Are Turkish writers today better than Armenian writers? According to the Nobel committee, . . . and now the world community, at least one Turkish writer is better than Armenian writers. I once heard an Armenian poet and author of several textbooks say that the Nobel committee was a Zionist conspiracy. And immediately after Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize, an Armenian friend, whose patriotism is such that it would not allow him to read "enemy writers," telephoned to inform me that Pamuk did not deserve the Nobel Prize. But then, with one or two exceptions, this has been said of all Nobel Prize winners.
In a recent issue of the ARMENIAN REPORTER I read a letter to the editor that said something to the effect that, if we are better, why is it that hundreds of Jews have been awarded the Nobel Prize but not a single Armenian? Will this fact convince a single Armenian that Jews are better than Armenians? I suspect it may have the exact opposite effect by reinforcing the notion that the Nobel committee is an offshoot of THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION.
Dissident Turkish historians today have more friends among Armenians than among their fellow Turks. Why should it be different for dissident Armenian writers?
From My Notebooks
No one, not even bosses, bishops, and benefactors, is in a position to say his definition of Armenianism is the only valid one.
Like war, genocide is such a colossal blunder that it must be handled very carefully, even if it means attending it "by a bodyguard of lies" (Churchill).
Literature and big money don't mix. I feel ill at ease in the presence of benefactors who are constitutionally incapable of respecting anyone they can hire and fire; and I can sense this contempt even in the presence of their flunkies who are, as a rule, less diplomatic in their dealing with "honorable beggars" (Baronian).
You may have noticed that smart Armenian operators hide their political loyalties. I remember once when I asked a friend to which party he belonged, he replied, "I am with the good guys." No one believes me when I say I am not just non-partisan but anti-partisan. Shaw is right. The trouble with crooks is that they assume everyone is a crook.
Hating the enemy is easy. Trying to understand him much more difficult. I admire people who choose understanding. But I see something inconsistent in someone who pretends to understand his enemy but hates his own brother.
On Wisdom, Love, And Related Atrocities
Men say they value knowledge over ignorance but live as though they loved ignorance more.
Since our ignorance far exceeds our knowledge, in whatever we say about the visible and the invisible world (the universe and god) there will be more uncertainty than certainty. Unless mankind comes to terms with this gray area of uncertainty, we shall have wars, revolutions, and massacres.
There is a difference between being right and being wise. Our revolutionaries at the turn of the last century were right, but were they wise?
Either we de-Ottomanize and de-Sovietize ourselves or we go on confusing a dehumanized existence with survival.
I am afraid all this talk of Turks and massacres has turned us into pillars of salt.
Indians believe verbal communication is not the only way to transfer wisdom, and that being in the presence of a wise man is enough to absorb wisdom by spiritual osmosis. Perhaps our problems stem from the fact that for six hundred years we kept the wrong company.
One doesn't fall in love with a person, one falls in love with an image, an abstraction, a projection, a lie, a symbol.and symbols don't fart.
If I am nice in person and nasty in my writings it may be because in my dealings with my fellow men I may respect their limitations and ignorance, but in my writings I am merciless.
A politician is a politician regardless of nationality, and as a politician he shares more things in common with other politicians than with his own people.
The one endeavor in which politicians excel is making wrong appear right. In his last days, Hitler blamed not himself but the German people. Since they had failed to live up to his expectations, he is quoted as having said, they deserved to be wiped off the map.
We live in a world where the credibility of lies is greater than that of truth, hence the popularity of organized religions and ideologies. I am not saying all ideologies and religions are wrong. It is ideologues and religious leaders who say that. It is popes and ayatollahs, bishops and mullahs who say if you don't trust the salvation of your soul into their hands, you are no better than a heretic and an infidel dog and will burn in hell for eternity.
Since at all times and everywhere heretics and infidels have outnumbered true believers, there must be more people in hell than anywhere else.
If you say I repeat myself, I will make a deal with you: on the day a preacher says he is no longer against sin, I will consider changing my tune.
I think it was Aldous Huxley who once observed that the earth is the insane asylum of other planets. That makes more sense to me than the idea of a compassionate and loving god being guilty of the greatest holocaust (i.e. hell) in the history of the universe.
Exposing lies can be a catastrophic career move.
20th-Century Armenian Literature
A Mother's Heart By Avedik Issahakian
There is an old tale
About a boy
An only son
Who fell in love with a lass.
"You don't love me,
You never did," said she to him.
"But if you do, go then
And fetch me your mother's heart."
Downcast and distraught
The boy walked off
And after shedding copious tears
Came back to his love.
The girl was angry
When she saw him thus
And said, "Don't you dare come back again
Without your mother's heart."
The boy went and killed
A mountain roe deer
And offered its heart
To the one he adored.
But again she was angry
And said, "Get out of my sight.
I told you what I want
Is your mother's heart."
The boy went and killed
His mother, and as he ran
With her heart in his hand
He slipped and fell.
"My dear child,
My poor child,"
Cried the mother's heart,
"Did you hurt yourself?"
