YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A prominent Armenian American writer visiting Armenia to attend a major international conference on genocide has presented his books published recently in the United States, some of which deal with the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
During a presentation at the Armenian Writers’ Union on Thursday, Peter Balakian, an award-winning writer and scholar from New York, in particular, spoke about two new chapters in his 1997 book Black Dog of Fate that offer additional insight into the dramatic events in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were marched to their death in the Deir ez-Zor desert of Syria.
Balakian calls this Syrian desert “the graveyard of the Armenian genocide.”
In 2009, through a collaborative effort with colleague Aris Sevag, Balakian translated and published a major memoir of the Armenian genocide, Armenian Golgotha, by his great-uncle, Bishop Grigoris Balakian.
Bishop Grigoris was among the 250 Armenian political leaders, intellectuals and artists in Constantinople arrested on the night of April 24, 1915 on orders of Ottoman rulers. The subsequent executions of this cohort were followed by killings and deportations of 1.5 million Armenians elsewhere in the crumbling empire in what many scholars and governments of the world have recognized as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Grigoris was a rare survivor after a miraculous escape from a Turkish prison to tell the story.
“This book has had huge reviews all over the world,” says Balakian, 59, a winner of several prestigious awards for his poetry and prose, including a New York Times Notable Book and the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize for his The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2003).
In Yerevan, Balakian also presented the Armenian translation of his collection of poems entitled Sad Days of Light (originally published in 1983).
Balakian first visited Armenia six years ago when the Armenian translation of his memoir Black Dog of Fate (1997) was published.
This fall Balakian also saw his new book of poems titled Ziggurat come out. The book deals with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001. The author says he has made a national reading tour across the United States and his book has been well-received.
Balakian, who participated in a two-day international conference on the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan this week, described the event as “very important.”
“This conference has brought scholars from all around the world, from continents, from South America, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and I think it makes a very important statement for the Armenian government to be putting on a conference about genocide in a universal sense, about prevention, about consequences and reparation,” he said. “It’s not just for the Armenians, but for genocides all over the world. It shows that the Armenian republic is engaged deeply in human rights.”