And the Book Was Not Consumed: The Forty Days of Musa Dagh and the Nazi Holocaust

Lecture | October 27 | 6-8 p.m. | 126 Barrows Hall

 James Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Harvard University

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), Armenian Studies Program

What did Hitler (may his name and memory be blotted out!) mean when he said, on the eve of invading Poland and starting World War II, “Who remembers the Armenians?” Just five years earlier a Czech Jew named Franz Werfel had published in German the novel Forty Days of Musa Dagh, about the successful armed resistance to whole Turkish armies, and subsequent rescue and escape to safety, of the Armenian villagers on the “Mountain of Moses” near the north Syrian coast. The book was a bestseller, translated into 35 languages, so the Armenians were indeed remembered. And in the Holocaust, Werfel’s book was to be an inspiration to Jewish ghetto fighters and partisans in Eastern Europe. So, what did the fascist dictator mean? The lecture will explore this and other even more troubling questions about the dark side of human nature and history.

James R. Russell has served as Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard since 1993 and in semi-retirement has moved to Fresno, California. He is also Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. His books include Zoroastrianism in Armenia, An Armenian Epic: The Heroes of Kasha, and Bosphorus Nights: The Complete Lyric Works of Bedros Turin. His next book, a translation and study of the complete poetic works of Misak Medzarents, will appear in the Fresno Armenian Series next year. Recent articles include “Mithra” and “A Note on Balaam’s Chimaera”, in the journal Iran and the Caucasus, and “Deuteronomy and the Medes”. At present he is working on a translation and study of Nerashkharh (“The Inner World”), a proto-Joycean novel by the Armenian writer Diran Chrakian (Indra).