Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Armenian Titans of Istanbul and their new Olympian Gods

by Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian

For the Religious, History (like everything else) presents no problems. It (and everything else) manifests God’s will. For the intellectual Atheist (scientist and philosopher alike), everything, let alone history, including the very concept of god itself and its creation by Man, presents a problem that needs definition, analysis, intellectual construction, restoration, continual restructuring and re-re-definition, endlessly. Religious folk are happy people, getting their answers from their leaders – the Catholic Church, the Jehovah Witnesses, like Judaism and Islam (and the Protestants – not at all) present their followers with a complete way of life, while self-respecting intellectuals and non-superstitious scientists suffer the unspeakable anxieties of the sceptical mind.

Man was verbal (for a very long time) before becoming literal. Alphabets are virtually ‘modern’ creations in mankind’s history, and post-date the visual man, who learnt to draw before he could write. But Man could certainly think all the time, from the very first moment of his human existence. Cognition seems to be the most fundamental innate skill the human child is born with (1).

Myth making was pre-historical man’s first intellectual activity (to include all later cognitive processes of poetry and philosophy, ritual and religion, history, psychology etc.) Ancient myths thus record (and serve as a source of data) as much for religion and poetry, as for pre-historical events as yet un-deciphered or little understood. The poets Homer, Hesiod, and classical Greek Dramatists provide us with our primary sources of Western myths. (2)

One of the most ancient, and the first with Armenian connections, is the myth of Prometheus, the Titan. The Titans were the ancient Greeks’ conception of the gigantic children born of the union of the masculine Uranus (=Sky) and the feminine Gaia (=Earth). Chronos (=Time) was one of them (3), the father of Zeus who (like Satan in the Christian dogma) rebelled and declared a global war against the Titans. Like father, like son, Zeus battled ruthlessly with no holds barred for a decade, and finally won the war in the heavens (in the biblical book of Revelations, Satan’s war against the heavenly host has not began yet), deciding upon Mount Olympus (in Greece) as his new abode, where he lived with his divine siblings, together referred to as ‘The New Olympians’.

Zeus was particularly vicious to his uncle Prometheus for stealing the Fire from the gods and giving it to mankind (4). Zeus enchained him in perpetuity in the mountains of Caucasian Armenia, where to torture him like a Nazi, an eagle (or, a vulture in some versions of the myth) visits Prometheus daily to feed on his liver, which grows back by night, as a sign of Prometheus’ defiance of the ‘fascist’ state of affairs created by Zeus’ anti-humanity.

The Armenian community of Istanbul is a Promethean miracle of the twentieth century. They were marked for genocidal destruction by Sultan Hamit and the Young Turk regime that toppled him (while adopting his policies towards the Armenian natives of Byzantium). Today, they count ten fold the number of the London Armenians of ten thousand. The latter has an improvised Sunday school renting an English primary in Acton Town, and a single puny church (built by Istanbuli Calouste Gulbenkian as a private altar in London, then left to the community by him). The Armenians in Istanbul possess eighteen totally Armenian community owned schools, and thirty three churches, built in Ottoman times, and surviving the massacres of 1915.

One of the nine most beautiful islands (Adalar) off the coast of Istanbul (in the south-eastern part of the sea of Marmora) is Knale(h), practically wholly owned by wealthy Armenian families who go there for the summer, where no cars are allowed, and public transport is in the form of horse drawn carriages.

I wonder how the Young Turks had intended to wipe out Knale(h) off the map. No mention of it occurs in any known Young Turkish government document of the planned genocide. Were they hoping that by murdering their owners, they would automatically confiscate the place, as they did with the rest of ‘turkish’ Armenia? They may have succeeded with the rest, but obviously they have failed with the Knale(h), and in Istanbul, grown back in the night of the massacres, like the Promethean life-giving liver!

In a sense, I feel sorry for Ataturk, the Father Stalin of the modern Turks, who even though loved dying in Istanbul in the Dolmabhce Palace built by the very Armenian Balian brothers (5), forced himself to be buried in dingy Ankara, his chosen capital, one of the ugliest spots on earth, chosen I am certain under duress from the international public opinion of the time, horrified by the attempted genocide of the Armenians.

