By Rita Mahdessian
The publication of Silent Angel is Providential. It was meant to be released in April, the Genocide month. COVID-19 delayed its release.
But this delay was Providential. Silent Angel speaks more meaningfully in today’s world than it would have a month ago, when we might not have listened to it, thinking that we already know the story. We all have our dead, our grandparents, our cousins. The weight of their stories is burden enough for each of us. Why listen to someone else’s story?
But this delay was Providential. We are all stuck at home. We have not gotten together on April 24 to ask for justice. We have not had our yearly catharsis, that moment when we stand together and for an instant believe that it might just be our time again.
It is in the walls of our homes, in today’s silence that we can perhaps hear Antonia Arslan’s loving voice when she tells us not her story (she did that in the Skylark Farm, in the Road to Smyrna, in Il Rumore delle Perle di Legno and the other books of her world-famous saga) but our story, the story of all of us. It is a brief story. You can read it in an afternoon. Like the bards of old, she gently brings us back to the lost ancient homeland. She sings of the colors and smells of Mush. She paints the joyous women of Mush swimming in the foggy Aratsani river. She brings us to the majestic plane tree and the little spring, “the flowering garden with its lettuce, purple eggplant, and zucchini that have grown disproportionately …..and the rows of gerania neatly arranged at the windows as well as the colorful zinnias – the pride of … rustic gardening.”
In the walls of our home, Antonia Arslan tells us the story that we all know, the story of two Armenian women who found the Homiliary of Mush, cut it in half and carried it on their backs to save it from the Turks. One of the halves reached Echmiadzin through torturous paths brought by one of the two women. The other half was wrapped in cloth and buried in a churchyard in Garin – or what the Turks now call Erzerum. It was eventually found by a Polish officer in the Russian army and delivered to the Matenadaran where both halves of the manuscript are currently housed.