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The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

4.39  ·  Rating Details ·  748 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
During World War I, Gabriel Bagradian learns of Turkish plans to exterminate the Armenians, and leads his village to the mountain Musa Dagh in hopes of defending themselves.
Paperback, 824 pages
Published July 18th 2000 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1933)
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Don't remember enough about the book (read about 40 years ago) to say anything intelligent. However, I do remember that it was a fascinating story, and was a page-turner for me. It is based on the Armenian genocide that occurred in Turkey during World War I. According to Wiki, it was this novel, which Werfel is said to have researched in depth, which revealed the events upon which it is based to the world beyond Turkey. It was published in 1933, 18 years after those events.

The book was banned in
The miserable sight of some maimed and famished-looking refugee children, working in a carpet factory, gave me the final impulse to snatch from the Hades of all that was, this incomprehensible destiny of the Armenian nation. Franz Werfel

Franz Werfel in 1940. Photo by Carl Van Vechten.

Franz Werfel (10 September 1890 – 26 August 1945) was an Austrian-Bohemian novelist, playwright, and poet whose career spanned World War I, the Interwar period, and World War II. He is primarily known as the author
I feel bad giving this such a mediocre grade, not least because of how important it is as a historical document (not to mention as inspiration to the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto), but as a novel it is too full of melodrama and Romance for me, and the prose itself does the job fine but is not exactly impressive. I can see why both Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson wanted to make movies of it at one time...
Aug 22, 2015 Lillian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last summer when the Yazidis of northern Iraq fled to the summit of Mt. Sinjar and waited desperately for rescue by someone -- anyone -- I had no idea how closely history was repeating itself. In 1933 Franz Werfel wrote a 900 page blockbuster about a very similar incident that took place in Turkey in 1915. This novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, published in Germany and then the United States, kept the Armenian genocide from being forgotten and lost under the enormity of the other losses of WWI ...more
Matt Howard
Feb 23, 2009 Matt Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 1915 genocide of the Turks against the Armenians told through the eyes of an Armenian head-of-family. Truly grim without containing more than a hint of graphically described violence. In my opinion, a forgotten masterpiece.

Update: I read this book in my late teens - in other words, 50 years ago. At the time, I was unaware of the continuing campaign by Armenians to persuade modern Turkey to acknowledge the events of the time as genocide. Now, in 2009, Turkey's continued resistance to doing so
Dec 08, 2009 Juliane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who is interested in Armenian history
An exceptionally well-written book which I highly recommend for everyone interested in the history of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, the genocide committed by the Turks in 1915 and the local Armenian resistance against the activities of the Ottoman Empire in the region. Based on the real-life defense of Musa Dagh's Damlayik Werfel tells us the fictionalized story of the Turkish genocide of Armenians through the eyes of Gabriel Bagradian, an Armenian who, although growing up in his native villa ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Bank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Musa Dagh is a mountain on the Syrian coast where seven Armenian villages of maybe 5,000 people made a last stand against the Ottoman Empire' s Armenian genocide during WW 1 . This book of the same name was written by Franz Werfel , an Austrian Jew , in 1933 . It is an excellent recounting of the Armenian genocide in a historical fiction format , and of Musa Dagh ( translation Mount Moses ). When published , Werfel was living in Austria as Hitler rose to power and most literary critics then and
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is very good historical fiction. There are a few slow spots, but mostly quite well-written and a page-turner. The leader, Gabriel Bagradian, is the primary focus of the story, but there is a large cast of characters and the story is told from these various viewpoints. Two pages in this edition list these named characters, and there are also several pages of regional terms helpful to the reader's understanding.

While I believe Turkey still refuses to officially acknowledge the Armenian genoc
Sep 28, 2016 Gerti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
Ein unter die Haut gehender Roman um die Dorfgemeinschaft der sieben Dörfer am Fuße des Musa Dagh. Um der Ermordung durch die Türken und der ebenfalls tödlich endenden Umsiedlung zu entgehen, verschanzen sich etwa 4000 Armenier und Führung von Gabriel Bagradian, mit Frauen und Kindern auf dem fast uneinnehmbaren Berg.
40 Tage, Zeiten des Kampfes, der Auseinandersetzung mit den auch innerlich schwelenden Konflikten, 40 Tage Hoffnung aber auch Zweifel wozu das alles soll.

Werfel schuf diesen Roman
Regarding the story itself, it's a book that you can't put down. Not being able to read 800 pages in a sitting, I constantly had trouble finding a cut off point.

More importantly, it's a masterwork of historical-fiction that illuminates in close-up and detailed fashion some of the cultural, political, and historical aspects of the tragic event which, even in its more factual and blatant respects, is not always well understood. Using very detailed personal/ethnic portraits and, on a larger scale,
Today is the 100th anniversary of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. When first I heard that fact, I picked up this book and still remember the powerful reading experience.
Jul 08, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly great book. It has great characters and tremendous drama. It also provides great insight into the problems between Armenians and Turks. And it's a great read. I couldn't stop readingi t.
Daniel Polansky
An epic narrative recounting the attempt of a community of Armenians resiting their forced evacuation and ultimate destruction by the Ottoman authorities in the opening days of the first World War, by all accounts 40 Days of Musa Dagh was one of the earliest works to introduce to the Western world what would come to be known as the Armenian Genocide. It is epic in the classic sense, that is to say, vast in scope and scale, and also fairly action packed – much of it could double as an adventure b ...more
Jan 04, 2008 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story was written in the early 1930s and was as controversial then as Resolution 106 has been in the last few months and for the same reasons. Reading it while the Resolution was being debated made it all the more compelling and I hope you will take the time to get to know this story.

