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The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

John Stuart Mill

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Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

🦋 Graveyard

The high walls that enclose the cold mosque courtyard are made from massive stones that are blackened with age but undiminished; the icy funeral stone chills a person just to look at it... It is as if this courtyard -- these colossal stones, these giant walls -- existed for no other purpose than to make a person feel helpless and bereft.
-- Fethiye Çetin, My Grandmother
I had been wondering, since I first read about this book, what the form of the memoir would be. It appears it will be shifting back and forth between Çetin's adult life and her childhood, and her grandmother's childhood -- this works very well, at least the amount of it I've read thus far.

posted evening of June 10th, 2008: Respond
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🦋 Genocide

Today I (whose reading material is almost entirely novels) bought two works of non-fiction to occupy myself with in the coming weeks. The first, which I'm reading this evening, is Fethiye Çetin's My Grandmother: A Memoir; when I finish this I will embark on Rick Perlstein's considerably more voluminous Nixonland.

I was attracted to Çetin's memoir (besides by the Maureen Freely association) because I want to learn more about the genocide in Armenia. I have always had a vague notion of it as a historical event but no real sense of how it had happened or what its repercussions had been. It seems to me (though this could just be because I have been paying more attention to Turkey since I got interested in Pamuk) like it is getting more discussion in recent years than it did, say, ten years ago -- Freely's introduction* seems to bear that out.

Freely gives a very concise history of the events in Armenia (which to my surprise, does not refer in this context to the small former SSR by that name, but to a large portion of the modern country of Turkey.) She also speaks briefly about how Çetin came to write this memoir, and about contemporary clashes between Turkish nationalists and people who have attempted to air the story of these events. She does not mention whether Çetin herself has been a target; I hope she has not.

The only historical events I have much of a handle on that seem analogous to the genocide in Armenia, are the genocides committed against the native peoples of America. I wonder if that is a productive avenue of thinking -- maybe I will float it by the Edge of the West folks.

*Something I am curious about -- Freely mentions the author several times in the introduction, and always by her full name, never an honorific plus last name, or last name alone. This sounds kind of awkward to my ears and I'm wondering if it's something to do with Turkish custom. Anybody know?

posted evening of June 10th, 2008: Respond
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Monday, June second, 2008

🦋 Turkish lit

I just found out about this: a new translation by Maureen Freely is out, not of Pamuk but of another Turkish author named Fethiye Çetin -- the book is a memoir of her grandmother, an Armenian Christian kidnapped by a Turkish officer. This sounds interesting on any number of points, and Mr. Pope's review makes it sound like captivating reading.

See also this longer review and interview with Çetin, by Fréderike Geerdink.

posted evening of June second, 2008: Respond
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