November 19, 2014

Traumatic Infidelities: The Experience and its Translations in Mabel Elliott and Zabel Yesayan

by Shushan Avagyan


Much of the scholarship on the literature of the Armenian genocide has been centered on the event itself and the formation of Armenian diasporic identities, based on the forced dispersion from the historical homeland in Anatolia.[1] I enter this critical discourse from the position of a translator interested in the role of translation and mediation of this historical trauma, which has often been described as profoundly untranslatable, incomprehensible, and infinitely foreign. More specifically, I explore the means and media through which this experience has been remembered and represented by conceptualizing the writing of trauma as an act of translation, and by viewing trauma as a foreign experience that undergoes processes of domestication as it is translated into language(s). Because the majority of texts produced before, during and in the aftermath of the genocide are in Armenian—a minority language spoken by a small population—I pay equal attention to the role of translation proper and the task of the translator in the mediation of this collective trauma. I explore in these layered translations—from trauma into language and from one language into another—the conceptions of fidelity (conventionally understood as being bound to an original) and of betrayal (conventionally associated with freedom and license), and examine how they affect the perception of historical traumas.

According to Lawrence Venuti, translation is a process by which the translator replaces the chain of signifiers that constitutes the source-language text by a chain of signifiers in the target language. The effects of translation, Venuti argues, are felt both in its new milieu and back at home:

On the one hand, translation wields enormous power in the construction of national identities for foreign cultures, and hence it potentially figures in ethnic discrimination, geopolitical confrontations, colonialism, terrorism, war. On the other hand, translation enlists the foreign text in the maintenance or revision of literary canons in the target-language culture, inscribing poetry and fiction, for example, with the various poetic and narrative discourses that compete for cultural dominance in the target language. (Translator’s Invisibility 19)

In Venuti’s theorization, every translation submits the foreign text to a domesticating interpretation, based on some kind of reconstruction—be it lexicographical, textual, or ideological—that answers to the needs of a particular interpretive occasion (Scandals 111). What further domestication, I inquire, do texts that “write trauma” undergo, trauma being a disruptive experience that, according to Dominick LaCapra, “disarticulates the self and creates holes in existence” (41)?

As theorists such as LaCapra, Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk and Onno van der Hart have demonstrated, trauma is a profoundly alienating experience that brings about a dissociation of affect and representation: “One disorientingly feels what one cannot represent; one numbingly represents what one cannot feel” (LaCapra 41-42).[2] Traumatic memories are not encoded like ordinary memories in a verbal, linear narrative that is assimilated into an ongoing life story, but are reformulated through a paralyzed language with a shattered inner schemata that acts out the overwhelming moods and numbing symptoms of surrender. As Judith Herman postulates, “The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness,” rendering those experiences unspeakable—or untranslatable into verbal communication—but ineradicable within memory (1).

In its very nature, then, the idiom of trauma is characterized by an extreme foreignness—an encounter with loss and ultimately death, which, according to Rebecca Saunders, “is often figured as a stranger, as something that comes from the outside (foras), as not belonging, or as improper” (Lamentation 73). Consequently, as we speak of traumatic untranslatability, we attest to a condition that necessitates a (de)scribing, a refusal to linguistically appropriate, a resistance to betray, the foreign experience.
So if the aim of translation, as Venuti argues, “is to bring back a cultural other as the same, the recognizable, even the familiar,” I ask, what are some of the domesticating strategies or choices that the “translators”—here survivors, witnesses, and writers—consciously or unconsciously, make when appropriating trauma for “domestic” agendas, be they cultural, economic, or political (TI 18)? And conversely, if the translator attempts to resist domestication by employing a “foreignizing” methodology, which Venuti, following Friedrich Schleiermacher, defines as “an ethnodeviant pressure on [target-language cultural] values to register the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text” (TI 20), how do symptoms that “originate” with trauma—such as intrusion, constriction or numbing, disordered and incomplete speech, elisions, gaps and other kinds of linguistic breakdowns—function in their new milieu?
In the following pages I analyze how American medical doctor Mabel Elliott’s discursive choices in her chronicle Beginning Again at Ararat (1924) domesticate—i.e., formulate in domestic terms and ideologies—the experience of the Armenian genocide. I juxtapose her domesticating translation of testimonies to Ottoman-Armenian novelist Zabel Yesayan’s foreignizing method of verbal translation in Among the Ruins (1911).

