Rebel Land: Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue. Penguin Press. 270 pp. $25.95.
By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
First off, many Armenians are going to hate this book. Christopher de Bellaigue, an experienced journalist and a gifted writer, has written an account of his stay in a small Turkish village in eastern Turkey that demonstrates a certain appalling naiveté and ignorance regarding Armenian history.
The key passage in the book, for Armenians asks why Armenians do not find another word to describe the Genocide. He writes, “What is needed is a vaguer designation of the events of 1915, avoiding the G-word but clearly connoting criminal acts of slaughter to which reasonable scholars can subscribe and which a child might be taught….”
Apparently, de Bellaigue remains ignorant of the fact that Rafael Lemkin, a lawyer and Polish Jew, coined the word “genocide” in 1944 specifically to name and define what happened to the Armenians between 1915 and 1923.
One of the most curious aspects of the book’s recent publication has been its critical reception, which includes two major reviews in the New York Times, (the daily and Sunday editions), as well as a review in The American Scholar. All quote the passage mentioned above. The Times rarely reviews books twice, and only when they are considered of major significance. The book was also listed in the Editors’ Choices column of the Book Review, March 14. The book was first published in Britain last year, where it also received major attention.