Friday, August 29, 2003
Everyone has his way of judging people and nations.
I judge them by the manner in which they treat writers.
History provides us with many precedents,
the most recent being Talaatís Turkey and Stalinís USSR.
And then there are the faceless flunkies
of our bosses, bishops and benefactors
who operate anonymously behind closed doors.
In the eyes of many Armenians,
especially those in authority,
the status of an Armenian writer is no better
than that of white trash.
To those who say whatís wrong with the way in which
writers like Oshagan, Shant and Garabents were treated?
I say, wrong question. None of these writers
qualifies as a dissident.
Whenever they discussed our problems
they tended to ascribe them to the people
rather than its leadership on whose goodwill
they were dependent.
Consider instead the treatment accorded
to Zarian, Shahnour and Massikian.
And consider the fate of many young writers
who gave up at an early stage of their career
because they saw the writing on the wall.
Result: Armenian literature has been reduced to a cemetery.
Why is it that dogs that kill
are invariably described by their owners as "friendly?"
and serial killers are described
as "nice" by their neighbors?
Being an Armenian writer
amounts to being a shoemaker in a country
where everyone prefers to go barefoot.
In a land of bloodsuckers,
gravediggers will prosper.
(as quoted by Saroyanís wife in her memoirs):
"If I tell you la, you should understand lalablue."
If you rely too much on your authority, money, or charm,
prepare yourself to confront someone
who will defy all three.
As the Greeks knew:
hubris is an open invitation to nemesis.
If you decide to adopt a fighting stance,
be prepared to lose some battles.
Which is better than the alternative:
defeat, degradation, despair and death.
Italian saying: "Fratelli, flagelli."
(Free translation: "The wrath of brothers,
the wrath of whips.")
Gerald Durrellís memoir MY FAMILY
AND OTHER ANIMALS (1956) contains
an unforgettable and hilarious portrait of
Gerald Durrell: not to be confused
with his better-known brother Lawrence
(THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET)
who also wrote extensively about Zarian.
Though she discusses many celebrities in her memoirs,
Saroyanís wife (Carol Matthau) doesnít even mention Marlon Brando
who knew both her and her daughter intimately.
Neither does she mention Saroyanís autobiographical novels
in which she plays a prominent but not always a positive role.
On the 40th anniversary of Martin Lutherís King famous
"I have a dream" speech in Washington,
I imagine myself in Yerevan facing a large crowd of Armenians:
What would I say?
What else but "I have a nightmare!"
I donít agree with a reality that makes crooks wealthy
and honest men poor, and because I speak
of this reality, some of my readers hate me
as if I were responsible for everything that has gone wrong
in their lives.
If some people have no interest in knowing themselves
it may be because they already know enough to know
that they are not worth knowing.
After reading the biographies and memoirs of celebrities
I have reached the conclusion that
some failures are happier than some successes.
Fame and fortune appear as necessary conditions of happiness
only in the eyes of those who have neither.
Among Armenians it is not always clear
who is trying to educate whom.
None of us can claim to know and understand everything.
But since we are all products of a unique set
of conditions and experiences,
we may know something the other doesnít.
You may have noticed by now that
when Armenians get together
their number one priority is not to learn from one another
but to insult and, whenever they can, to silence anyone
who dares to disagree with them.
This is not conducive to solidarity and progress
but to disintegration and darkness.
Hence the old adage: "Mart bidi chellank!"
or: we shall never acquire the status of human beings.
Perhaps because we are more interest in politics and power
than in literature and truth.
And we are more interested in power
because we were deprived of it during most of our history.
The question is:
can we acquire power by violating
one anotherís human right of free speech?
Can we acquire strength by dividing ourselves?
Can we improve our condition in any way
by hurling insults at one another?
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