Accounts from the Scutari Rescue Home
Published by the Fleming H. Revell Company in 1924, Elliott’s Beginning Again at Ararat is a first-hand account of the Kemalist war, the siege of Marash, and Elliott’s exodus with thousands of Ottoman Armenians to Soviet Armenia in 1921, where she helped set up hospitals and orphanages. It is an account of a selfless physician who, at the risk of losing her own life, helped save thousands of lives from destruction and played a critical role in rebuilding the lives of orphan children. While Beginning Again has been an important source for understanding the extent of devastation and amount of relief work involved in saving the victims of the genocide, the account is channeled through American missionary discourse that constructs a mythical “Orient” and an equally illusive “America.”
Framed as an Homeric odyssey, Elliott’s narrative is first introduced by the Commissioner for the American Red Cross, John H. Finley, as a “story of wandering and suffering after a world war” (4), in which World War I is compared to the Trojan war, and the exiles from Asia Minor to Odysseus. Finley makes use of these epic images in order to introduce something foreign to the reader through familiar textual signs: the reality of the modern “tragic story” that unfolds in Beginning Again is contrasted against the fictional “halls of Circe” and the ancient “caves of Calypso.” Despite the egregious differences between the picaresque adventures of Odysseus and the forced marches of the Armenians, the readers are nonetheless prompted to think in parallel terms, and the real experience is immediately mapped onto the register of fiction, i.e., a fantastical adventure with fictional characters happening in an inconceivably distant place. Furthermore, the introduction (as well as the narrative itself) is replete with references from another canonical text—the Bible. Using coded language in the wartime period was by no means unusual, as most correspondences, especially those of the foreign missionaries stationed in Turkey, were censored by the Turkish government. To subvert the constraints of censorship, missionaries devised strategies to improve communication with the outside world. According to Susan Billington Harper, they utilized “references to past experiences and to commonly recognized biblical and literary figures in order to pass news of death to worried friends outside” (225). However once the persecutions became more systematic and large-scale, cryptic language used in the chaotic days leading up to the deportation was abandoned. By 1919, as Harper explains, descriptions of the events “no longer allow much ambiguity as to the genocidal plan and purpose behind the deportations” (234). So the references employed in Beginning Again were subordinated to a different kind of ideological “censorship,” one that perhaps was consistent with the expectations of the American publisher that functioned within the framework of calculated pragmatism and evangelical propaganda.
Following Finley’s introduction, Grace N. Kimball, then President of the Medical Women’s National Association, contributed a “Note of Appreciation,” in which she compares Mabel Elliott to another celebrated figure, the English nurse and writer Florence Nightingale, who, like Elliott, wrote the annals of a war—the Crimean war in Nightingale’s case. Again, the realities of Ottoman Armenians, three-fourths of whom had been decimated by 1924, were historically and politically different from the realities of the wounded British soldiers of the Crimean war (1853-56). Elliott’s mission might have been more aptly compared to the work of her compatriot Clara Barton, who had traveled to the Ottoman Empire in 1896 as part of the first American International Red Cross campaign to aid the Armenian survivors of the Hamidian massacres. This would have been only reasonable, because Kimball herself had been a missionary physician in the Armenian quarter of Van in Turkey during the Hamidian massacres and was part of the American relief network. But oddly, neither Kimball’s work in Van, nor Clara Barton’s campaign are ever mentioned in Beginning Again. One of the reasons for this bizarre omission might be that Beginning Again was written at a time when the trials of the Ittihadist leaders responsible for the Armenian massacres had been abandoned, the Allied forces, faced with the Kemalist takeover of Turkey, had resigned, the Mandate for Armenia had failed, and it became politically and economically advantageous to redirect the focus from the massacres to reconstruction, especially at a time when the United States was starting a new foreign policy geared to promoting American business interests in the Eastern Mediterranean region.[3]
The comparative gestures in the prefatory notes, as innocent as they might seem, construct the landscape or what Andre Lefevere has called the “conceptual and textual grids” of the text:
An educated member of any culture in the West, for instance (as we might describe someone who has more or less successfully survived the socialization process), will know that certain texts are supposed to contain certain markers designed to elicit certain reactions on the reader’s part, and that the success of communication depends on both the writer and the reader of the text agreeing to play their assigned parts in connection with those markers. The writer is supposed to put them in, the reader is supposed to recognize them. (“Composing the Other” 76)
The markers that construct the textual grid of Elliott’s narrative are derived from the Western canon and anything outside of this grid is relegated to the foreign, which is always constructed in relation to the domestic or the familiar and, according to Rebecca Saunders, is “outside of proper meaning” (“Agony and Allegory” 219). Banishing atrocities from the boundaries of the familiar, Elliott constructs the events and anything connected to those events as “unfamiliar, uncanny, unnatural, unauthorized, incomprehensible, inappropriate, improper” (Saunders, “Agony and Allegory” 218). The conceptual grid, producing the realities of Armenian survivors after the armistice, further constructs the stage of action as a foreign place, as suggested by the title of Elliott’s second chapter, “Asia the Incomprehensible.” The chapter opens with a description of the domes and minarets of Constantinople “left behind in Europe” and Elliott’s arrival in Scutari, the “large Asiatic suburb of Constantinople, which nonetheless appears less Asiatic than the city of which it is a suburb” (20). And yet it was in Scutari, Elliott continues, “in the antiseptic cleanliness of a modern operating room, that I was given my first glimpse of Asia, the real Asia, beneath its outward colour” (20). Here, in the Scutari Rescue Home, Elliott, as Medical Director of the Near East Relief, was to examine and treat one hundred and fifty Armenian girls rescued from Turkish harems by the British forces. As she spent hours upon hours listening to the survivors and helping them verbalize their experiences, Elliott recorded some of the testimonies in her book, sometimes quoting directly, at other times paraphrasing, and making observations:
