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02 March 2015

3528) Time for Saroyan Library in Bitlis, Turkey

Vartan Estukyan

A new library in Bitlis will be named after William Saroyan. Journalist Ahmet Tulgar, who came up with the idea, reports that he met with Bitlis Co-Mayor Hüseyin Olan and discussed the idea for a library.

A new library to be opened in Bitlis will be named after William Saroyan. In December, upon the proposal of Ara Sarafian, historian and the Director of the Gomidas Institute in London, a vote was held at the Bitlis Municipality, for the name of Sapkor Street, where the author lived for many years with his family, to be changed as Saroyan Street. . . .

The idea for a library, on the other hand, belongs to journalist-author Ahmet Tulgar. Tulgar explained to Agos how the idea came about, the most recent developments regarding the library and the importance of having a Saroyan Library in Bitlis.

Tulgar stated that the idea of founding a library emerged after he heard that the Saroyan Street was to be opened, and thought how significant it would be to have a library in Bitlis named after Saroyan, an author whose works he had read since his youth: “William Saroyan is an author I love very much, and whose works I have read since my youth. It was with my friend journalist I.shak Karakas, that we came up with the idea of founding a library. We publish a weekly newspaper together, and we thought we could manage it with the backing of the newspaper.”

Journalist Ahmet Tulgar said they met with Bitlis Co-Mayor Hüseyin Olan and shared the idea about the library, which was treated positively: “Olan told us that there was a house that belonged to Saroyan in Bitlis, and that they planned to renovate it. This will be the place allocated for the library. However, first a budget is needed. They will allocate a temporary space for us until the renovation is completed.” Tulgar also underlined the work of the Bitlis Municipality so far, and added that the library would “be an expression of respect and gratitude to the Armenian labour on these lands, and to literature in general”.

Donations collected

Tulgar stated that donations were being collected for the library; and that the library would host books of Armenian authors including first and foremost Saroyan, and also books in other languages on Bitlis: “There is a long list of requirements. We first need Saroyan’s books in all languages, books on Saroyan, documents and photographs, too. Both about him and his family. We also need works of Armenian literature, and studies on Armenian literary history. We would of course also like to include history books on Bitlis Armenians and documents in our library. We would also like to have a special section for the Genocide, where people can learn about the events that took place in Bitlis and its environs. And perhaps an inventory of the Armenian monuments in town… Readers should be able to experience a confrontation with the past in the library.”

Tulgar also touched upon the importance of the opening of a library named after William Saroyan on the centennial of 1915, and finally added: “Diyarbak?r Metropolitan Municipality also carries out important work to keep the history of the city alive. The residents of the city are proud of the Surp Giragos Church since it has been renovated. But in consideration of the scope of the Genocide and pillaging, there is much more work to be done. The determination is strong. HDP and BDP municipalities will focus more on such work especially since it is the centennial of 1915.”

Saroyan’s house transformed into museum

Bitlis Co-Mayor Hüseyin Olan underlined the importance of the opening of the library for the people of Bitlis. Olan said the opening of the library would take place this summer, and in a statement to Agos, added the following about the library: “With a municipal decision we took last December, we named the street the house of the author was on after him. And this year, accepting the proposal of Ahmet Tulgar and I.shak Karakas,, we have planned to open a library named after the author. As a municipality, we place great importance in our history and culture. There will no doubt be negative reactions as well to the construction of this library, but we believe that the people of Bitlis should know what Bitlis was like in the past, and who lived here. We see it as an opportunity to come to terms with the Genocide.”

Olan also gave information about the location of the library: “We are renovating the house that belongs to the family of the author, but we need some time to complete the renovation. When completed, it will be opened as the William Saroyan Museum. At the moment we are planning to allocate a temporary space for the library in Bitlis Market. When the museum is ready, a section will be used as the Saroyan Library, that is our plan.”


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