(Translated by Ara Baliozian)
Physical And Metaphysical Reflections God created the universe in his own image. Astronomers tell us there are many more stars in heaven than grains of sand on earth. And now, consider the fact that the earth isn't even a star but a planet, and relatively speaking, about the size of only an almost invisible fraction of a dust particle. Need I say more?
More On Racism
In a fable by La Fontaine titled "The Wolf and the Lamb," the wolf accuses the lamb of having spoken ill of him last year. When the lamb says he wasn't even born last year, the wolf replies, "It must have been your brother."
I asked a professor of music if he had ever heard of a famous Turkish pianist. "Two of them," he replied to my racist astonishment. "Is one of them good with Brahms?" I asked next. "His recording of the Intermezzi is famous," he said after naming him.
As an Armenian I began to make sense of things only on the day I realized that some Turks may indeed be horrid (Turks may agree with me on this) but our own "betters" are not as good as we think they are (I don't expect Armenians, especially our "betters," to agree with me).
Objectivity is like common sense: even fanatics don't complain that they don't have enough of it. But the truth of the matter is, we either underestimate or overestimate people, including ourselves. The aim of racism is to legitimize this widely practiced aberration.
As a child I was brought up to underestimate Turks to such a degree that I could not conceive of a day when I would read such oxymoronic phrases as "a great Turkish pianist," or "a widely translated Turkish novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize who has been compared to Thomas Mann."
To the same degree that I underestimated Turks I overestimated my fellow Armenians. When I finally realized that Armenians were human beings, like the rest of mankind, with their share, perhaps even more than their share, of failings, I experienced a state of shock that lasted several years during which I came close to becoming an alcoholic.
If I am too critical of Armenians today and not critical enough of Turks, it is because I don't know and I will never know everything there is to know about them, or for that matter about myself.
Historians like Toynbee and philosophers like Sartre tell us it is impossible to know everything about the past, and history is not a story with a fixed plot but a narrative that must be constantly updated and rewritten. As human beings we are therefore condemned to pronounce verdict only on partial and sometimes even hearsay evidence.
To rely on a politician's version of the past is like assuming the roles of judge and jury and relying on the evidence presented by a single lawyer whose aim is not to prove the innocence of his client but to challenge the prosecution to dispel all doubt as to the guilt of the accused. When an Armenian poet said, "Human justice, I spit on your face," and long before him, when Dickens has one of his characters say, "The law is a ass!" they were emphasizing this very same point and the impossibility of achieving objectivity and impartiality.
Historians, even honest and well-meaning ones, are human beings like the rest of us: they may know better about some things, perhaps even many things, but they don't know everything. We should trust their judgment on big things as much as we trust ours on little things.
Only almighty and all-known god may be objective, but as far as I know the word isn't even mention in the Bible, where we are asked not to judge our enemies but to love them.
If The Shoe Fits
Whenever I feel mean, unforgiving, and full of venom, I ascribe it to my Ottoman heritage.
A false friend can be more dangerous than a mortal enemy. That's because a false friend knows where your Achilles' heel is and he strikes when you least expect it.
A false friend is one who escalates a minor disagreement to terminal hatred and verbal slaughter.
My false friends outnumber my enemies because being naïve and gullible (dumb for short) I have been brainwashed to believe I am smart and can't be taken in.
I have said and repeated that I am smart so often that I now have no doubts on that score. * My position is to vulnerable and my weaknesses so many that no matter how absurd the flattery I swallow it hook, line, and sinker.
Because I consider all defeats moral victories, I am invincible. Or, as they say in diplomatic circles in Washington: "Whichever way the shit goes down, my ass is covered."
Theory And Practice
Theory: Since you and I are Armenian, we must be brothers.
Practice: Since you and I belong to different tribes, we cannot even begin to communicate with each other.
Being wrong I understand. What I don't understand, and I doubt if I ever will, is being catastrophically wrong with total unawareness, like the good citizens of Athens who condemned Socrates to death with the unshakable conviction that they were discharging their patriotic duty.
Perhaps a modern translation of the commandment "Love your enemy" is "Humanize yourself."
How To Read
When I don't understand a sentence or a paragraph I seldom reread it because (a) I lose interest in a writer or translator who makes no effort to make himself accessible to the general reader, and (b) the certainty that someday I will read the same idea in another context more clearly expressed.
If an idea is good, it will be remembered, rephrased, and repeated an infinite number of times.
To Know Is To Remember
All so-called new or original ideas are as old as mankind. The meaning of the word "original" is going back to the origins. We sometimes forget that when we speak of the history of ideas, what we mean is written ideas. For thousands of years men could not write. That does not mean they did not think.
During the Soviet era I wrote about twenty letters to writers in the Homeland asking if I could interview them. Only one of them replied suggesting I write a letter of congratulations on the 25th anniversary of the magazine he was then editing. I had never seen or heard about his magazine but I wrote a brief cliché-ridden paragraph, which he promptly published, and that was the only thing by me that ever saw the light in Soviet Armenia.