The things that I heard were unbelievable. A doctor sees more deeply into the abysses of human society than any other person except a priest, but I know only America. This was Asia, strange, bestial, incomprehensible. It was my first personal encounter with such things—the things that human beings can do, carelessly, without rancour, laughing, to other human beings. . . . We cannot grasp it, for there is no reason in it; the facts those girls told were like revelations of the mind of a madman” (my emphasis, 21-22, 24).
My inquiry here is not about what the survivors told Elliott, as it would be quite impossible to recover the original (oral) interviews in Elliott’s consultation room, but rather how Elliott transcribed the testimonies, the kinds of cultural markers she employed to form the conceptual and textual grids of Beginning Again. In the above passage and elsewhere, Elliott rather explicitly constructs a discourse that separates the similar from the dissimilar, the familiar from the foreign, the orderly from the chaotic, consistently treating foreignness as a deviation needing regulation, a terrain needing domestication. The conflation of Asia with strangeness, bestiality, and incomprehensibility affixes a negative marker onto the entire geographic region, thus designating it as beyond the “proper” Western mind, and at the same time erases the difference between the victims and their executioners because they both inhabit the region. In various parts of the narrative, Western values or worldviews (“the Western world of stenographers’ reports and way bills seemed to me more romantic”) are consistently juxtaposed against Eastern ones (“than the East with its camel caravans and blue bead charms against the Evil Eye” 219). Not only were these stories of the girls from the Scutari Rescue Home “strange” in their taking “for granted a mingling of patriarchal laws and anarchy” that were “as foreign to our life as some story of conditions on Mars” (32), but “these people of Asia Minor” took for granted “a world of religious and racial hatreds” (33), something that Elliott claimed was alien to her society: “without thinking of it or questioning it, we take for granted an orderly organization of society with its mixing of many races in our cities and on our unguarded farms, arrival of letters, ringing of the telephone, church services of many creeds on peaceful Sunday mornings” (33-34). These portrayals of a contented, harmonious American society were, of course, illusory. They masked both the racial divisions of the era and functioned as propaganda to solidify a particular vision of both “the Orient” and “America.” The misleading references to a uniform society effaced the lived experiences of black Americans, for example, who, during the Progressive Era, especially after the passage of Jim Crow laws and the emergence of the second Klan in 1915, had been systematically suffering racially motivated persecutions and, as a result, migrating en masse to the North only to encounter unimaginable tensions with European immigrants. While showing the absolute madness provoked by the “Armenian policy” of the Ittihadist regime, Elliott’s comparison below further marks anything associated with “butchery” as opposed to “our minds”:
We read of wholesale massacre ordered by a government, and whatever our horror, our minds picture something like an orderly butchery. But there was no organization, no orderliness, in Turkey; all the passions and policies and hatreds of millions of human beings were turned loose, unrestrained. (24)
Even so, Elliott goes on to tell the story of one of her patients, whose eye had been surgically mutilated by a Turkish doctor in order to punish and subdue her. The account, which Elliott repeats in shock, not only contradicts her construction of a “disorderly” butchery, but in fact testifies to the meticulousness and modernity of these atrocities. Elliott obviously condemns the Turkish “barbarities,” but she draws on the familiar and widely accepted discourse on “the Orient” as the place of the “unrestrained” and symptomatically depicts American society as ordered, dispassionate, restrained, and immune to “butchery.” Apparently Elliott’s familiarity with segregation and racially motivated crimes in the United States had become so naturalized that her perception of racism at home had lost its palpability. “As for me,” Elliott writes, “I could hear their stories only objectively; I had not yet seen massacre or slavery, and I could not remember to take for granted, as these girls did, that slavery and massacre are part of the normal scheme of things, like thunderstorms” (emphasis mine, 31).
And yet none of these experiences were “normal” or “natural” for the girls at the Scutari Home, because as Elliott’s records make clear, the trauma of the girls was manifested in erratic, dissociative, apparently “mad” behavior, as “for the first time their reticence was disturbed, necessarily, by professional questions, and when they had begun to speak it was as though they could not stop” (21). Describing the “temperament” of the girls as they testified to the terrors they had gone through, Elliott notes how “[s]ome sat quietly, with folded hands, talking on and on in a low voice, growing whiter and whiter until there was no blood in their lips,” while “[o]thers became excited, little by little lost their self-control, and ended screaming and sobbing” (22). Clearly, in their testimonies, the girls from the Scutari Home were reliving the traumatic events in the act of retelling and were possessed by the past, which according to LaCapra is the most difficult part of testimony for the survivor, the interviewer, and the audience of testimonies (97). The ethnographic language, however, that Elliott employs to record and also speak for her patients transmits an objectively controlled voice, which in its attempt to represent traumatic experience disciplines and, to an extent, erases the “madness” of the occurrences. Elliott’s translation of the catastrophe enlisted the catastrophe to maintain the familiar textual and conceptual grids of the target-language culture, and as a result, largely lost the meaning of the new and unrestrained terror lurking in both the original trauma and the testimonies of those who experienced it.

