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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Friday 16 December 2005

Pamuk and Werfel

As most of you will know, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk (author of Snow, Istanbul and My Name is Red) today stands trial for "denigrating Turkishness". His crime? To have spoken out against the ongoing killing of Kurds in Turkey's south-eastern provinces and the 1915 massacres of Ottoman Armenians.

The only literary work that I know of that deals with the Armenian massacre is Franz Werfel's The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, which "would be a great book if only read as a story of human heroism. It is more than that, with its overtones of Old Testament character and of modern politics. It gives such life to the long Armenian struggle as it has never had in Western literature; and raises the name of Franz Werfel to new dignity in European letters." Which is praise indeed. My copy lies, unread, in the big bookcase at the foot of the bed. I'll dig it out this weekend.

And David Barsamian says:

I recommend that you all read the chapter Interlude of the Gods from Franz Werfel's The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. It is based on the historical record of a conversation between a German missionary Johannes Lepsius and Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha. The genocide of the Armenians in 1915 was state organized and sponsored. Of that, there can be no doubt. If you can read the whole book you won't be disappointed. Werfel went to Syria after the genocide and heard the stories from survivors that form the basis of his novel. Werfel, an Austrian Jew, is famous for Song of Bernadette ... Incidentally, attempts to make the novel into a Hollywood film some years ago were blocked by the Turkish government.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
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-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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