Any government of Turkey that can win the forgiveness of the Armenians may wish to transfer its capital back to Istanbul, one of the most beautifully sited cities in the world. And the forgiveness of the Armenians must not suffice for such a deed – a civilised Turkish government could prove its credentials (to for example the European Union) only by committing itself to the full restoration of Haghia Sophia to its former Byzantine glory, its paradigm being the perfectly preserved Saint Marks Cathedral in Venice, which was built in imitation of the Haghia Sophia in the first place…

Today, the Aya Sofya Muzesi (advertised as a museum, but really a converted mosque) is an insult to History, and man’s inhumanity to man’s creative genius – a reminder of ugliness, brutality and the conquering tribe’s lack of civilised tastes. The erasure of the golden murals, the fixture of ridiculous massive medallions on the pilasters, the construction of ugly structures inside the church to pretend it is a mosque is merely an insult to Islam itself. I am sure if the Prophet himself were alive today in Istanbul, and God’s Mercy be upon his soul, he would not have approved of the pitiable state of Aya Sofia. We know that the holy Prophet was civilised enough to insist upon perfuming oneself before attending a mosque to honour God with prayers! He may not have approved of Christian idolatry for doctrinal reasons, but he could never approve of defacing Christian places of worship. On the contrary, Muhammed preached tolerance of other religions.

The named Titans of classical Greek mythology were five in number (6). By a strange coincidence, so is the number of the titans of the Armenian belles lettres in Istanbul – they are Zahrad, Shigaher, Vartanyan, Haddejian, and Khrakhouni, more or less of the same age (early seventy), forming a literary cohort in modern (Western) Armenian literature, as the direct inheritors of the pre-genocide giants of Armenian prose and poetry; Bedross Tourian, Daniel Varoujan, Medsarents, Siamanto, Zohrab, Roupen Sevak, and that unique pre-Freud ‘Freudian’ phenomenon in Armenian literature – Indra (Nerashkharh = Innerworld/1906), who still lacks any disciples (7).

{I am focusing here of course on the literary titans – but one name I must mention before any further ado, Ara Guler, Turkey’s greatest photographer, often compared with the other Istanbuli Armenian Youssef Karsch (a Canadian citizen), the world-renowned portraitist, but more than the latter, Guler’s titanic work documents Istanbul’s socio-economic history and the city’s physical evolution (not only the portraits of its leading intellectuals) in countless photographs, a minute fragment of which is collected in massive volumes published in Turkish. Who will inherit his priceless museum-worth collection of negatives? The British Museum would do well to bid for it}.

It is a great historical mystery (and a miracle!) as to how the above-mentioned literary cohort was born in the aftermath of the genocidal context, and not only blossomed, but also achieved continuity in literary greatness and perfection with their predecessors.

Most interestingly and excitingly, two complex currents run concurrently through their works – Haddejian, Shigaher and Khrakhouni on one hand are the keepers of the classical tradition of form and content, with occasional forays into a mild form of modernism (Haddejian’s newspaper-Diaries collected into an impressive forty volumes! And Khrakhouni’s differently shaped unpunctuated poems).

On the other hand, Zahrad in poetry and Vartanyan in playwriting invented the Armenian literary modernism, the first re-inventing French (Jacques Prevert) and Russian futurist (Mayakovsky) forms in literary Western Armenian, the second re-experiencing the whole of the Theatre de l’Absurde through the wealth of its English prism stretching back to Oscar Wilde down to Harold Pinter.

Zahrad occasionally invaded the Khrakhouni territory, but I am glad he retreated to his own with Dsaire Dsairin (= End Upon End, Or, Edge to Edge, 2001) where he is an absolute grand master. He seems to be endowed with a phenomenal memory – most people half his age in Britain suffer from memory loss, and the quirky turn of phrase distinctive of his poetry seems to be very much part of his own usual idiom full of ‘twisted’ multiple meanings.

When I recently visited Robert Haddejian in his editorial office at Marmara (a daily newspaper Haddejian has been writing-editing-publishing as a one-man-show for as long as anyone can remember!), I had the good fortune of meeting also Zahrad entirely by chance, who popped in to give Haddejian a copy of his recent book, a collection of his poems translated and published in Turkish.

I was so overwhelmed with joy of being able to embrace these two titans of modern Armenian letters, that I could not hide my genuine emotions, and Zahrad remarked acerbically; toun Istanbul yegar ourakhanaloo hamar, which if literally translated sounds puzzling (=you’ve come to Istanbul to feel joy), but understood instinctively trembles with all sorts of multiple meanings, echoing his awareness and appreciation of my genuine evaluation of their achievement, and not as a mere lip service to good manners. What I know Zahrad meant was that I had come to Istanbul to meet them, in true appreciation of their work, and profound understanding of their ‘greatness’ that I have tried to impart to others (in the Armenian Diaspora), and that he himself reciprocated the joy I felt meeting them personally for the first time. All that, was enwrapped in Zahrad’s simple single phrase. He knew better than me my family history, in view of the fact that my eldest sister Mary and her husband Nourhan Sarian (Istanbul born) have been his friends for decades. He even knew about my divorce, my recent marriage and brood of 3 babies!

