Archive for October 19th, 2005

A Smyrna Journal

A friend of mine in Toronto has brought to my attention the case of Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher in Turkey who is facing three different trials for publishing books which insult the memory Kemal Ataturk, or criticise Turkey’s record against the Kurds and Armenians. This is nothing new for Zarakolu; he’s been getting into trouble for this sort of thing since 1970. And of course, this sort of thing has been in the news a lot lately, especially with regards to Orhan Pamuk, and Turkey’s efforts to enter the European Union. But what interested me is this:

Dora Sakayan has published — or edited, rather — the journal of her grandfather, Garabed Hatcherian, a doctor from Smyrna who managed to escape during the catastrophe of 1922. He spent some time in Mytilene and then settled in Salonica, but began his account of what happened in August and September of 1922 almost immediately afterwards. All this is well enough documented, but this book seems to be a welcome addition:

The names of places and people in the journal are so accurately documented, and the chronological descriptions of the unfolding political and military events so vividly detailed, that one is tempted to believe that each entry of the journal was made either concurrently with, or immediately following each event. Considering the difficult circumstances, however, this hypothesis is almost certainly excluded. A brief Postscript section supports the idea that the main part (Aug. 28 – Sept. 24) was written within days of the events, evidently upon arrival in Mitilini. There, as a survivor, Dr. Hatcherian probably felt the compelling urge to testify; moreover, he must have felt the need to analyze the events intellectually. As for the Epilogue and the final copy of the journal, it was completed in Salonika. This is confirmed by the date and place inscribed below Dr. Hatcherian’s signature under the manuscript: June 1, 1923, Salonika (p.52). The meticulous care the author provided for the manuscript is strong proof that he was aware of how crucial it was to preserve the story for posterity, and to record the details as soon as possible.

Has anyone heard of this book yet? I haven’t seen it anywhere here, although it has been translated into Greek. (It was published in Montreal though.)

PS (06 December 05)
I’ve been contacted by Lilith Ohannessian, the distributor of the book in English, Greek, Armenian and Spanish. Those wishing to order the book can contact her at lilithohan@hotmail.com

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