By Betty Apigian-Kessel
Just who is Ara Baliozian? He is the Athens-born intellectual who since 1956 has resided in Canada. And he is the winner of many prizes and government grants for his literary work, which include fiction, drama, criticism, and translations from Armenian, French, and Italian.
Among the books written by Baliozian are The Armenians, Voices of Fear, Fragmented Dreams, as well as translations of Gostan Zarian’s The Traveler and His Road and Bancoop and the Bones of the Mammoth, considered to be “brilliant,” “eloquent” and “valuable.”
Baliozian received his Armenian education at the Mekhitarist College of Moorat-Raphael in Venice, Italy on a four-year scholarship. He also attended the University of Ca Foscari where he studied economics, political science, and music.
He counts politics, philosophy, literature, and classical music among his favorite interests. His preference for film includes those featuring Brando, Cagney, and Olivier and his favorite books The Word by Sartre, Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, and A Study of History by Arnold Toynbee.
Unfortunately the dedicated author is seldom printed in Armenian publications because he is viewed as “too caustic and critical.” A well-known Detroit area Armenian now deceased had confided to me many years ago that “Armenians were not yet sophisticated enough to accept criticism.” It is our loss to not support Baliozian in his literary endeavors.
The quiet-living author, now 74, marches to the beat of his own drum. The following excerpts from his essays give insight into his persona. Enjoy and form your own opinions from some of his musings below.
“If I am wrong, I can be corrected. But if those in charge of our destiny are wrong, the results will be another massacre—if not garmir (red) then jermak (white). If I have said this before, I apologize. I happen to be an addict or reiteration. Or as Socrates used to say, ‘To know is to remember.’”
“I try to keep my mouth shut about Armenians I find disagreeable, and believe me I have known a lot of them. I am particularly perturbed by the ones who think Armenians can outsmart everyone. My two ambitions in life as a writer: to explain why many Armenians are alienated and to expose the arrogance and incompetence of those who alienate them in the name of patriotism.”
“Ever since Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, our benefactors have been building churches in the hope of bribing God, thus adding blasphemy to their previous list of sins.”
“Some of our ablest writers lacked the faculty of understanding history or of seeing ‘the other side of the hill’ or ‘the angularity of time’ (Sartre). Even our realists remained romantics at heart. They were influenced more by French literature and less by real events that made headlines in the international press. Consider Zohrab, one of our most sophisticated, experienced, and savvy observers of the Ottoman scene. Instead of warning readers of the coming catastrophe, he wrote about adulterous women, golden hearted prostitutes, and the death of a salesman. His naive faith in the Ottoman power structure was such that he saved the life of the future architect (Talaat) of the genocide by risking his own.” (He was later killed by the Turks even though he had been a member of the parliament.)
“No writer has ever been in the position to silence a boss, bishop, or benefactor. And now consider the manner in which we treated our best writers, from Abovian to Zarian.”
“Too many chiefs, no Indians: That’s one way to describe our divisions.”
“Don’t get mad, get even. Incompetent leaders might as well be shepherds who drive their flocks in the direction of ravenous wolves.”
“When engaged in negotiations, you either do so from a position of strength or weakness. If weakness, do not give in to the temptation of losing your equanimity, if only name-calling is not totally ineffective. After a century of name-calling, what have we accomplished? Reparations? Not a single red cent. Territorial claims? Not a single inch of dirt. Not one soul has been resurrected.”
“If God is love, why does He allow the massacre of innocents?”
Read Azad-Hye interview with Ara Baliozian