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The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

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4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,379 ratings  ·  157 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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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  1,379 ratings  ·  157 reviews


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Ted
Read this book about 40 years ago. I remember that it was a fascinating, though horrifying, story, a real page-turner. 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 Turkey in 1935. Several attempts at making a movie of the book h
...more
Ted
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 (September 1890 – 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 of The
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Jonathan
I feel bad giving this such a mediocre grade, not least because of how important it is as a historical document (not to mention as inspiration to the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto), but as a novel it is too full of melodrama and Romance for me, and the prose itself does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...
Juliane
Nov 01, 2009 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
Lillian
Apr 25, 2015 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
Apr 14, 2007 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
...more
Jane
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Upon my reading it as a teenager years ago, this novel held me spellbound; I had the same reaction upon this rereading, even with 800+ pages! This was my very first exposure to the fact of the Armenian Massacres of the 20th century.

The story involves an Armenian, Gabriel Bagradian, who has returned to his family home in Syria from years of living in France, He is accompanied by his French wife, Juliette, and French-born son, Stephan. The devastating death marches of Armenians have begun. Gabrie
...more
Yigal Zur
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
amazing story. every one interested in Armenian modern history should read
Ian
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
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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
...more
Rhomboid Goatcabin
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Paulo Jan
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it was the longest book I ever read , but it was with great pleasure and interest that I got to page 878. A heroic saga of the brave Armenian people in the first world war, that resisted bravely against the huge Turkish army trapped on the mountain Musa Dagh for 40 days until rescued by Allied ships. A fascinating account of great faith, courage, endurance, which deserved to be portrayed on film. The backstage of the Armenian genocide are presented very clearly so that it is impossible to ...more
Nikola Vukićević
Few years ago, during my flight, I met person who was sitting next to me. It happened to be Armenian consul in my country, and also writter, translator from Armenian to my language and otherwise. He shortly explained me about that genocide and recomended me some books to read about that story. You will not find many books or informations about this topic on internet. That’s why I am very glad that I even found example of this book and that had ability to read it. Anyway, long story short, book y ...more
Bank
Aug 11, 2012 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
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Jeff
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,
...more
Barbara
Jul 08, 2009 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. ...more
Jane
Nov 20, 2014 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.
Didier Vanoverbeke
This is a story well worth knowing, and one may add an extra staror two if essentialist and paternalist editorializing by are good narrator doesn’t annoy or confound.
Sharon
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I am so relieved that is finally over! Well written and informative, but way, way too long - 882 pages of tiny typeface, written in a style that really doesn't overly engage. Not a bad book by any means, but it doesn't compare to something like Bird Without Wings, which was so emotive and beautiful. Glad it's done but not always enjoyable to read.... too long. ...more
Dave
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A tremendous book. This fictionalized account of Armenian resistance brought to the world's attention the Armenian Genocide conducted by the Young Turks under the cover of World War I. In 2015, nearly 5,000 Armenians escaped death-march deportations to the physically protective geography around Musa Dagh, or Moses Mountain, in NW Syria at the time and held out against Turkish forces for about 40 days through the leadership of a Paris-sophisticate son of a leading Armenian family from the area. I ...more
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
Lee
Dec 07, 2007 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
...more
Stephen
Nov 19, 2014 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
Marina
Sep 22, 2008 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.
Godine Publisher & Black Sparrow Press
"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
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Carolyn
Jun 21, 2012 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. ...more
Marion
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I found this historical fiction account of the Armenian genocide to be very compelling and intriguing.
Sally
Dec 21, 2008 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.
Cindy
Feb 22, 2011 marked it as to-read
Chris Bohjalian gives this 5 stars. Sounds like it could be an interesting read
Susie Kelly
Jul 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A potentially fascinating story, but horribly long-winded. It took me nearly 40 days to read, and towards the end I was skipping large chunks just to find out what would happen to Bagradian.
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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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