Haddejian, besides being one of Armenian Diaspora’s greatest newspaper editors, is a writer of classical range and encyclopaedic achievement. I do not know if he has tried his hand at poetry, if he has not, then poetry is the only medium Haddejian has not attempted, although his critical analysis of poetry is second to none (as expressed in a textbook collection Bdouyd me(h) Hai Panasdeghdsoutian Bardezin Metch = A walk in the Garden of Armenian Poetry, 2000), where Haddejian, the literary critic, selects a poem and formally analyses it for the reader/’student’.

Haddejian’s two novels (Arrasdagh=the Ceiling, and Arrasdaghin miooss goghmeh = The Other Side of the Ceiling) are as great as what our great Zohrab would have written, if his head were not crushed literally with rocks by the Young Turk genociders.

Haddejian has a collection of plays (= Taderakhagher, 2002) as classically traditional as a Shirvanzateh, our Ibsen.

A tremendous contrast to Haddejian’s dramatic oeuvre are the plays of Arman Vartanyan, published individually and collected in three massive volumes. Although entirely modernist, Vartanyan’s mastery of the Armenian language is as classical as Khrakhouni’s and Haddejian’s. While technically modernising the Armenian playwriting, Vartanyan draws strength from the sophisticated humour of the classical satirist Hagop Baronian, the Jonathan Swift of Armenian literature, and as subtle and learned.

Vartanyan synthesises all the greats of the Absurdist theatre, from Ionesco to Pinter (if one considered the latter as the British variety), and forges his own which is even more original than any of his European predecessors. Especially to note (and what makes him unique in modern drama) is the fact that Vartanyan, trained as a concert pianist (in Vienna), has succeeded in adapting musical techniques to dramaturgical ends, like borrowing Mozart’s ‘trickery’ of smoothly overlapping duets with trios, or playing Beethoven quartets while giving dominance to a chosen instrument/dramatic character etc.

And Vart Shigaher, a most wonderful and a remarkable human being, a poet to his toes even when he writes glorious prose on his erudite readings (Herg oo Perk = Ploughing and harvesting, 2001). His Quatrains Tchors dogh Myayn (= Four lines in all, 1993), are in the tradition of the greatest of Hovhanness Toumanian and Yeghishe Tcharents (both inspired by Omar Khayyam), but nothing like them in content, and well a cut above Khayyam, whose Quatrains are limited to wine and women.

Shigaher’s Quatrains are polished gems of a hundred karats! The (linguistic) beauty and perfection of his Armenian, tackling the range of existential philosophy, the emotional depth of his sonorous vocabulary, flood the short poems into a sheer pleasure of musical sound, as deep as a Beethoven quartet.

A trained medical Doctor (physician, like Roupen Sevag, and Anton Checkov), son of a cleric, Shigaher does his father proud, being a profoundly spiritual intellectual at all times. Always passionate, but never sensuous even in love-poetry (Pari Asdghi Dag = Under a Star of Goodness, 1999), Shigaher never lacks spiritual content. He could have easily entrapped himself into religiosity, but No, never, his scientific training has obviously saved him from such a disastrous fundamentalism, instead, moreover it has even enriched him with gems of philosophical spiritualism, in the mould of a Platonist. Viewed thus, his compassionate love (like that of Jesus Christ) is everywhere given in abundance to everyone, and not only in his books – his patients (and every Istanbul Armenian seems to be one) vouch for it. Sweet, gentle, and extremely civilised, always humorous, he quietly charms his new acquaintance into his personal world of interesting memoirs, full of historical figures from the Armenian past, but also especially of people he has known personally in positions of community leadership (educators, archbishops, laymen, all become extremely interesting people in Shigaher’s stories…)

How I loved listening to Shigaher for hours, not even finding a moment to have my blood pressure taken, as he had promised when I visited his surgery (with Arman Vartanyan) for the first time. If no other Armenian lived in Istanbul, every Diaspora Armenian wishing for some spiritual comfort would do well to visit Istanbul just only to visit Shigaher’s sweet surgery overflowing with the milk of human kindness…

Shigaher is the real ideal Armenian – Armenians brag about when they feel patriotic and wish to share with non-Armenians (the odar) their national pride, especially when they want to deliberately forget their scum – the mafia in control of independent Armenia today, where Armenians like Shigaher are dying out daily…where even the Armenian language itself is being destroyed (8)– the Soviet Armenian government (in the thirties) took a remarkably short time to achieve 100% literacy of its much-massacred population, today, the government of ‘Americanised’ Armenia took equally short time to plunge that achievement to the levels of illiteracy in America, the “Dumbest Country on Earth” (in the words of the American Michael Moore) (9).

