Dreams and Nightmares: Reading Akram Aylisli’s Stone Dreams on the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide
This article analyzes Stone Dreams, a novel by famous Azeri writer Akram Aylisli. Published in the Russian literary journal Druzhba narodov (Fraternity of peoples) in December 2012, it condemned anti-Armenian pogroms that took place in the cities of Baku and Sumgait at the end of the 1980s. The book also addressed the massacre committed by Turkish troops during the genocide of the Armenian people (1915–1923), including the mass execution of the Armenian population in Aylisli’s native town of Aylis/Agulis. On Christmas day of 1919, under orders by Turkish commander Adif Bey, almost all of the village’s Armenians were killed, with the exception of a few young girls, whom Aylisli knew when he was a young man. By the late 1980s they were gray-haired women, and the narrative of Aylisli’s novel was based on the stories told by these older people in the village. The publication of Aylisli’s novel caused mass outrage in Azerbaijan because of its alleged one-sidedness. The outrage took the form of mass demonstrations in front of Aylisli’s house, as well as the public burning of his books and accusations of treason.
Review Essay: Self, Family, and Society: Individual and Communal Reflections on the Armenian Genocide
Review Essay of:
Karnig Panian, Goodbye Antoura: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015. 216 pp.Douglas Kalajian, Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me:
Living with the Armenian Legacy of Loss and Silence. Boynton
Beach, FL: 8220 Press, 2014. 259 pp.Robert Aram Kaloosdian, Tadem, My Father’s Village:
Extinguished during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Portsmouth,
NH: Peter E. Randall Publisher, 2015. 352 pp.
Abandoning Language: The Project of Arab-Jewish Subjectivity in Sami Michael’s Arabic Fiction of the 1950s
Sami Michael is a well-known, Iraqi-born Israeli writer whose best-selling works have been widely discussed in both public and academic discourse. However, long before writing in Hebrew, Michael published several short stories and articles in his native Arabic during the 1950s. This article examines a selection of Michael’s Arabic stories and frames them as the genesis of his representations of Arab-Jewish subjectivity, while also emphasizing the importance of the fact that a well-known Israeli writer began his literary career in Arabic. I argue that to sketch out a fuller picture of Michael’s literary voice, we must take into account the ways in which his early Arabic writings were precursors of his later Hebrew novels and how the process of abandoning his native language was formative even before his switch to Hebrew. The short stories discussed here all confront the ambivalences and, importantly, the possibilities that characterize Michael’s imagined Arab-Jewish subjectivity, suggesting it to be a literary sensibility fraught with a paradoxical sense of simultaneous potential and dissolution.
We can’t understand ourselves without the Arabic: Dreams in Cambridge (2009)
In this paper I discuss the question of Jewish-Arab identity, its intergenerational differences, its different definitions in Hebrew and Arabic, and the differences in its usage in modern times and earlier periods. In Jewish-Arab identity, as in every identity, there is a mixture of self-identification and outer-identification. Whatever one’s reason for identifying as an Arab-Jew—whether related to the historical and cultural background or because one’s family identified this way prior to Zionism and immigration or in defiance of today’s national identities in Israel and the Arab world—it does not “have” to create as strong an objection as it does. However, the objection is understood when it is an outer-identification that flattens differences between historical periods, regions, or differences between the Jews of the Muslim world. In the late nineteenth century, Jewish-Arab identity was an identification with the Nahḍa movement, with the awakening of Arabic literature and language, and it sought to reweave Jewish-Arab identity, written culture, and memory into the Arab revival, or at least into the Arab literary imagination. Later, in the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish-Arab identity was an identification with local Arab nationalism in the different Arab lands, seen as a potential for a large-scale project, started by the intellectual elite, that would make Jews an integral and equal part of their societies. In the second half of the twentieth century, after 1948 and after immigration, mostly to Israel, Jewish-Arab identity was an identity that expressed criticism of both national projects, Jewish and Arab, their marginalization and nonacceptance of the Arab-Jews, and their exclusive and oppressive nature.
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