Godine is hoping to capture review attention for its new edition, which editor Susan Barba, the granddaughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide, regards as “my book.” The press delayed publication for two years in order to get it right, making it both the longest novel, and the book with the longest gestation period, published by Godine. “We had originally intended simply to reprint Geoffrey Dunlop’s translation,” explained Barba. “But in conversations with James Reidel, we began to understand how incomplete the Dunlop translation truly was. Restoring, expanding, and resetting the text was a formidable authorial, editorial, and design challenge.” To keep The Forty Days from becoming unwieldy, Barba went with thin paper stock. To preserve the novel’s elegiac quality, she chose a historic photograph of old women collecting water from a fountain in Musa Dagh for the cover.
While many regard The Forty Days as Werfel’s masterpiece—the original New York Times placed it in a category with other 20th-century literary masterpieces like The Magic Mountain, Ulysses, and Remembrance of Things Past—Reidel argues that Pale Blue Ink should not be overlooked. “Both [Werfel] books,” he said, “deal with anti-Semitism, and they’re warning books. We live in a time where we need to be alert again, especially Jewish people, about where anti-Semitism can lead. They’re both from the 1930s and they’re both remarkably fresh.”