courses of Armenian language and culture by Professor Frederic Macler at the Ecole des Langues Orientales, Father Louis Maries at the Institute Catholique, and Professor Antoine Meillet at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes from 1931-1933.

After obtaining his diploma from the Ecole des Langues Orientales, Feydit went to Venice and taught French at the Moorat-Raphael school from 1933-1936, while he pursued his Armenian studies with the fathers of the Mekhitarist Congregation. At the age of 27, in 1935, he published Grammaire de la langue arménienne - dialecte occidental, a grammar of Western Armenian. He was elected member of the Armenian Academy of San Lazzaro (the scientific body of the congregation) in 1937. In the same year, he married Hermine, an Armenian survivor of the genocide who lived in Milan.

In 1938 he published an article in Armenian about the medieval historian Hetum (Hayton) in the journal Anahid, directed by Arshag Tchobanian. This article made him known among intellectual circles. In 1941 he entered the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, one of the highest research institutions in France, which he left in 1949 to take the Armenian chair at the Ecole des Langues Orientales, replacing the distinguished Indo-European scholar Georges Dumezil. By then, he had published his Manuel de la langue arménienne (1948), which would have a second edition in 1969. He also published Considerations sur l’alphabet de St. Mesrop in 1964 (second revised edition, 1982). He taught at the Ecoles des Langues Orientales until 1978. In 1986 he published Amulettes de l’Arménie chrétienne, the best study available about Armenian prophylactic scrolls (հմայիլ – hmayil).

A prolific author, he contributed to many scholarly publications in Armenian and in French on issues related to Armenian language, literature, and history. He translated the Armenian epic David of Sassoun into French (1964) under the sponsorship of UNESCO, as well as Comrade Panchoonie by Yervant Odian. He had also embraced the Armenian cause from the very beginning: in 1937 he rebuffed anti-Armenian attacks by fascist writer Lucien Rebattet, and he published a groundbreaking article on the Armenian genocide on April 24, 1965, in Le Monde.

Frederic Feydit passed away on May 11, 1991, in Paris.