By Zareh Vorpouni, Translated by Jennifer Manoukian and Ishkhan Jinbashian, Afterward by Marc Nichanian
The Candidate is one of the most masterful, psychologically penetrating novels in Armenian diaspora literature. Published in 1967 at a time of political awakening among the descendants of survivors of the Armenian genocide, the novel explores themes of trauma, forgiveness, reconciliation, friendship, and sacrifice, and examines the relationship between victim and perpetrator.
The book opens in 1927 in Paris after Minas has found his friend Vahakn’s body on the floor of the apartment they share. In a fragmentary way, Minas tells of his meeting Vahakn in the cafés of the Latin Quarter; the friendship that joins them; their conversations with Ziya, a Turkish student in Paris; Vahakn’s murder of Ziya; and Vahakn’s suicide. At the core of the novel is the note Vahakn leaves Minas to explain the enigma of Ziya’s murder and his own suicide. The letter recounts Vahakn’s and his mother’s deportation from their village in the Ottoman Empire; his mother’s death and Vahakn’s adoption by a Turkish woman, Fatma, who rapes and abuses him; his feelings of alienation and self-estrangement in France; and his inability to adapt to life after trauma.
Known for his innovation of the Western Armenian novel, Vorpouni challenges the narrative elements of the conventional novel by playing with subjectivity and linearity. His melding of contemporary French literary and intellectual currents produces a literary and cultural hybrid unique in Western Armenian literature.