To further expand the metaphor from classical Greek mythology, one could note that there are also new gods being born, the ‘New Olympians’ of the Istanbul Armenian community.

The Zeus among them seems to be Hrant Dink, a sharp intellectual with well-deserved links and position among the Turkish intelligentsia, who had the absolutely right and forward looking concept to act within the Turkish intellectual context by founding and editing Agos, the first Armenian newspaper in Turkish.

Dink has built up a well-merited weight and great respect amongst the serious progressive intellectuals gathered around the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, the London Guardian and Independent combined!

Half the age of the avuncular (10) titans, Dink is assisted by the likes of Sevan Ataoglu (Hermes, the messenger god!) and Karin Karakas (a wise Athene!). The Armenian section is edited by Yervant Gobelian, a novelist, essayist, and a translator – all in one.

The paradigm of being involved with the local cultures was one set (in the fifties) by the communist Armenian intellectuals of Beirut, Lebanon (Karnig Attarian, poet, his brother Armen Tarian writer of fiction, Istanbul-born Kegham Sevan, novelist, etc.) who owed it to the international nature of their ideology – Marxist socialism (11).

Other Armenian Olympians of Istanbul, public figures that have achieved prominence in the Turkish creative context (and who I could not meet due to pressure of time), are Raffi Portakal, the owner of an Art-auction House, and the Publisher of P, a quality Art and Culture Magazine of such beautiful perfect printing that it stands on a par with international art publications like Apollo (gloriously edited by a London-based Armenian, David Ekserdjian!), Tate, Burlington etc.

I was startled to find a multi-talented Armenian actor, Nisan Sirinyan on the stage of the Turkish National Theatre, playing excellent trumpet live, as part of his hip characterisation (‘an Escort for women’, in a play by Ozen Yula, Kirmizi Yorgunlari).

The brave founder of ARAS Yayincilik (=Publishers), Mgrditch Margossian battles hard (financially but also intellectually, unable to find expert bi-lingual translators) to produce books of European standards, of Armenian authors translated into Turkish. He then suffers the disaster of inefficient distribution and the hunt for buyers. Still, he will not give up, worthy of a New Olympian, he generates the necessary strength, and hope, to keep going.

Last but not least, there is Puzant Akbash, I name him ‘The Admirable’, who is creating an international market for out of print Armenian books, old photographs, post-cards and authors’ manuscripts. He will teach wealthy Armenians to love their intellectuals so much as to want to buy and own their manuscripts with pride, and display and trade in them as objects d’art {and for those who want to own a piece of Armenian history, here is his Tel. No; 0212-245-4588, Fax; 0212-245-4584}.

During the Soviet times, there was a far-sighted cultural movement to save and transport the archival wealth of the Diaspora Armenian intellectuals to the Yeghisheh Tcharents modern manuscript museum of Yerevan. As the spiritual wealth accumulated in Yerevan is being plundered by the mafiosi, a similar museum should now be established in a safe European country (like Britain), to preserve for scholarship what Puzant Akbash is trying to save from destruction (and carving a living out of it, by sheer dedicated hard work).

A wealthy Armenian, like the American Kirk Krikorian, one of the richest men in the world, should establish a British (or an American) Library of Armenian Books and modern Manuscripts, collecting the archives of Armenian Diaspora intellectuals, and every Armenian book ever published in the global Diaspora. It is a pity that no such public library exists (the Noubarian in Paris, and the one in the Jerusalem Patriarchate are out of date, limited in range and availability).

The Young Turks abused natural forces (of thirst and starvation via deportation) to enhance their mass-murder of the Western Armenian population. The government mafia of Eastern Armenia today is doing precisely the same by starving its people, ‘forcing’ those who can find Dollars, to flee – a ‘deportation’ by another name!

The Young Turks failed, thank God. The young turks of independent Armenian government may yet succeed.

Ironically, the Armenian communities of Istanbul, and of Beirut, Aleppo and Palestine, if only they could network and co-operate, are the only hopes left for the survival of the Armenian people and its culture, into the next century (stretching back to the Hittites and beyond into pre-history).

Soviet Armenia in its time and at its peak was the single hope for the survival of the Diaspora Armenians. The American-mafiazation of Armenia reversed that – the Armenian on his own native Caucasian land is being murdered by the Armenian young turk, his brother, just like in the Cain and Abel myth (like the Israeli Jew and the Palestinian Arab, who are Biblical step- but nevertheless brothers from Abraham, killing each other. And King George Fifth of Britain, was first cousin with the Tsar of Russia and the Kaiser of Germany – grandchildren of Queen Victoria, causing the First World War with 10 million dead and countless maimed).

