Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
May 10, 2007

Entertainment Wire

By Eddie Arnavoudian


At a gathering in London's Armenian House on Wednesday 9 May 2007 Bob
Biderman Managing Editor of Black Apollo Press launched the
publication of an English language edition of Gougen Mahari's
(1903-1969) controversial 1966 masterpiece 'The Burning Orchards'.
To describe the event as a publishing phenomenon is no
exaggeration. For the first time it makes available to millions of
readers an epic novel from of one of the most outstanding 20th century
Armenian writers. Offered in English through the artistic
collaboration of Haig and Dick Tahta in London and Hasmik Ghazarian in
Armenia, 'Burning Orchards' is Mahari's bold, original and moving
evaluation of the circumstances preceeding and following the 1915
Turkish army siege of the Armenian districts of Van.
Something of the excitement of the translating adventure was
communicated in an account by one of the translators Haig Tahta who
also read passages that displayed Mahari's renowned humour and his
radical evaluations.  For his out of the box evaluations Mahari paid a
heavy price. When it was first published the novel fired furious
controversy with it depictions of Van's Armenian revolutionary
movement and its armed resistance to genocide offending both patriots
and nationalists. 'Burning Orchards' was burnt in public and its
author subjected to death threats. Long after his death hostile
opponents continue to wreak revenge on one of Armenia's most talented
poets and novelists.
Yet the novel has stood the test of times and Bob Biderman's
introduction that reflected something of its universal qualities
suggested why. He noted how Mahari has 'managed to write about one of
the most dire episodes of inhumanity while remaining, himself, humane.
Like another great European writer, Primo Levi, Mahari is able to
inject a touch of lightness in even the darkest of moments....'
Burning Orchards he concluded 'begins in innocence and ends in blood.
As such it is the story of the 20th Century, allowing us a certain
understanding through voices long vanished but still demanding to be
The publishers can be contacted at

Read Eddie's Critical Review of Mahari's 'The Burning Orchards'

Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from
Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on
Armenian literature.  His works on literary and political issues
have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open
Letter in Los Angeles.
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