The Ellipsis in Zabel Yesayan
Writing approximately a decade before Elliott, Ottoman-Armenian writer Zabel Yesayan, who, incidentally, was born in Scutari, produced perhaps one of the most compelling narratives on the Armenian massacres in Cilicia before the eruption of World War I, which she titled Averagnerun mech [Among the Ruins, 1911].[4] In June 1909, Yesayan traveled to Cilicia as a member of a delegation sent by the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople to bear witness to the destruction, assess the losses, and provide immediate material aid to the survivors. As Rubina Peroomian notes in Literary Responses to Catastrophe, the literature of catastrophe produced by Yesayan was far removed from her earlier works, which were predominantly works of fiction. Like Elliot’s Beginning Again, Yesayan’s Among the Ruins is a first-person account that incorporates survivor testimony taken in the form of interviews, and provides the reader with comments and observations. However, as the title suggests, the tone of Yesayan’s narrative is somber, yet charged with emotion, echoing back as if from the ruins of Armenian homes and churches and the human remnants that she encounters in Cilicia in the aftermath of the massacres. Yesayan too invokes the concept of foreignness, but here it functions as an estrangement from herself and, in a larger sense—a humanity that has become bereft of its own humanity, a citizenry bereft of empathy. She writes in the preface: “My task then is to let all our people, as well as our [Turkish] compatriots, who have remained strangers to our intuition and our pain, partake in [haghordakits ēnel] the infinite suffering through which I lived during these three dark months” (8).[5] In other words, she is suggesting here that reconciliation between Armenians and Turks can take place only through the recognition of the trauma caused by what she calls “the catastrophe” and through a joint effort at mourning. However, she signals in the preface and throughout the book that mourning seems impossible as she bears witness to and is confronted with “the perverse gaze of the criminals who remain unpunished” (7). This is the criminal gaze that refutes trauma and retards the processes of mourning through nonrecognition of grief. As according to Herman, “[a]fter every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on” (8). Ironically, Yesayan was only writing of the Cilician massacres, the atrocities of which would repeat after the publication of her book on a much larger scale and more methodically between 1915 and 1923, and which Elliot would record. The proximity and modernity of the place of catastrophe in Yesayan are in sharp contrast to the conceptually remote and historically antiquated “Asia” in Elliott. While Beginning Again keeps the reader at a comfortable distance, Among the Ruins moves the reader closer to the foreignness of the occurrences and trauma itself. Employing a “foreignizing” method of translation, Yesayan abstains from familiar references or practices, starting with the very genre of the text. She abandons fiction in order to explore a new terrain that is foreign to her—the realm of nonfiction.
The first chapter, titled “To Cilicia,” opens with a description of the night before the delegation’s arrival at Mersin: “The more we approached the threshold of catastrophe, the more reality escaped my perception and I earnestly couldn’t believe that tomorrow morning we would arrive in Mersin. Adana . . . Cilicia . . . ! For weeks those names had been lodged in a corner of our mind—there was an open wound and when you touched it, your whole being shuddered with a throbbing pain” (10). Besides being the literal translation of the Greek word τραῦμα, the trope of the wound invokes Freud’s conception of psychical trauma as a Kränkung, an injury, mortification—“a foreign body” within one’s mind. The opening in Yesayan’s testimony is suggestive of an arrival, which strangely resembles a flight from a traumatic landscape, a desire to postpone the witnessing of the catastrophe, and hence a deferment of the encounter with catastrophe itself. For the descriptions that follow this statement are nothing if not uncanny in the Freudian sense—Yesayan is filled both with an “impatience” (11) to see and witness the ruins after the catastrophe and a foreboding horror, which she paradoxically anticipates, as though it were something already familiar. For her, Cilicia, former home to many Armenians, has now acquired a new quality of unhomeliness: in the literal sense—their homes have been destroyed, their families have been murdered, and figuratively—the name Cilicia is now metonymically associated with trauma. Yesayan’s ambivalent anticipation of her encounter with the survivors, who had suffered unspeakable atrocities, is also conditioned by a presentiment of the inevitability, indeed, impossibility of escaping from the catastrophe that would engulf all of Anatolia in 1915.
One of the most striking features of Yesayan’s text is how it is marked and repetitively interrupted by ellipses, especially in parts where the subject matter becomes too overwhelming to translate into language. Structurally, the ellipses function on three levels: first, they reproduce the linguistic paralysis of the interviewees, whose accounts Yesayan quotes directly: “We laid his little body on this very table . . . it was completely unrecognizable from the injuries, but the mother recognized it . . . gazing, perplexed and bewildered, at her child . . .” (49). Second, they are employed by Yesayan the narrator to describe the emotions of others: “She fell silent for a moment and her lips twisted in a peculiar grimace . . . indescribable memories were passing through her mind . . .” (49). And finally, they are used by Yesayan the witness to express her own overwhelming emotion: “And feeling shame when thinking of those who are loved and happy in the world, as if blaming myself for the sorrow of this child, I wept, gripped by an inconsolable pain . . .” (67). Page after page the ellipses repeat, afflicting and disrupting the sentences with omissions, deficient utterances, caesuras, in other words, testifying to the inadequacy of language to translate affect and to reconstruct the experience of trauma.
