Chrissie's Reviews > Passage to Ararat

Passage to Ararat by Michael J. Arlen
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's review
Nov 11, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: armenia, history, bio, text-checked, usa, turkey, england
Read from October 25 to 29, 2010


I finished Passag To Ararat several days ago, I wanted to think a bit before writing a review. Recently I have read several books about the Armenian Genocide that Turkey continues to deny. For this reason alone people should be informed. When Hitler invaded Poland, he pointed out that nobody even remembered the Armenian Genocide! He must be proven wrong. People do remember; we must never forget. Forgetting is the step before repeating what we have promised will never happen again. All of the books reveal the same story, although each emphasizes different aspects. In my view this was one of the best b/c it thoroughly described the entire history of the Armenian people, starting 500 years before Christ. The author searches to discover who his Armenian father really was, and in the process discovers who he is himself. A reader learns what it is to be Armenian, both in the past and even today.

Through page 100: The author is trying to understand his heritage. He begins by tryining to understand his father, who is at this point dead. His father saw himself clearly as being ENGLISH, NOT Armenian. It is the vehemence with which he denied his Armenian heritage that in fact shows the strength of his Armenian ties. One only needs to shout unless when one feels insecure. The book is very much about the author's own need to discover his Armenian heritage. His wife clearly is the sounding board for all his questions and denials. She understands her husband very well. She says (page 87-88):

"...part of you claims to be this rational observer, and yet another part of you still seems to be trying to justify Armenians in Western terms - you know, that history we were all taught. Battles, generals, Crusades, Richard and Saladin and Robin Hood."

He replies: "That's not it at all."

She replies: "All right. But why do you care so much that they seem European?"

In many, many different ways the author has a very hard time accepting his Armenian background, just as his own father had difficulty accepting this. The author immerses himself in Armenian books of history, even when he is there in Erevan (Yerevan), Soviet Armenia. He is deluged in books. he cannot leave the hotel..... He doesn't dare meet the people. The result being that the reader is deluged in Armenian history. WE are given history going back to 500 B.C. the first Armenian kings of Nairi, Armenia under the Persians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, theRomans, the Armenian role in the Crusades. Did you know that in 301 A.D. Armenia was in fact the first nation in the world to officialy adopt Christianity as a state religion?! I didn't. There is alot of detailed history here, and I have a very hard time following. The more you know the easier this will be, but my knowledge is lacking. The writing demands that you know your history. If you don't, you must have access to Wikipedia and an atlas. In addition, it isn't always easy to find the nations/cities b/c the names have changed, others no longer exist. I am not saying it is bad, not at all. I am just telling you what you will be getting. This is not mentioned in any of the reviews I encountered....... That is why I want to point it out. Yes, it is also about the author and his discovery of what it is to be Armenian, but I did not know that it would be primarily history, history and more history, starting in ancient times. This is more history than memoir. It fits what I am searching for, but I didn't expect this.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Barbara (new)

Barbara This is a touching, thought provoking review, Chrissie. I would like to comment on one point. You stated that "forgetting is the step before repeating what we have promised will never happen again". This should be true and if all mankind were so earnest they would not wreak such inhumane treatment. But most people have not forgotten the Holocaust, but genocide has occured again and again.

Chrissie My point is only that concerning the Armenian Genocide, Hitler said when he invaded Poland that no one remembered the Armenisan Genocide. People should not forget. If people are unaware of what has happened in the past, the chance is larger that the same errors will be made again. It is the FIRST step toward bad behavior.

I also see your point - that even if we do remember and are well informed, genocide does still continue. I agree, but some people have the guts to say it never happened! If one really understands, if you are made to really feel the horror in your own gut, perhaps at least fewer genocides will occur. Perhaps.

I know a woman who survived the Rwandan genocide. She climbed out of a mass grave with dead bodies heaped on top of her. The perpetrators had been those in her village, her friends. HOW do you go on with such a life experience on your shoulders. You would never know by looking at this woman what she had been through. This makes one very aware of the respect one should give complete strangers. You don't know what life has done to them. You have no idea. None.

I have to order Armenian Golgotha. I wish I had read this book first. I have a hunch that this will be the best. I have learned alot through many different books, but each book alone has not been enough.

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