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Book: Silent Witness, “Order From Constantinople”

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 PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:05 pm    Post subject: Book: Silent Witness, “Order From Constantinople” Reply with quote Back to top

Silent Witness: Graphic novel seeks to draw attention to Genocide

By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow Reporter

The first of a planned series of illustrated novels telling Genocide stories has been released.

“Order From Constantinople” is the work of painter Tigran Mangasaryan and film director Ruben Tsaturyan. It is the first in a seven-book series called “Silence”. The 56 paged book with 46 painted pages is produced for a general audience.

Like frames in a film, produced in the “Bande Dessinee” style popular in France, the book draws the reader’s attention with illustrations that change like frames in a film.

“Visual art has much stronger and quicker influence than any scientific book,” says Mangarsaryan. “If today we have no opportunities for making films then the second most popular method is the graphic novel.”

He says Armenians should learn from Jewish experience in raising the issue of the Holocaust worldwide. One of the best-known Bande Dessinee novels is “Mice”, which is claimed by some experts to have been more popular than Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List”. In it, mice wearing striped uniforms in concentration camps represent Jews, cats bearing swastikas are Nazi Germans and pigs betraying Jews are Poles.

The authors of the Armenian work are sure that this method of presenting the bitter history of the Genocide is precisely right for people in developed countries who simply have no time to read books.

“Besides, no matter how thoroughly you describe with the written word a Turk’s furious face, for whom slaughtering a child is just the same as slaughtering chicken, this face must be drawn. People must not only imagine these eyes they must see them to understand the unrecognized tragedy of a whole nation,” says Mangasaryan.

The author acknowledges, too, that if methods of presenting the Genocide are not backed up with facts then they may lose their value. But Mangasaryan is sure that an imaginative representation of reality will raise the issue of Genocide recognition much more quickly and will have greater influence.

“There are numerous documentary materials and fat books in the Genocide Museum but who reads them? Even for me, who had to read some books for my work, it was very difficult. Every time I tried to put it off and find other sources,” says the painter.

At the back of every book, the authors decided to place one documentary photo corresponding to the relevant events and a list of names of people who became victims of the Genocide, with dates of birth and places of residence (a list that will be completed only after the entire series is finished). There will be also a list of the countries that have recognized the fact of Genocide.

The first book of the “Silence” series includes more than 300 emotional and vivid illustrations. And, though the authors hope to make an international impact with their series, the first run of books is only 2,000 and is printed in Armenian. The authors paid for the publishing themselves, but are hopeful of finding a sponsor who will underwrite future releases – at least an English-language version.

The heroes of “Order from Constantinople” are fictional characters taken from real-life stories, given the names Haykuhi and Harutiun.

“When our hero is asked about the bitter days of the Genocide he says he cannot talk about it as it's hard for him to recall everything that had happened and he prefers silence,” explains Mangasaryan. According to him, the terror was so big that it is inhumane to talk about it.

Dramatic developments of the hero’s life will continue in the next book, which the authors have titled “The Letter on the Sand”. It will describe the slaughter that took place in the desert of Der Zor.

Lavrenti Barseghyan, the director of the Genocide Museum of Armenia, welcomes the “Silence” series.

“This book is necessary not only for telling the world about our tragedy but also for showing the young generation in Armenia and Diaspora the dark pages of their nation,” he says. “Even so, for me it’s hard to accept the fact that the new generation doesn’t read much and is more interested in such visual means, which are easy to perceive.”
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