~~Perhaps no other American writer of Armenian descent has written with as much sensitivity and awe on the subject of the Catastrophe as Michael Arlen Jr, derivatively in “Exiles” and more deliberately in “Passage to Ararat.” One of the great American works of non-fiction narrative, “Passage to Ararat” is at once a travelogue, a rediscovery, a meditation, but above all, a mourning. Long before non-fiction narrative became an established genre, long before “writing about the Genocide” became a much used (and abused) term, Michael Arlen gave us a work which is as new as it was four decades ago–a work for the generations, and for many re-readings.~~
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 I would gladly have thrown it into the fire, but that I hadn’t remembered to pick one. My eyes went out to the open field beyond the fire, the field of yellow flowers. I thought that it didn’t matter about the flower; I thought suddenly that I was home. It was the flattest, simplest, lightest of feelings. I thought, So this is what it’s all about.
And then I felt my father’s hand in mine. It was so strong a feeling that today I can almost (but not quite) recover that imaginary touch. But what I responded to was not merely the “touch”–I had felt that before, at many moments in my life. One of the key memories of my childhood had been a nearly tactile recollection of being pulled by the hand (were we running? walking?) by my father down an unremembered street–an unremembered time except for the pull of the hand, even his face out of sight, his expression unknown, only his arm extending from a dark overcoat.
But I knew that this time it was different, and as I stood there I knew that it would always afterward be different (as it has been.) For the hand I felt was not pulling me; it was the hand of a man which I had briefly held in my own one afternoon in New York, the hand of my father dying….