The Monument, Yerevan/Michael Arlen Jr.

Originally posted on Passages Home Blog:

I thought, How strange to finally meet one’s past: to simply meet it, the way one might finally acknowledge a person who had been in one’s company a long while. So, it’s you!

I was standing by myself beneath the overhanging slabs of the Monument, looking into the fire. I remember thinking that if I had had a flower in my hand

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The week of April 24: Oshagan speaking the Aghéd

Hagop Oshagan: Speaking the Aghéd

“The week of April 24 has particular relevance to the life and work of Hagop Oshagan. True, he survived the Aghéd while many of his literary contemporaries fell victim to the Ottoman genocidal machine. In fact, and as Vahé Oshagan says, his figure stands at the juncture between the loss of the historic homeland and the beginning of the dispersion. But more than that, it was his work that was shaped by the Aghéd (a term he used in 1932 to describe what happened to the Armenians of the Empire). In the words of Krikor Beledian, Oshagan’s legacy is not defined by the fact that he survived the Aghéd, but that he confronted it, “opened thinking to its stupendous emptiness.” From this confrontation emerged a body of literature which is part testimony, part fiction, part myth, part autobiography, part recovery. In private life, as his daughter (and my mother) Anahid Oshagan Voskeritchian used to say, he never spoke about the Aghéd nor about his years as a fugitive in the Contantinople (1915-1918). He avoided public speaking in general, particularly about the Aghéd. Only on one occasion, did he succumb to the pleas of his students to speak on April 24. The story is told in Anahid Oshagan Voskeritchian’s moving tribute to her father, published originally in Pakine (Beirut) in Armenian and then in The Armenian Review (Volume 35, 1982). Here is her telling, with some minor edits:
” The week preceding April 24, my father would become a changed man; he was moody, agitated, lost like a sleep-walker. He didn’t eat, had bad dreams, couldn’t write. “All my friends,all of them, I can see them, one after another–Varoujan, Zohrab, Zartarian, Shahrigian,” he used to say.

Once, in Jerusalem, on the commemoration of April 24, the young men begged him to say a few words. He accepted with great difficulty first because of his heart condition, and second, because he used to say that it was just impossible to describe April 24 in words. The patriarch, the priests and large audience attended this memorial service. There were some solo songs, some poems recited. Then, it was my father’s turn. He approached the stage with slow steps and when he turned toward the audience, the public was watching him magnetized, this survivor of a generation of martyrs. He just stood there, so silent, so sad, looking nowhere, but seeing something. A few minutes passed. Still my father was silent,his face as white as a sheet, his gaze lost in the past. After a long silence, he began to cry. The audience burst into tears. He sat down on the chair, his lips curled to try to make a word like “water.” Someone behind me was saying, “Be quick, the man is going to die.” Some young man went upstage, took him by the arm, and brought him back slowly, and turning round to the audience, he ended the event with these word: “Oshagan has spoken his speech. The commemoration is over.”

Anahid Oshagan Voskeritchian, “Memories of Hagop Oshagan.” Armenian Review, Winter 1982.

Posted in Armenians, Those we Love | 2 Comments

15 Great Books: How Civil War (Re)-shaped the Lebanese Novel

Originally posted on Arabic Literature (in English):

Today marks 40 years since the start of the Lebanese civil war, which officially began on April 13, 1975, when Christian militiamen machinegunned a bus of mostly Palestinian passengers, killing twenty-seven, after fighting between the PLO and Christian militiamen earlier that morning:

The civil war — although it officially ended in 1990 — continues to preoccupy novelists, with great new books set during war-time coming out every year. The Jordanian magazine 7iber and ArabLit look back at how civil war shaped the Lebanese novel, and recommend 15 great books set just before, during, and after the war.

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The 1960s brought changes to Lebanon and countries around the world, among these a mini-renaissance in Lebanese literary writing. “There was some kind of revival,” Lebanese novelist Rawi Hage said in a 2013 interview, “and a very progressive community…formed in Lebanon, mostly around the AUB area around Ras Beirut.”

It was an era of openness…

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World Wide Reading for Armenia 2015, at MIT, on April 21.

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~~In commemoration of the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide, Worldwide Reading for Armenia will pay tribute to great Armenian writers in a series of readings, all taking place on April 21. Sponsored by the International Literature Festival Berlin and the Lepsius Haus in Potsdam, the readings will happen in several major cities around the world.

The Worldwide Reading in the greater Boston area will focus on the literature of catastrophe and will be held at MIT, Cambridge, on April 21 at 7:00 P.M. in Room 225, Building 35 (Sloan Lab), 127 Mass Ave (corner of Mass Ave and Vassar Street). The event is hosted by the MIT Armenian Society, and organized by Judith Saryan and Taline Voskeritchian.

The literary evening will center around the works of three giants of Armenian literature, Zabel Yessayan, Hagop Oshagan, and Eghishe Charents, who all lived during the cataclysmic events of the Ottoman Genocide against the Armenians. While different in form and context, their works were informed by their experiences of catastrophe and exile.

Participants in the literary program include Jirair Libaridian, diplomat and historian; Nanor Kebranian, Columbia University; Susan Barba, New York Review of Books; Areg Danagoulian, MIT; Danila Jebejian Terpanjian, Harvard University; Taline Voskeritchian, Boston University; and Judith Saryan, Armenian International Women’s Association and NAASR.

The readings will include selections from Yessayan’s nonfiction work, In the Ruins, a testimonial account of her observations and experiences as a relief worker after the massacres of Adana; Oshagan’s masterpiece, Remnants, which depicts Western Armenian life before the Genocide; and two late poems by Charents: “Sad Carousel,” a lamentation bearing witness to a history of suffering, and “To My Midday,” a lyric intermingling grief and yearning.~~

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World Wide Reading for Armenia 2015

~~On April 21, in scores of cities and towns throughout the world, there will be memorial readings commemorating the centenary of the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians.  The readings are sponsored by the World Wide Reading for Armenia 2015 (Berlin) and Lepsius Haus (Potsdam).

In Boston, at MIT, we will read from Hagop Oshagan, Zabel Yessayan, and Yeghishé Charents, three literary giants  whose lives and literary output are intertwined with the horrific events at the dawn of the twentieth century. We’ll read in the original Armenian (Eastern and Western) and in English translation.  Join us, if you’re in Boston on April 21. ~~

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Descanso Gardens 2, La Cañada, CA

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At Descanso Gardens, La Cañada, California

~~Yes, California is in the grip of a drought, and the world of Descanso Gardens is a little tired and wilted.  Still, even on a day like this, Descanso is one of the most beautiful places around Los Angeles–meandering, un-manicured and a little wild, affordable, but most of all restorative.~~

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