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824 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1933
20 countries and 42 U.S. states have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide as a bona fide historical event. On March 4, 2010, a US congressional panel narrowly voted that the incident was indeed genocide; within minutes the Turkish government issued a statement critical of "this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed".Of course, even after all these years, it is perhaps not surprising that it's difficult for a people to admit this sort of thing, even when no one alive today could have possibly had anything to do with it. For example, I'm not aware that the U.S. government has ever admitted anything similar about the sorry history of the treatment of Native Americans by European settlers which peopled America. This seems like a long story in our past which has many similarities to the much shorter Turkish event; though of course there are lots of differences as well.
focuses on the self-defense by a small community of Armenians living near Musa Dagh, a mountain in Hatay Province in the Ottoman Empire—now part of southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast—as well the events in Istanbul and provincial capitals, where the Young Turk government orchestrated the deportations, concentration camps and massacres of the empire's Armenian citizens … the facts and scope of the Armenian Genocide were little known until Werfel’s novel, which entailed voluminous research and is generally accepted as based on historical events.The novel was published in German in November 1933, 18 years after those events. By February 1934, under strong pressure from the Turkish government, the book was banned in the Third Reich. In Turkey, the official banning did not take place until the following January, 1935; though we might suppose that in Turkey the banning was a pro forma event mostly unnecessary at the time.
This book was conceived in March of 1929, in the course of a stay in Damascus. 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 …
The original English translation by Geoffrey Dunlop has been revised and expanded by translator James Reidel and scholar Violet Lutz. The Dunlop translation, had excised approximately 25% of the original two-volume text to accommodate the Book-of-the-Month club and to streamline the novel for film adaptation. The restoration of these passages and their new translation gives a fuller picture of the extensive inner lives of the characters, especially the hero Gabriel Bagradian, his wife Juliette, their son Stephan—and Iskuhi Tomasian, the damaged, nineteen-year-old Armenian woman whom the older Bagradian loves. What is more apparent now is the personal story that Werfel tells, informed by events and people in his own life, a device he often used in his other novels as well, in which the author, his wife Alma, his stepdaughter Manon Gropius, and others in his circle are reinvented. Reidel has also revised the existing translation to free Werfel's stronger usages from Dunlop's softening of meaning, his effective censoring of the novel in order to fit the mores and commercial contingencies of the mid-1930s..
Had men the right to work out skilful plans by which this or that people should be stamped out? Was there even, as he had asserted a thousand times there was, enough practical basis for such a scheme? Who is to say that one people is worse or better than another? Certainly men cannot say it.