‘Frag­ments of a Lost Home­land: Re­mem­ber­ing Ar­me­nia,’ By Ar­men T. Mar­soobian

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - GÖRKEM DAŞKAN Ar­men T. Mar­soobian, Frag­ments of a Lost Home­land: Re­mem­ber­ing Ar­me­nia (Lon­don and New York: I.B. Tau­ris, 2015), 348 pp. ISBN: 9781784532116

In their sem­i­nal book, David Kyvig and My­ron Marty quote the his­to­rian H.P.R. Fin­berg: “We may pic­ture the fam­ily, the lo­cal com­mu­nity, the na­tional state and the supra­na­tional state as a se­ries of con­cen­tric cir­cles. Each re­quires to be stud­ied with con­stant ref­er­ence to the one out­side it; but the in­ner rings are not the less per­fect cir­cles for be­ing wholly sur­rounded and en­closed by the outer.” Mak­ing a cor­re­la­tion be­tween th­ese con­cen­tric cir­cles and lo­cal his­tory, the au­thors em­pha­size the im­por­tance of the of­ten-ne­glected in­di­vid­ual and com­mu­nity ex­pe­ri­ences of or­di­nary peo­ple in the in­ner cir­cles, no mat­ter how pop­u­lous their com­mu­ni­ties and how well known the events that they ex­pe­ri­ence are. As a mat­ter of course, the so­cial his­tory of si­lenced masses, as op­posed to that of elites, is told from the bot­tom by var­i­ous means in­clud­ing writ­ten and oral rec­ol­lec­tions, ge­neal­ogy, pho­to­graphs, ob­jects and so on. It is a well-known fact that many per­sonal ac­counts as re­gards the events of 1915 have been dis­sem­i­nated in a sim­i­lar way by sur­vivors and sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions.

Sim­i­larly, Ar­men T. Mar­soobian re­counts the story of his an­ces­tors from the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tury on­ward through the me­moirs of three of his an­ces­tors. In ad­di­tion to th­ese in­ter­wo­ven nar­ra­tives, he makes use of sketches, draw­ings, maps and pho­to­graphs (the lat­ter go­ing back to as early as 1888) from the fam­ily ar­chives. While the draw­ings of kitchen uten­sils and the an­ces­tral home in Si­vas (by the author’s great-un­cle Aram) con­trib­ute to our imag­i­na­tion of Ar­me­nian daily life at that time, the old and rare pho­to­graphs of places, peo­ple and sit­u­a­tions (e.g. camel car­a­vans, col­lege work­shops, wed­dings, etc.) con­cretize a past that is long over and vis­ually un­der-doc­u­mented. Thanks to th­ese pho­tos, the reader can ob­serve both the ex­tent of the back­ward­ness and the si­mul­ta­ne­ous wave of progress that swept east­ern Ana­to­lian prov­inces. The pho­tos are also ev­i­dence of the sad and happy mo­ments in the fam­ily’s his­tory, and ex­em­plify -- in the former case -- the fear and per­se­ver­ance that the sur­vivors of 1915 har­bored in the post-World War I years.

The story of the Dildil­ian fam­ily be­gins in Si­vas. Af­ter gen­er­a­tions of black­smiths and gro­cers, Krikor Dildil­ian, the author’s great­grand­fa­ther, opens a shoe store and a fac­tory with his brother Haroutioun. Krikor’s sons Tso­lag and Aram, how­ever, grow up to be­come pho­tog­ra­phers, a promis­ing new pro­fes­sion in­tro­duced to the em­pire by the likes of Ab­dul­lah Frères, fol­low­ing their ed­u­ca­tion at the Ana­to­lia Col­lege in Marso­van (Merz­i­fon). The col­lege be­ing their pri­mary cus­tomer, the two broth­ers travel to neigh­bor­ing towns and open branches in Konya and Sam­sun (the lat­ter be­ing run by their beloved cousin Sumpad) in an era when pho­tog­ra­phy was be­com­ing more and more pop­u­lar for so­cial and le­gal pur­poses. The pho­tos in­cluded in the book are pri­mar­ily those taken by the two broth­ers, while some are those taken by the author dur­ing vis­its to Ana­to­lia circa 2011, depict­ing the cur­rent state of cer­tain spots that bear rel­e­vance to his story.

Read­ing the early chap­ters of the book, it is hard to not no­tice and to pon­der the ways in which so­cial


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