When shall mankind finally grasp that we are all brothers and sisters under different coloured skins, children of Adam and Eve, or God, take your pick (and we share 98% of our genetic material with the Big Baboons – a lesson for the racists!)


(1) The animals close to man on the evolutionary scale (the Primates) can also think. As to what is ‘Thinking’ is a subject of endless debate in all the disciplines of human knowledge (Philosophy, Psychology, Neurology etc.). Most philosophers used to link the thinking-process with pure Rationalism, and ignore its dimension of emotionality (Plato, Kant, the French philosophes of the Age of Enlightenment etc.). First the European Romantic Movement (18th c.), and now modern Psychologists, restored that element (of the emotions) to the human thought by enlarging the definition of Cognition. American New Age ‘thinkers’ today have gone further by assigning ‘minds’ and feelings to even Plants and rocks …

(2) One must be cautious in examining these sources. With great poets like Homer (9-8th c. BC), perhaps even Hesiod (8th c.) but definitely so with the classical Greek Dramatists (5th c.), their version of a myth may be just that, their own variation on ancient themes. This creates an insurmountable difficulty as there can be no standard version of those myths – every extant myth will be no more than a version, impossible to accept as the universal standard. Take the myth of Pandora (the first woman Zeus sent to Earth with a box full of evils, to neutralise the blessings given by Prometheus to mankind) exists in Hesiod’s works, but not in Homer, and may even be Hesiod’s own creation, if not an Eve-like myth he has recorded (the myth-making man’s medical theory of viral infection!).

What is undoubted (though not yet grasped by most scholars) is that all mythical events are historical and fact-based, even though the history of those pre-historical events can only be known unfortunately for the time being still only through those very myths themselves, until such time that Archaeology in conjunction with other sciences (like Geology) could come up with the scientific answers. For example, the Biblical Flood-story – that it reflects a historical event, there can be little doubt about it, as already the geological sciences have finally come to understand the evidence embedded in the earth, of processes that prove the existence of massive local flooding (as we are experiencing annually in Bangladesh, along the Rhine in Europe, the Yang Tse in China, and nowadays in Britain). As to what is the precise history of the great flood contained in Noah’s story, it is still impossible to decipher.

The whole history of mankind (its pre-history) is buried deep down in ancient Armenia – the whole of Turkey today. Until such time that the Armenian highlands (starting from the area surrounding the Ararat mountains where the Ark of Noah rested) is dug up and studied archeologically, we shall never know man’s pre-history, reflected in ancient mythology.

All scholars interpret the Flood story as a myth about the sinking of the world. I take the diametrically and dialectically opposite view – I suggest that in the Hebrew Book of the Genesis (of the Torah) is preserved the historical record of the birth of the Earth itself, and life on it, according to which the very first piece of earth built up by volcanic eruptions (scientifically true) is the Ararat mountains, itself a volcano continuing the process of land-building (over billions of years).

The whole of ancient Armenia thus when it emerged was the whole world (the Ark) containing all living things and creatures (Noah’s Ark is not a huge ocean-liner containing animals that would gobble up each other…) Much later, tectonic plates were formed, to further create land-masses and their fissures, shaping our present geographical map, which if squeezed fits like a perfect jigsaw puzzle into a single entity of land, with ancient Armenia at its heartland. In my theory, Ararat need not be the highest mountains in the world, but the most ancient piece of land on this planet.

(3) He cut off his father Uranus’ sexual organs (penis and testicles together) upon the instigation of his mother Gaia, and threw them in the sea. They floated to where the island of Cyprus is and turned to foam and froth, out of which Aphrodite (=born-of-aphros=foam), universally thought of as the Goddess of Love was born, and became the island of Cyprus itself (Kupris, a presumed classical Greek pronunciation of ‘Cyprus’ was one of the several names of Aphrodite. And on the island was found in antiquity one of the most famous temples of Love, where the holy priestesses were prostitutes, and Aphrodite’s icon was bearded!).

In this little tale, there are many layers of pre-historical man’s ‘philosophical’, ‘psychological’ and overall ‘scientific’ views of the natural phenomena he was trying to explain rationally – thus, the profoundly sexual evil act of the son (no less than the incestuous castration of his own father) is provoked by a vengeful woman (no less than the mother). Gaia though had a very good reason to be remorselessly furious with her husband Uranus for swallowing up their children soon after birth (a strange case this of inexplicable psycho-neurotic perversion, of perhaps child-hatred, even paedophilia).

An incomparably milder form of this ‘cannibalism’ exists as an anthropological survival in the linguistic metaphor of most Indo-European cultures – ‘eating’ the loved one, be it the beloved, their child, or bits of their anatomy.