From time to time Yesayan returns to the pervasive gaze of shamelessness of those who had committed the crimes and the shame of the survivors who were called to testify to their own dehumanization. In The Historiographic Perversion, Marc Nichanian analyzes testimony as the confession of shame, proposing that “shame itself is its own testimony” (118). Here too one is confronted with strangeness, a strange emotion, when one is asked to reveal a wound, to show it in public: “One can try to say of what one is ashamed, but shame itself, how could one say it, communicate it verbally? It can come to the surface in the form of a blushing, a terror. It can invade me, seize me, no longer leave me” (Nichanian 118). Yesayan describes such a scene in her fourth chapter on the orphans, in which she narrates her encounter with an eight-year old girl who had undergone a "monstrous" experience. Feeling utterly “bewildered and shamed,” Yesayan holds the child’s hand “without asking any questions” (41). Asking the girl for a testimony for Yesayan is “something as monstrous as complicity in the crime” (41). The discourse of testimony, as Nichanian argues, is the discourse of the executioner defying the victim to prove her trauma, over and over again, only to refute it. The witness in Yesayan declares that we cannot exclude her from humanity and from truth if she cannot produce words to testify; there is no need to repeat the details, one only need to look into the eyes of the child to see her trauma:
Oh, the slight, pain stricken . . . forsaken creature! Where in that little body had the terrible sorrow made its nest? How her muscles were still throbbing, nerve by nerve, with revolt at the abuse that she had suffered . . .
A stupefying heat surged into my brain.
—Mother . . ! Mother . . !
Was it her, who enunciated that supreme call, like the other orphans, who often sought their mothers when they were in pain or homesick? Or was it my voice uttering those words? I do not know. I took her in my arms, rocking her weightless body on my knees, so that in my frantic sorrow, she might at least momentarily forget her own, forget herself . . . (43-44)
The testimony of the girl is literally inaudible and illegible here. Yesayan breaks the boundaries between self and other in order to step outside of herself and to show unconditional empathy in an instance of what Kaja Silverman, following Max Scheler, has called “heteropathic identification” (The Threshold of the Visible World Silverman 22).[6] In this shared moment of solemnity, Yesayan offers her own voice to mourn for the girl’s loss, so “she might at least momentarily forget” that which is impossible to describe or transcribe. Yesayan, in other words, testifies to the impossibility of testifying in language. She does not attempt to bridge the gap between the experience and language, and in fact reinforces or signals that gap by the excess of ellipses—the nonverbal manifestations of trauma that impede the flow of the narrative. This excess betrays the difficulty or impossibility of verbal translation, marking a limit that has been reached in language. Perhaps it is due to this “inappropriateness” of excess that the ellipses have mostly been removed in Geoffrey M. Goshgarian’s English translation of the three chapters that appear in Nichanian’s Writers of Disaster. The eighteen ellipses in Chapter 2, “Among the Ruins,” have been reduced to a mere six; the thirty-five ellipses in Chapter 3, “The Church Service,” are cut down to a mere five; while out of a hundred and sixty ellipses in Chapter 4, “The Orphans,” a mere thirty-eight remain.[7] The ellipses in Yesayan act as the brittle line between the moment and its deferral, the rational and nonrational, human and nonhuman, living and nonliving, crossed and re-crossed by those who perpetrated the crimes and those who suffered them. The mad frenzy of the uniformed and disciplined Turkish soldiers who used their bayonets to mutilate the bodies of the dead is juxtaposed against the madness of mothers who murdered their own children to save them from the bayonets. The bestiality of the executioners is juxtaposed against the reduction of victims to the state of animals. The life granted to a group of orphans under the care of foreign missionaries is juxtaposed against the deathliness of those very same children. By marking this line, Yesayan articulates the madness brought by the “Armenian policy”—the policy to exterminate members of a group regardless of their age, gender, or political affiliation. This madness is total, it invades, it cannot be contained or quarantined, it affects the victim and witness alike, as in the case of Yesayan’s experience in the presence of the eight-year-old survivor.
The discourse of madness is consistently present in all testimonies, if only as something nonliteral, nonverbal, and always improper as Yesayan’s ellipses that thwart the linear progression and continuity of the narrative. In her translation of the catastrophe, Yesayan catalyzes her own foreignness in the language that she writes by the very choice of a genre that is not her own and she foreignizes expository language by the use of the ellipsis as a main trope—the image of the unspeakable.

