Reviews

INDEPENDENCE ARMY: STORIES. By Vahe Avetian. 294 pages. (Stockholm, 2005). (In Armenian).

In this collection of anecdotes, encounters, dialogues, reflections, comments, autobiographical fragments, and poems, Vahe tells it like it is. If you don’t like blunt talk, this book is not for you

“Show me an intellectual who praises political leaders and I will show a BROWN-NOSER,” he writes.

“I am not a writer,” he declares at one point. Yet, he writes with the spontaneity of a volcanic eruption.

“My teacher of political science once told me, ‘Vahe, remember that politics is not necessarily prostitution. It becomes one only when whores engage in it.’”

“I don’t remember a single lesson about loving mankind, but about loving one’s country, as many as you like. And it is in the name of this love that we were taught to hate.”

On the prospects of the Armenian diaspora: when asked about it, an activist friend in Buenos Aires replies: “If we start thinking about our prospects, we will stop acting.

“On rereading what I have written, I am astonished at my own genius, but I am also willing to concede that in a few years, when I reread these lines, I shall have to admit that I am no better than a jackass.”

On one level this is an intensely Armenian book, but on another it is also anti-Armenian – or rather the anti-Ottomanized and anti-Sovietized version of Armenianism.

If I were to summarize Vahe’s central message, it would be: You have to die as an Armenian to be reborn as a human being, and only after you are reborn as a human being, may you hope to be a good Armenian. Or: “To renounce your self you must first have a self.”

As long as we have writers like Vahe Avetyan among us, we may think about our prospects with renewed hope.

P.S. After reading Vahe’s book, I started reading Umberto Eco’s ON LITERATURE (New York, 2004), in which I came across the following paragraph: “If one maintained that all myths, all revelations in every religion, were nothing but lies, then, since belief in gods, of whatever kind, has shaped human history, we could only conclude that we have been living for millennia under the rule of falsehood.”

If to “belief in gods” one were to add all kinds of ideologies, from nationalism and communism to many other isms (with the possible exception of alcoholism), one could divide writers into two broad categories: those who justify and perpetuate falsehoods and those who expose and ridicule them. Vahe belongs to the second category, for which reason he deserves our admiration and Gratitude.

Ara Baliozian

Friday, July 08, 2005, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

***

 

 

ESTABLISHMENT: STORIES, ARTICLES, POEMS, TRANSLATIONS. By Vahe Avetian (290 pages, Yerevan, 2005).

In her review of Vahe’s first book, INDEPENDENCE ARMY (Yerevan, 2005) Ashkhen Keshishian said it was “the best thing that could happen to our otherwise gray and moribund literary scene.

Another reviewer went further and called it a “volcanic eruption.” In his second book, ESTABLISHMENT, Vahe continues his struggle against ignorance and intolerance, the twin sources of most of our problems.

When told by hostile readers – make it, psychoanalyzed by phony Freudians – that his criticism is a result of a suppressed childhood trauma and a way of settling personal scores with unidentified adversaries, he explains he is only introducing critical criteria established in the West. At best, he goes on, “I only translate and paraphrase for readers who may not be familiar with foreign languages.”

Elsewhere he writes: “The consensus about me seems to be that I am a megalomaniac and a self-centered egoist because I speak incessantly about myself. It follows, as night follows day, that those who speak in the name of the nation and mankind are humble altruists.” I find this type of scorching sarcasm irresistible. If others find it unsettling, so much the better.

A word of warning: Vahe’s style is colloquial, direct and deliberately crude. If you are easily ruffled by unbuttoned exuberance or provoked by unleashed fury this book is not for you. But if you like to be exposed to the testimony of an honest witness, if you prefer your vodka straight, and if you are not afraid to shake the hand of an hombre whose grip is bone-crushing, Vahe is your man!

Ara Baliozian

Monday, January 23, 2006, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

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I finally read your book Vahe,

all of it. It’s hard for me to talk about it, let alone write about it. But I think I discovered a light. A light which is burning so passionately, even though so far away, and burning for such a good cause. That light is you and how you feel about the little place we both call home. The moment I finished the book, I realized that I will miss the book and you. That’s right. I felt that I was talking to you throughout the book: agreeing and disagreeing, getting angry at you, rejoicing while discovering all new angles that you opened for me, and blaming you for opening your heart so widely and leaving it out there…

Thanks for being there and for burning so brightly. You just gave me more courage to do what I knew was the right thing to do and the right way to feel. For me, you filled the gap between Njdeh’s writings, sacrifices of Monte, Peto, many others, and the hands of my “mshetsi” grand mom.

One more thing. I realized that I have been needing a light like this for many years… pretty much since I left home. Even if our relationship does not envolve into friendship and hopefully help us both to do what we do, I intend to be in touch by reading all that you write.

David Grigorian, 2004, Washington D.C.