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The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

4.38  ·  Rating Details ·  699 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
This stirring, poignant novel, based on real historical events that made of actual people true heroes, unfolds the tragedy that befell the Armenian people in the dark year of 1915. The Great War is raging through Europe, and in the ancient, mountainous lands southwest of the Caspian Sea the Turks have begun systematically to exterminate their Christian subjects. Unable to ...more
Paperback, 824 pages
Published December 17th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 1933)
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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueA Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayThe Regeneration Trilogy by Pat BarkerWar Horse by Michael MorpurgoBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
WWI - The Great War (Historical Fiction)
67th out of 243 books — 200 voters
The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz WerfelA Shameful Act by Taner AkçamThe Sandcastle Girls by Chris BohjalianOrhan's Inheritance by Aline OhanesianHrant by Tuba Çandar
Armenian Genocide
1st out of 107 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,483)
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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
Jun 18, 2016 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
-Adolf Hitler

When this was published in 1933 and became a best-seller, it was hard to imagine that the book itself would be referred to as a sort of prophecy. Even today, it is easy to see the grim parallels. Emaciated corpses of the dead in Dachau - or the Armenians clinging to their last desperate redoubt in Musa Dagh reminds me of the Yazidis fleeing to Mount Sinjar, rationing their food and water, hoping for any help at all.
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
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
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
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
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
Aug 12, 2012 Bank rated it it was amazing

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
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,
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
Apr 24, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it
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
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.
Dec 05, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 04, 2008 Lee rated it liked it
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
Michael Cooney
May 03, 2015 Michael Cooney rated it it was amazing
Fran's Werfel wrote this great novel in 1933 and the Nazis were burning it a few months later - and that is no surprise since he depicts the 1915 Turkish genocide of the Amenian people in chilling detail that very closely parallels the Nazi genocide. Hitler is said to have remarked that the world ignored the Armenian genocide and he expected the same lack of response to the holocaust.

As with the murder of the Jews barely twenty years later, the persecution of the Armenians began in secret, with
Tina Janik
Aug 10, 2014 Tina Janik rated it it was amazing
Franz Werfel legt mit leichter Hand eine monumentale Schlacht hin. Der Roman erzählt nicht nur die Schicksale der Menschen, die sich auf dem Musa Dagh gegen die Angreifer verschanzen, sondern auch die detaillierten militärischen Details. Damit entsteht mehr als ein historischer Roman, der die vielfältig verwickelten Lebenslinien der Gemeinschaft auf dem Berg auslotet, es entsteht ein schillerndes Bild eines atemlosen Zustandes zwischen Hoffnung und Verzweiflung. Werfel lotet die Grauzonen dieses ...more
Dec 15, 2008 Marina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 07, 2015 Kath rated it really liked it
This book is 817 pages long! I'm very surprised I was able to read all of it. I have never even attempted anything of such weight, but I had a great interest in this topic, the Armenian Genocide, so I just kept reading. Referred to by all scholars of Musa Dagh as the definitive epic, Werfel wrote the fictional story of Gabriel Bagradian after he was inspired by the true story of an Armenian resistance to an Ottoman deportation edict of August/September 1915. The story can be read on many layers, ...more
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
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.
Sarah Becker
May 11, 2015 Sarah Becker rated it really liked it
Wow. This was brilliant. And the ending was just... OMFG. Literature of this caliber deserves better analysis than "OMFG" but that's what I got. Just finished it this afternoon and upon reading the last two sentences, simply said aloud "OH MY GOD" to an empty house.

Franz, just so you know, you are one brilliant dude. My hope is that somehow that sentiment travels through the ether to make its way to you. I was just stupefied by some of the writing. And this was a translation? On every page I wa
Oct 16, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
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.
One of those novels I had meant to read for many years. I may have put it off due the intimidating 900 plus pages, but I recently read Vassili Grossman's "Armenian Sketchbook" and I think that gave me the push to finally tackle Franz Werfel's classic.

So what to say? The novel is regarded as a modern masterpiece and in my view it fully deserves its reputation. Of course, the sympathies of the reader lie entirely with the victims, as it would with any novel on this theme. In this case we also have
Gloria Finocchi
Jul 29, 2015 Gloria Finocchi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bellissimo racconto che narra la storia del genocidio del popolo Armeno da parte dell'Impero Ottomano all'inizio del secolo scorso, e della resistenza opposta da circa 5000 armeni alla deportazione che aveva come unico scopo la morte. Libro lunghissimo di circa 900 pagine che tutto sommato si legge molto bene. Risente solo in minima parte della lunghezza; io personalmente ho saltato quasi tutte le parti dedicate alle tecniche belliche. Ho trovato lo stile molto aulico e antiquato, e purtroppo la ...more
Dec 21, 2008 Sally rated it really liked it
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.
Miguel García Ferrera
Nov 08, 2013 Miguel García Ferrera rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Uno de mis libros favoritos. Una novela histórica ambientada en el cruel genocidio turco sobre los armenios de principios del siglo XXI.
Feb 21, 2015 Rdt rated it really liked it
This was a really good book that tells an important and little known story, and I would recommend it to anyone, but I was surprised to see how many five star ratings and glowing reviews that it got. It is a good piece of historical fiction with a story that is sometimes a page turner and with characters that are richly drawn, but somehow I felt that it was a little lacking as a piece of literature and sometimes felt a bit wooden. Some of the characters and plot points felt a bit constructed and ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Marion rated it it was amazing
I found this historical fiction account of the Armenian genocide to be very compelling and intriguing.
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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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