BY GARY A. KULHANJIAN
“The Armenians in Paris The Joy after the Sorrow”
By Michael Boyajian
New York: Jera Studios Publishing, 2018
Michael Boyajian continues to challenge his readers with a passion to learn about the Armenians. He is soon to be acclaimed as the master of non-fiction writing short paperbacks about the Armenians in their history and legacy. The short narratives attract various age levels and are not for the erudite segment of readers who are knowledgeable of the research. He focuses on the general reader audience who are the group he appeals to most.
Those readers, who are unfamiliar with his works, can learn a great deal from his unpretentious literary style and foremost acclaims about the Armenians. Boyajian is a retired attorney and former human rights judge who lives in New York state. His command of writing and the computer makes him a twenty-first century author. The material and substance of his works are reflected in his percipient production of books recently. At present, he has written fifteen books, co-author a sixteenth, and is working on a seventeenth. The author has written six of his books about the Armenians. Clearly, he has a unique quality for general audiences. First, he is a maverick among American-Armenian writers. Secondly, he writes like a journalist and historian but has a mastery of knowledge which is appealing to those who admire the relevancy of the Armenians from ancient to contemporary times.
The author divides his book into four chapters along with a bibliography and index. Having visited Paris, the author captivates the reader with a tour of the renowned world city. He walks through its historic sites and touches upon its monuments. His appreciation of art, history, and literature is part of the milieu described within this experience in a contemporary time frame and reflects back to those intellectuals who lived in Paris in yesteryear who were non-Armenians and Armenians. He writes about historic monuments like the Eifel Tower, Arch de Triumph, Notre Dame, and so forth. The author did immerse into Paris with its art museums and gardens; however, Boyajian takes you into the past and exposes the writers who lived in Paris and who became world renowned like, to name a few, Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Solito Solano, and others. He writes about the places these writers congregated like the pubs, streets, and areas which still exist. Yet, Paris was the center of the French writers during the nineteenth century when they dominated French literature which attracted Armenians from afar.
In sum, Paris did add hope for the writers of the 1920s for their future and literature to survive. Boyajian does not evade the Armenian Genocide of 1915. He explains the events in personal terms. He touches upon the inhumanity of the genocide but reiterates stories from his family’s past on his paternal and maternal side. He tells about how his father always remarked about how the deniers have trashed history by not recognizing the Armenian Genocide when he reminded his family by saying: “…if it did not happen then what happened to all my uncles.”
The author makes a transition from his personal history to the question of how the Armenian genocide precipitated in a hostile atmosphere and even the killing of the Greeks and other ethnic groups. It is at this juncture in the book, Boyajian refers to U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, who was the ambassador to the Ottoman Turkey, and his heroic concern for the Armenians during the Armenian genocide. He reviews the brutality of the Ottoman Young Turk regime to eliminate the Armenians from their historic land. Morgenthau’s efforts were commendable. Although, the Armenians were placed in caravans and many were removed from their locations and killed in the outskirts of towns and cities, the worldwide press in the United States and Europe reported the genocide. The resistance fighters should be credited for their courage.
The author enlightens readers with a narration of the Armenian intellectuals who immigrated to Paris in the 1920s. The Armenian writers and intellectuals were unique for many reasons ; however, the author emphasizes the post traumatic stress they suffered in finding an oasis of freedom after losing their families and friends in the genocide. A great many Armenian intellectuals did not survive the genocide in 1915. Other writers and scholars who lived in Paris before or after the 1920s did not endure such a loss or experience. Boyajian reviews the names and works of some Armenian intellectuals and writers who made Paris their home to name a few are important here: Arshag Chobanian, Aram Andonian, Mguerditch Barsamian, Vasken Shushanian, Levon Shant, Zabel Yessayan, and others.
The story of the Armenian writers who survived and escaped to Paris, “the City of Lights,” where there were other intellectuals from other nationalities is what Hemingway said “…for Paris is a moveble feast” especially for expatriate writers of the 1920s. The author says, “Paris didn’t just save a handful of writers who survived the genocide it restored an entire people called the Armenians.” Another great read… I cried when I read certain parts… I really liked the material, substance, and focus. Boyajian ends his book with the Armenian word: Apagan (in translation meaning “forward” to the future).
Gary A. Kulhanjian is social historian and educator, former member of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education and appointee of three governors. The reviewer holds three degrees in history, social science, and humanities. He presently lives in California.