In the Armenian, it goes the furthest, from the physical into the realm of the spiritual – ho kit oodem= may I eat your soul, which is a variation of the expression ho kit sirem= I love your soul, and usually expressed together in succession – ho kit sirem – hokit oodem. It peaks in the Christian Church in the ritual of the Holy Communion, whereby Christ’s body is eaten and his blood-wine drunk, derived absolutely from the time-old ancient custom of the Bacchic women, who sex-crazed would chase a fawn (the symbol of the wine-god Dionysus), catch it, tear it apart and eat its flesh raw while drinking its wine-blood.

Myths demonstrate complex multi-symbolism. The above-mentioned very ancient sexual practice of the Dionysiac women may be the very first record of the discovery of what came to be known as fellatio (in Latin), if one interprets ‘blood’ as the life-force (it is a universal such symbol in most ancient cultures), hence specifically the male ‘sperm’ sprouting (like blood) out of the ‘eaten’ phallus-flesh.

Eve’s capricious evil in the Old Testament myth of the Paradise parallels Gaia’s justifiable evil, but with an important distinction – Eve had absolutely no reason whatever to betray Adam’s (and God’s) monogamous trust. Adam was totally contented and happy in Paradise. But Eve was obviously bored, and relieved her boredom by sleeping with Satan (the Talmudic exegesis of the myth). Eve’s ‘eating the apple’ may be the Jewish record of the same historical fact of the Dionysiac women’s discovery of fellatio, as the ‘apple’ is an indubitable symbol of the male testicles (transformed strangely to symbolising the female breast, in the late Medieval and early Renaissance art).

The incestuous castration of Uranus by his son Chronos has a puzzling parallel in Genesis 9:20-27 – Noah gets drunk, strips himself naked and falls asleep in his tent. One of his sons, Ham “saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside”. “When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him” (but what? The text does not say!), Noah goes berserk and curses Ham’s progeny. There can be no definitive deciphering of Ham’s textually non-specified deed towards his father; hence the latter’s inexplicable fury! Any explanation is as good as any other.

It remains to note that Noah is the Hebrew Dionysus – the first thing he does on leaving the Ark (after the subsidence of the Flood) is to “plant a vineyard” and get drunk! Wine was God’s compassionate gift to Man, to unwind and find some joy after the daily horrors of toiling away for Bread; the direct result of Eve’s punishment for being evicted from Adam’s paradise.

No interpreter of Greek myths has hitherto grasped the pre-historical mythmakers’ profound insight into human sexuality. All books analysing Greek myths agree that Aphrodite (later called ‘Venus’ by the Romans) was the goddess of Love, an error that needs immediate correction. The hidden truth of the mythological fact, and the etymological meaning of the name indicating that Aphrodite was born of the froth (=ejaculation) of male (Uranus’) sexual organs should have left no doubt for the scholars that Aphrodite-Venus was specifically the goddess of male heterosexual desire for women, and not Love in general, highlighted by the further mythological given that there were other goddesses of female sexuality, childbirth and love.

The linkage of immemorial Time (=Chronos) itself, as an almost Einsteinian-Kantian category, with male heterosexual drive for women, is yet another unique and remarkable insight of the pre-historical man expressed through the myths of the Titans – as history’s driving force (a) for the continuation of the species, but also (b) for intellectual creation, whether be it in the arts or the sciences.

(4) The knowledge of making fire was acknowledged by pre-historical mythmakers to be an essential acquisition in man’s ‘historical’ progress towards culture and civilisation. 2,500 years ago, the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, in his play Prometheus Bound portrays Zeus as a ruthless tyrant for punishing Prometheus, man’s greatest fire-friend. He goes further by ascribing to Prometheus the gift of teaching mankind everything else in terms of all knowledge, of the arts and the crafts. The root of the titan’s name derives from the multiple-meaning Greek verb mathein (= to learn, to know, to grasp, to think), which is equally the root of ‘mathematics’, the greatest of all sciences for the classical Greek philosophers (especially Pythagoras).

Prometheus=forethought suggests also a prophetic mind, instinctive and mystical at once, as in Medea, cognate with the Armenian noun midk =mind, and the name of the clever princess from Colchis in the mountains of Caucasian Armenia (or Georgia), who was the heroine of Euripides’ play of the same name.

Zeus is a wholly negative character only in Aeschylus’ this specific play. In most other plays of Greek drama, he is a beneficent god, warm and compassionate, frequently the butt of Aristophanesian satire for his boundless polygamy.

(5) Uniquely in the history of Architecture, the Balian brothers have more than a hundred massive public and residential buildings to their credit dotted all over Istanbul.