The story is based on an Armenian who has been living in Paris and married to a French woman before returning to his home in Anatolian Armenia around 1915. His leadership develops as he reconnects to his count
Dec 05, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing novel. Musa Gabh is both physical and spiritual - usually in our lives it is either one or the other. The hero is at times adored and at times scorned. The hero is tempted and resists for the most part. The hero is transformed but never transcends. The hero leads but can't follow. The hero looks forward but stops at the edge. The role of suffering in a persons life and the ability to cope with that suffering is critical. Some prepare a darkened room, some seek solace in the arms of anoth ...more
Dec 15, 2008 Marina rated it it was amazing
Whew finally done! This is a three-booker and although it is easy to read, it just took me some time. It is extremely interesting if you are at all interested in the cultural and political situation at the time of the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915. The story is told in terms of how human relations are changed in a time of war, hardship, and persecution. There are no gory battle images and it is uplifting in how mankind can overcome and the good can rise above the evil.
Jan 21, 2015 Theut rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dolore, disperazione, speranza, riscossa, ancora dolore.
Ho letto molti libri sul genocidio armeno ma (e qui scriverò una cosa lapalissiana), sono i romanzi quelli che mi hanno più toccata perché, anche se con una certa dose di "finzione narrativa", danno l'idea di quante sofferenze, barbarie, pene, paure ci siano state.
Quest'anno ricorre il centenario.
David R. Godine
"In every sense a true and thrilling novel… It tells a story which it is almost one's duty as an intelligent human being to read. And one's duty here becomes one's pleasure also."

New York Times Book Review

"Forty Days will invade your senses and keep the blood pounding. Once read, it will never be forgotten."

New York Times
Oct 16, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best books I have ever read! Over 800 pages...every time I had to put it down I couldn't wait to get back to it. The reader's interest is held right to the very last page! Brilliant! A very sad story though about the effects of warfare on a population.
Miguel García Ferrera
Uno de mis libros favoritos. Una novela histórica ambientada en el cruel genocidio turco sobre los armenios de principios del siglo XXI.
Dec 21, 2008 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was about the Armenian massacre by Turkey in the early 20th century. Although a novel, I believe it was based on true events. Gripping.
I found this historical fiction account of the Armenian genocide to be very compelling and intriguing.
Feb 22, 2011 Cindy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Chris Bohjalian gives this 5 stars. Sounds like it could be an interesting read
Rhomboid Goatcabin
What a ride old Master Werfel has taken me along on. As a student of Classical Armenian, I've recently been trying to get my hands on everything (and, indeed, anything) to do with the Armenian genocide (aghet or ceghaspanutyun in the lingo) and Werfel's '40 Days' is an unescapable classic in the field, its importance to Armenians and victims of ethnic violence worldwide attested to by monuments in both sculpture and writing.

And for good reason: Werfel's tale explores the entirety of the Anatolia
Nov 13, 2016 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is a fictional account of the true story of resistance of a group of Armenian towns against the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire in WWI. The story is told through the eye of Gabriel Bagradian, an Armenian lately returned home who had been living in Paris with his French wife for the better part of his life. Hardly identifying as an Armenian at all, in some ways, he became the leader of his people when Armenian villages began to be rounded up and "deported" on d ...more
Nov 10, 2016 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And after months I have finally made it! A hard and convoluted read at times, at others a real modern and lucid account of an unfolding tragedy, the foonote that has become the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century. There is so much in this historical novel to make the reader stand up and pay notice. Werfer wrote a romanticised version inspired by a real life event in the Armenian Genocide of the 1915s, based on the decision of a group of Armenian villages in Turkey to resist enforced depo ...more
Oct 15, 2016 Resit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating epic. I started out reading as the events were taking place in my hometown, and even closer now where we currently spend our summers, Musa Dagh. I vaguely knew the fate of Armenians in the region, but reading this book and being able to visualise some of these places where the events take place was a fascinating experience. I guess more could be written about the quality of writing, descriptions and psychological analysis employed in the book, which is all brilliant. It ca ...more
Sourajyoti Bose
Dec 20, 2016 Sourajyoti Bose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book worth its money

It is a well written book. The plot is simple. It focuses on the Armenian Genocide. It makes an interesting read.
Jan 15, 2017 Dymbula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Krásně napsaný příběh o počátcích genocídy Arménů.
Don Huberts
Nov 08, 2016 Don Huberts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating historic novel, written very well. The characters come to full life in a gripping account of heroism, fear, love, culture, suspense, and many other facets of human nature. The novel gives a balanced account of the Armenian genocide, arguing that only a handful of powerful men in charge of a nation are capable of conceiving and ecexuting such heinous crimes. Franz Werfel does not put blame on the entire Turkish or Ottoman population, rather on its leaders. The novel written in 1933 pr ...more
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Czech-born poet, playwright, and novelist, whose central themes were religious faith, heroism, and human brotherhood. Franz Werfel's best-known works include The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933), a classic historical novel that portrays Armenian resistance to the Turks, and The Song of Bernadette (1941). The latter book had its start when Werfel, a Jew escaping the Nazis, found solace in the pilgrim ...more
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“. . . failure is also the stern parent of truth. (p525)” 1 likes
“The old sporadic fanaticism of religious hatred had been skillfully perverted into the cold, steady fanaticism of national hate.” 1 likes
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