Passage to Ararat

by Michael J. Arlen, Clark Blaise (Introduction)
National Book Award Winner, 1976

Grade Level: Ninth Grade to Adult
Passage to Ararat echoes current headlines as Arlen examines the 1915 “ethnic cleansing” [genocide] of the Armenian race by the Turks.  In Armenia, Arlen comes to understand his father’s detachment from his past when he sees what it means when a people are “hated to death”. A deeply felt, personal memoir with a new introduction by Clark Blaise.

From Kirkus Review:

Michael Arlen wrote about his parents in the elegant Exiles which glided over Parquet floors around the world of his privileged childhood. Now in a further reconnaissance, both individual and collective, he audits the Armenian heritage which his father (you remember–that other Michael Arlen of The Green Hat) repudiated along with his original name which was the “”ridiculous and unpronounceable”” Dikran Kouyoumjian. His son was left with an uneasy ambivalence about both paternities, knowing nothing when he begins here with the Ararat of the Genesis ark story. First he made books and lists of famous American Armenians (Arlene Francis and the mayor of Waukegan) before studying, much more seriously, many works of history and returning–as Saroyan told him to–to Ararat which is now Soviet Armenia, a country, perhaps only a province, perhaps more of a “”presence””–dusty cities and ruins, poppies and an olive hill. Always, after the initial identification of the Armenian as the great horseman he was and the wily rug merchant he became in stereotype, Arlen is brought back by spoken or written words to the years of the Turkish atrocities–“”such a chauvinism of misfortune””–enduring through WW I when more than one million “”disappeared.”” Like the Jews, the Armenians were the victims of genocide and “”having been hated unto death,”” are persistently fixated on their past. But here at least the bridge is partially effected between the two worlds and this graceful, inductive passage to an old landscape in limbo reconciles and enlightens simultaneously.