The Dolmabahce Sarayi is a delicately ‘embroidered’ sheer feminine beauty, sitting gently as if tied to a mast, like a Venetian gondola, on the waters of Bosphorus bobbing up and down in front of it. Excellently preserved, there is nothing like it among the ‘macho’ palaces of Europe.

The Russian Armenian painter of seascapes, Hovhannes Aivazovsky (whose work had influenced Britain’s Turner) has even lived there, to paint for some of its reception rooms.

The grand reception hall is domed like Haghia Sophia Church, and in imitation of it, I am certain. The brothers Balian have even built mosques looking like the Armenian churches of the medieval city of Ani (minus the minarets of course).

Some of the museum guides are known to have turkified the Armenian architects by implying that they were Turks from Italy named Baliani… Aivazovsky’s surname on the other hand needed no such minor surgery, as it is so obviously Russian!

(6) Chronos, Rhea, Themis, Prometheus, and Oceanus, whose name although synonymous with ‘ocean’, originally meant a gigantic… river, which the Greek cosmologists thought encircled the earth (like a belt), and out of which flowed all the waters of the world, including the seas and the rivers!

(7) One could however argue with some force that in another field, Hakop Oshakan, the founder of our literary criticism, owes his unique linguistic stylistic originality to the pioneering idiosyncratic handling of the Armenian idiom by Indra (a pun on Indra – the Hindu Zeus, god of the Thunderbolt).

(8) The internationalisation of Armenian culture on the back of Soviet culture produced a well-deserved dominance for the Eastern literary Armenian dialect, which began to influence understandably the survivals of Armenian culture in the Western Diaspora. With mass illiteracy engulfing the post-Soviet ‘capitalist’ Armenia, I think the Diaspora intellectuals, trying to re-establish the beauty of the literary legacy of our massacred writers, must consciously linguistically reverse this process.

Unfortunately, our Istanbul Titans all suffer from common grammatical errors (due to universal American style dumbing-down) that are unforgivable (and frankly shocking) in the glorious context of their predecessors (Tourian,Varoujan, Zohrab, Siamanto etc.) who had fixed the literary form of the Western Armenian (deriving from the very Istanbul dialect itself).

For example, the very common verbal prefix ge which can only drop its vowel (-e) if the verb begins with another full-vowel, in which case –e must be substituted with an apostrophe to mark its disappearance, and elided with the verb thus; ge oodem (=I eat), must be written and pronounced as a single word, g’oodem. We have semi-vowels in Armenian that do not obey the rule and must be written ordinarily and pronounced as two separate entities thus; ge sbasem (=I wait), not g’sbasem, which is how they write and publish in Istanbul – s- is technically a consonant!

The 3rd person plural in the (very common) Future tense always ends with –e(h), never –ye(tch) thus; bidi bare(h)n (=they’ll dance), never bidi baryen which is how our beloved Armenians in Istanbul erroneously write and publish. It is the Subjunctive which is exclusively with ye(tch).

One should never borrow linguistically, if it is not for the purposes of aesthetic improvement and pleasure. For example, the third person pronoun a(h)n in Western Armenian is as beautiful as its inversion na(h)(a linguistic survival from Krapar) in Eastern Armenian (each to his own). Why bother changing it in Western Armenian?

I personally even prefer our a(h)n [invariably changed to na(h) in Shigaher, for example]. It serves no poetic purpose whatsoever.

Personally, I love (for example) Bedross Tourian’s most beautiful invention of ne(h), to distinguish it as a female gender-indicator, occasionally also in Krapar, but definitely derived from a(h)n which contains no such distinction (it is used for both genders). Surprisingly, Tourian’s aesthetically pleasing innovation never caught up in the Western Armenian parlance, or literature, and remained, alas, an idiosyncrasy of his poetry. I wish a Khrakhouni would revive Tourian’s ne(h), which would be perfectly acceptable being in the Western Armenian tradition.

I see no reason why unnecessary substitutions should be supported intellectually. For example; mook is the Eastern Armenian word for ‘dark’, which in Western Armenian is moot. I can find no reason whatsoever to substitute our word with its Eastern Armenian equivalent, especially that the latter can easily be confused with our Western Armenian word for ‘mouse’=moog!

I am not advocating linguistic Purity, but Beauty – the first is cold and frigid, the second is passionate and fertile, in a word, ‘promethean’! It is incumbent on our Istanbul Armenian Titans to preserve the beauty of our linguistic culture under genocidal threat from American half-wits, parading as professorial Armenologists, in parochial ignorance of our vibrant Armenian communities in the Middle East – Istanbul, Beirut, Aleppo, and Palestine

I know at least two other intellectual Titans by any standards of European history, the Barrister Kaspar Derderian in Beirut, and the Patriarch Poet of the Armenian Palestine, His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoukian, both of whom belong to the Western (Istanbul) Armenian literary culture, and are absolute masters of that universe.

