WATERTOWN — In June 1909, Istanbul author Zabel Yessayan journeyed to the scene of the massacres of Armenians in the providence of Adana in March and April as a member of the commission appointed by the Armenian Patriarch to survey conditions and provide relief to the victims.
After spending three months in Adana province, Yessayan returned to Istanbul and wrote a series of articles summarizing her findings. These articles, which include extensive interviews with survivors chronicling the violence, death, and destruction that marked the massacres, were collected in her book, In the Ruins, published in 1911.
The Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA) has now released the first complete English-language translation of this important work, which is considered a masterpiece of literary testimony as well as an original source of crucial details about the Adana Massacres, which are often considered a prelude to the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Included in the publication are photographs as well as an appendix with selected articles and letters by Yessayan that provide additional insight into the events of the period.
In the Ruins, which has been translated by G. M. Goshgarian, will be officially launched on Sunday, March 6, at 2 p.m. at the Watertown Public Library at an event celebrating International Women’s Day as well as Women’s History Month. Participating in the program, which is open to the public, will be the book’s project director, Judy Saryan, her co-editors Danila Jebejian Terpanjian and Joy Renjilian-Burgy, and AIWA Archives Director Barbara Merguerian.
The publication of In the Ruins follows the success of two earlier translations of books by Yessayan issued by AIWA Press: The Gardens of Silihdar, a memoir of the author’s early years in her native Istanbul, and My Soul in Exile and Other Writings, a collection that highlights a novel and other selected works. These three volumes contain some of the author’s best and most influential works and provide a picture of the scope, breath, and historical significance of her work.
Yessayan (1878-1943) is remembered today as a brilliant writer of novels, short stories, and essays, a champion of women’s rights and an active participant in the defining events in the Western Armenian community of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rarely has the life of an individual writer so encapsulated that of her nation.