Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh - B&N Review

A big thank you goes to Steven G. Kellman at the Barnes & Noble Review for the great piece on The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel, one of our new releases.

Excerpt from review:

In August 1939, to warm his commanders' cold feet before invading Poland, Adolf Hitler is alleged to have asked: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Silence gainsays guilt. Today, in 2012, it is illegal in Turkey to speak about those deaths -- more than a million during and after World War I -- as genocide. In France, however, denying that Armenians were singled out for slaughter is a crime. The word genocide was coined, by Raphael Lemkin, only in 1944, but it is now applied not only to the liquidation of Lemkin's fellow European Jews but also to campaigns of extermination in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, and elsewhere. Except in Turkey, it is widely applied, retroactively, to the Armenian bloodbath almost a century ago.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was first published in 1933, barely a decade after the Armenian genocide. Franz Werfel (1890–1945) was a German-speaking Jew born in Prague, and he and the readers of his meticulously researched novel realized that the eradication of Armenians in Turkish lands bore an ominous resemblance to what was beginning to happen to the Jews of Europe. Werfel's book was banned in Germany, but it was a huge success elsewhere in the world and did more than the efforts of any diplomat, journalist, or historian to encourage speech about the unspeakable. Histories, memoirs, and fictions have since been published about the Armenian genocide, and, though Edgar Hilsenrath's The Story of the Last Thought (1989) might be the most respected novelistic rendition, none has diminished the power of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. The Uncle Tom's Cabin of the Armenian genocide, it arrives today -- when Syria and Congo are killing fields -- as a timely reminder that savagery thrives in silence.

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