Telling the Truth: A Turkish author faces up to Genocide
30 April 2004
By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow arts reporter
“My dear Armenian brothers, I will bow to the memory of all Armenians, who
lost their lives, who were “purposely murdered in exile” during the
greatest tragedy of our century – the massacres, which became black soot on
the forehead of the human race, your pain will become my pain. As a
literate Turk I offer apology in my own name to you and the entire
humanity.” “Rejoice My Heart”
These words are written by Turkish writer Kemal Yalcin, who with the help of
his book tried to find ways for peace and brotherhood from the bitter
realization of sins committed by his nation.
In 2001 Kemal Yalcin published “You Rejoice My Heart”, where he described,
in Turkish, several incidents of the Genocide of 1915. The work was filled
with rich descriptions of not only the genocide but the life of its heroes,
their love stories.
“In summer, 1989, I went to Turkey (from Germany where he was living at the
time). For writing my book I had to find aged Armenian women around Amasia
( Turkey) and talk to living witnesses of massacres of 1915. I had to visit
Ani and Aghtamar, writes Yalcin in the prologue to his book. “During that
period, I knocked at doors of many Armenians. None of them knew me. That was
the first time when a Turk was interested in their past. What they told me
was not just feelings and thoughts, first and foremost they were bitter
stories of their lives or lives of their nation and families.”
Yalcin begins his book with the story of a meeting, which later becomes the
reason for creating the book. In 1992, the author went to Dortmund, Germany
to participate in specialist courses, where he got to know his Turkish
language teacher Meline. Meline was Armenian, whose parents had miraculously
escaped the Genocide.
His acquaintanceship with Meline changed the author’s life and his attitude
towards the crime committed by previous leaders of his own nation. A great
love nested in the author’s heart, invigorating him and helping him to
overcome the difficulties and dangers he faced while collecting materials
for his book. F rom reading the book one gets a feeling that Kemal was in
love with Meline, who was married, but it never becomes clear whether they
had an affair.
“I am Armenian but there was a time when I was afraid to say that I’m
Armenian, I was afraid to speak Armenian. Armenian women of Turkey have been
living during their whole lives with this terrible feeling of being masked.
Those days they had to get married with Turks to escape death. Go, Kemal,
find those people, talk to them, let them tell you what they’ve heard and
seen,” says Meline.
“For you, even if I die,” said Kemal and began traveling through the bitter
and dark pages of history.
His book, written in beautiful oriental language and style, attracts readers
with its true and interesting account of events. Its 400 pages are awash
with bitter reminiscence of Genocide and each character’s life story is a
part of the fate of the entire nation, brought to life by a Turkish author.
In 2001, the book was due to have been published by the Istanbul publishing
house. But a few months after signing the contract, Yalcin received a call
from the head of the publishing house, who told him that “according to the
order from above, we are not going to publish ‘You Rejoice My Heart’. We
have to wait”.
The author couldn’t wait and in the same year paid for his book to be
published in Germany with his own money. The first print run sold very
quickly and Yalcin sought help from Polis for a second run however, by that
time his book had disappeared from the publishing house.
The book eventually was published in German, Turkish and Armenian.
The book is on sale in Armenia at a cost of 1,500 drams (about $2.67). The
“Zangak” publishing house published it with a print run of 1,000 copies.
“This book became a unique bridge infusing us, Armenians, with hope that one
day the Turkish government or at least society will recognize the Armenian
Genocide,” says head of Union of Writers Levon Ananyan.
Several letters are included in the book. The author received them from
readers in different countries, almost all of them people who had somehow
escaped the Genocide. According to them, this book has eased their pain a
A Dr Tuntcher Miski writes: “Eighty years have passed since the Armenian
events and only now a Turkish writer has managed to throw light upon them.
In this book, true victims, who were eyewitnesses, told about everything
they had suffered. And despite all their suffering and pains they will lend
a hand of peace to Turks.”
Prenta Pashar, an Armenian from Germany, writes that she has no words to
express her happiness and peace to the author of the book, adding: “I found
in your book a hope, which has been lost for a long time. Thanks to decent
intellectuals like you we will be able to heal the bloody wound of