Last summer I was interviewed by e-mail by an Armenian editor in Moscow. When he disagreed with my answers, he sent follow-up question with whose answers he also disagreed. This routine was repeated a few more times. When the interview finally appeared, it bore the following Pinteresque title: "Interview with an Armenian Dissident: Incomprehensible Answers to Misunderstood Questions."
Long before I met Vahé Oshagan I was told he was, like his illustrious father, partial to blunt talk, especially when dealing with lesser writers in no position to retaliate. So when I found myself seated beside him at a banquet in an Armenian community center, I told him in no uncertain terms what I thought of his poetry, which was not one hell of a lot; to which he said: "You and I have nothing further to say to each other." When I got up to leave, I heard him say: "Not so fast, my friend!"
Did he get even? I no longer remember. But he did say I was wasting my time translating a phony like Zarian, and if I wanted to make myself useful I should get busy translating such worthy and authentic writers as his father.
Shortly thereafter mutual friends informed me that Vahé Oshagan's opinion of me was so low that it could not be quoted or even paraphrased in polite society. Strange as this may seem to some readers, this development flattered my vanity instead of offending my ego.
Dear Ara the hammer-man,
Your # 1210 editorial, like others, is too good to be wasted unnoticed, although I bet that most of the readers, will not try to “tune their thinking to your frequency” of ironic philosophies. Although my English is not comparable to your virtuosity, I should like to compliment and comment on some of your thoughts, just to prove that you are not alone, although we are the very few non-avanakians. .
Armenian Enemies – Turkish Friends
One of the illegal Armenian women working for an earning in
I do hope that you do not approve the classification of humans, by nations or beliefs and you really make a little fun of the bigots…
From your Note book:
Yes, the crooks have the control and we crack ourselves to achieve nothing but talk.The problem with most Turks is that they are stupid and cannot learn even to hate ! In that respect, the Diaspora Armenians have to be complimented, they start the hate and grudge brainwashing from the cradle all to way to the casket. I prefer to stay stupid, I cannot make scenarios of grudge or hate; no reason, no time!
When a young boyish high school student, our teacher of Turkish literature, used to talk about the universe, stars so many million light-years away, and in our thinking we could not understand what he was speaking about. But I remember his example saying, that knowledge is like a ball and the unknown the outside surface of the ball. The more your knowledge ball gets bigger, the more your lack of knowledge increases… I like your “hammering writings”, it hits well to the parts that need straightening!
Yesterday, I think I sent you as well, an English translation of a Turkish slide show, which was self-explanatory. Worse remarks about Turks and Armenians, will form a chapter of my new book. I draw your attention to my bottom remarks about E.U. and Christianity… Seems the heaven is sold out already… But if hell does not take so many non-Christians, there might be another holy war for space up there !
Excellent poem, well translated… but who is to read and share ? (How many reader mothers we have?)
Watch out hungry wolves, may easily chew everything, even brothers, sisters and all…
We have some that become world wide reputed. But the piano professor of the
(Do you think that any one of Turkish ethnicity will be even accepted as a student in
The “verdict made on hearsays” and “in a hurry so that the truth is not searched for”, truly shows the human inclination to become a criminal of the lynch mob, thinking that what most do, I should comply with it… If a trigger is pulled by one man, or by ten men with a string attached, it does not share the penalty, it just makes ten criminals instead of one. Hah, hah… Read my excerpts from the Bible… We are on the same frequency the hammerman!
Socrates: (two more hearsays, in case you missed them).
- His wife was crying and complaining saying: “But you are condemned to die, when you are so innocent ?” Reply: “Would it have been better, if they were to be right and me guilty?
- On his last night, his students come to visit their teacher. One of them has the “lyre” instrument, Socrates asks him to play. He plays for his teacher, when he finishes Socrates asks: “Will you teach me how to play lyre? All students are stunned, one of them says, “But Sir, tomorrow…”
“I know tomorrow” says Socrates, “ I wanted to feel the happiness of learning something new”
Intellectuals – Interviews:
Thank you for giving another good explanation of the “feasible tactics of interviews”, but I do not know if the system was devised by the Communists or Diaspora columnists… Any way, it works so good that in
The Turkish Charge d’Affaire in
Dear Hammer-man, most people prefer to do as they are told or read, without using their “thalamus” in their brains. May be this is their way to live and be happy, and most like to sustain their lives on hatred, “instead of love, compassion and tolerance”. Just between you an me Ara: I think that the Armenian Diaspora and Dashnaks (other then their own manna of large donations) are making the same error Hitler did. If Hitler had used his technology and hard work not to occupy other lands but pay and buy, by now they could have owned the whole world. Most Armenians have excellent talent in artisan and trading. They stick their minds on
Repeating words of Ataturk “ PEACE AT HOME, PEACE OVER WORLD”! (looks far away …)
Sukru S. Aya
Note :I am sending copy to Seda. If you permit, may be she would like to post as a reader’s comment. You have at least one satisfied good reader… Does it make any difference what ethnicity is?