Bohjalian Presents New Book At Hovnanian School

By Lori Cinar

July 16, 2013

NEW MILFORD, N.J.-On Wed., July 10, the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational
and Cultural Society of New Jersey hosted a discussion and book signing
with Chris Bohjalian for his new novel The Light in the Ruins. The NY
Times best-selling novelist spoke at the Hovnanian Armenian School
in New Milford about his recent trip to historic Armenia as well as
his inspirations for his new novel.

LITR1 Bohjalian Presents New Book at Hovnanian School Members of
the Team Michigan Book Group dive into Bohjalian’s ‘The Light in
the Ruins.’

Bohjalian received great acclaim within both the Armenian and literary
communities with last summer’s publication of The Sandcastle Girls,
a captivating story of a woman who must delve into the history of
the genocide in order to understand her past. The novel has been
highly acclaimed since its release and has brought a great deal of
attention to the Armenian cause. His newest work, The Light in the
Ruins, tells a quite different, while at the same time extremely
engrossing, narrative. Bohjalian himself described it at his own
“Romeo and Juliet” story.

Both novels jump back and forth in time, slowly revealing different
facets of the storyline. This works to create an effect that the
author himself refers to as “dread.”

“There are moments when I’m practically on the edge of my seat and I
keep saying ‘Don’t open the door! Don’t do it!'” Bohjalian said. This
heart-wrenching feeling that comes with the foresight of characters’
decisions is what gives stories their substance, he explained.

Creating a compelling story requires a great deal of historical context
and research, too. Creating lifelike characters and realistic scenarios
for The Light in the Ruins took a lot of time, effort, and sometimes
luck, Bohjalian said. He admits that aside from his own research,
a friend’s uncle helped him to understand how police investigations
were conducted in the 50s in Italy, where The Light in the Ruins
is set. Bohjalian seemed thrilled by the documents and facts he had
uncovered during his research.

Bohjalian’s ardent interest in preservation and history were also
reflected in his description of his recent trip to historic Armenia.

Bohjalian spent time visiting sites that were previously monasteries,
churches, and cemeteries, but that now bear little resemblance to
their original facades because of extreme desecration and destruction,
which was sometimes committed very recently. His powerful descriptions
made his cultural immersion truly come to life for the audience.

Bohjalian stressed how disheartening it was to see monuments in their
present state after having seen their prior glory in old photos. He
also discussed the negative associations that some villagers had
with the ancient Armenian sites, describing “treasure hunters” who
sought relics at the cost of destruction. Somewhat happily, however,
visiting those monuments often led him to meet individuals who helped
him piece together valuable information about the genocide and Armenian
history in general.

After an engaging question and answer session, Der Mesrop Lakissian
of St. Illuminator’s Apostolic Cathedral in New York City performed a
traditional blessing of the book ceremony (kinetson). Members of the
audience-some of whom came from hours away just to meet Bohjalian-were
then able to meet him and have him sign a few copies of his books. Ani
Tchaghlasian, the MC for the evening and a member of Hamazkayin of New
Jersey Executive Board, was very pleased with the turnout of the event,
saying, “Chris Bohjalian is a talented, inspiring, and passionate
writer who has become the most eloquent speaker on the Armenian
Cause. Hamazkayin of New Jersey is honored to have the opportunity
to support Chris to promote his new book The Light in the Ruins.”

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