THE BOOK OF WHISPERS by Varujan Vosganian

Excerpt from

THE STORY OF YUSUF

Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth

The Book of Whispers begins in a picturesque register, on a lane of the Armenian quarter of Focşani in the 1950s, among the steam of freshly roasted coffee and the scents of grandmother Armenuhi’s larder, among the old books and photographs of grandfather Garabet. But the reader is not left to savour the intimacy of this hearth and home and nor is he invited to chat with the merry folk who in peacetime spin stories about Ara the Fair and Tigran the Great. Varujan Vosganian’s “old Armenians from childhood” have no delectable tales to tell, but rather events that are thoroughly disturbing. In narrating these events, they attempt to disburden themselves of a trauma – their own and that of their forbears.

The history of the 1915 genocide against the Armenians, the history of the interminable convoys of those banished into the Circles of Death, into the Deir ez Zor Desert, the secret history of Armenian freemasonry in Romania, of General Dro’s army, the history of the Armenians who followed the path of exile in the Stalinist period – all these and many other biographically filtered histories are to be found illustrated in the pages of this unsettling book.

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