by George Mahari
Gurgen Mahari’s controversial novel, Burning Orchards, is set in the Ottoman city of Van, Eastern Anatolia, during the period leading up to the Armenian rebellion of 1915 and relates to epic story of the events which culminated in the catastrophe of the following years, wonderfully told by one of the great writers emerging from Soviet Armenia.
Written with an abiding humanity, Mahari’s characters are portrayed as complex and flawed – neither hero nor villain but keenly observed and evoked with a tender humor. Burning Orchards offers a version of events leading up to to the siege of Van different from the received, politically charged accounts, even daring to reflect something of the loyalty many Ottoman Armenians had felt towards the former Empire.
The translation offered here is of the banned 1966 publication.