It is time that a mechanism is found for those Armenian communities to link up in mutual support to resist, and actively battle, to preserve our cultural national identity, as the collapse of the Soviet Union caused the hamburgerisation and coca-colisation of Caucasian Armenia, today balancing it on the verge of extinction. Half of its 3 million population of the Soviet times has already fled the starving and frozen country. A militarist fascist Turkish government could easily conquer it overnight, were it not for the defence of its borders by the Russian army. But a corrupt deal with a mafia-ruled Russia could hand over ‘independent’ Armenia on a silver plate to Turkey, for a few billion…hamburgers and Coca Colas, and there will be no Armenian army to stop it.

(9) However incredible it may sound, there seems to be only and only two American intellectuals of some international standing who dare speak the truth about the horrors of their country – Professor Noam Chomsky, and comedian Michael Moore, whose book Stupid White Men (Penguin Books, 2002) just published in Britain was destined for pulping in America – Michael Moore unravels all the facts relating to President Bush’s corrupt thievery of Al Gore’s election, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that his usurpation of power was “A Very American Coup” (the title of Ch. 1) fit for a “banana republic”!

Moore also names and tells the story of “one of the top TV pundits in America, seen every week…. gleefully scorning others for their ignorance” (p. 92), of, e.g. Homer’s poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, but when confronted by Moore, accepts that he himself does not know either – “Well, they’re…. uh… you know…uh… okay, fine, you got me – I don’t know what they’re about. Happy now?” (p. 91).

Moore laments, “There are forty-four million Americans who cannot read and write above a fourth-grade level – in other words, who are functional illiterates” (p. 86), and President Bush seems to be one of them, even though he “went to Yale and Harvard” (Moore’s italics, p. 88).

(10) I had just met Hrant Dink, and Robert Haddejian feeling immense joy, appreciative of their monumental achievements against all historical odds, Haddejian having acted almost like an uncle to Dink in the past, encouraging his first steps, only to discover that they were suddenly at each others’ throats…and all for Hecuba, Shakespeare’s Hamlet would say. What’s Hecuba to them?

Their internecine petty battles based on no more than community old wives’ tales, petty gossip and tittle-tattle, “wouldn’t fill up a walnut” (=engouyzin gegheve tchi(h) letsner), my late mother full of folk wisdom would say. How tragic of our Armenian communities everywhere!

And I had just escaped the incredible foolishness of the London Armenian Church Council electioneering, only to experience a similar situation in Istanbul, and amongst the best of our intellectuals…Woe is to our nation!

Do we deserve to be saved from our enemies, when we are our worst enemy?

(11) Inspired by the slogans of the French Revolution, the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of mankind (and womankind) is the only hope left for the future survival of humanism, and civilisation (the true socialist values), resisting the American-led globalisation or the imperialist domination of the world markets.

Cahit and his wife Akgul are Turkish socialist friends of mine. They pronounce my name as sweetly as my siblings. They knew my ninety-five year old father, who as a child of ten had walked from his birthplace in Adapazar-Armenia to Kirkuk-Iraq, in the genocidal conditions of 1915. He later also survived the decade of civil war in Beirut-Lebanon.

Cahit and Akgul met him first, when once I took my father to a Turkish human rights evening in London (in aid of Amnesty International), he wanted to sing with his undiminished powerful tenor (he had a perfect pitch at ninety-five!) for the audience. He asked me to translate into English (for the benefit of the local MP in attendance) that he “wished to sing not for the Turkish government, but for the Turkish people! People are friends. It is the governments that make them enemies, to dominate and enslave them!” These were my father’s exact words, still remembered by Cahit and Akgul.

When my father died, Akgul attended his funeral and cried like my sisters. And if I knew that my Turkish socialist friends would be homeless or targeted by the British neo-fascists one day, God forbid, I would happily share my home with them! Only and only the socialist values of compassion (never the capitalist gun-laws of the US jungle!) possess the inherent capacity to solve all the problems of mankind, problems created by the very greed of the capitalist’s desire for power and domination over fellow human beings.

The capitalist joy at the sight of global socialist ‘defeat’ is premature. The American-invented AIDS virus may yet kill off the peoples of Africa, but there will be another Russian revolution… and China has not yet scorned American imperialism, letting it stew in its own Enron-juices by playing cat and mouse with easy targets like Iraq.

Let the Bush-Mafia dare challenge the might of China! Americans will then see the pathetic nakedness of their infantile emperor…


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