[1] See Tölölyan; Nichanian; Peroomian.
[2] In Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001), LaCapra focuses on the problems posed by trauma in historical representation and understanding; Herman analyzes the effects of trauma on survivors of domestic violence and veterans of the Vietnam War in Trauma and Recovery (1992); while van der Kolk and van der Hart explore the neurobiology of traumatic memory and its difference from ordinary memory processing in “The Intrusive Past: The Flexibility of Memory and the Engraving of Trauma” (1995).
[3] See Peter Balakian 363-72.
[4] A very short segment of this book (Chapters 2 and 3, together with excerpts from Chapter 4) was translated by Geoffrey M. Goshgarian in Marc Nichanian’s Writers of Disaster. The translation here is mine.
[5] While Yesayan was not physically present during the massacres of 1909, she nonetheless writes “through which I lived” [abretsa] rather than “witnessed,” by which she brings herself closer to the experience of trauma, and uncannily foretells the course of her own fate in 1915, when she narrowly escapes arrest and deportation.
[6] In The Nature of Sympathy, the German philosopher Max Scheler differentiates two mutually exclusive kinds of identification, “idiopathic,” which effects through a “total eclipse and absorption of another self by one’s own” (18) and “heteropathic,” where “‘I’ (the formal subject) am so overwhelmed and hypnotically bound and fettered by the other ‘I’ (the concrete individual), that my formal status as a subject is usurped by the other’s personality, with all its characteristic aspects; in such a case, I live, not in ‘myself’, but entirely in ‘him’, the other person—(in and through him, as it were)” (19).
[7] Chapter 4 has been translated partially and the number of ellipses here refers to those passages only.

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an Interdisciplinary & Cross-Cultural Conference 
Yerevan, October 26–27, 2012

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