by Lorne Shirinian
Intimate Spaces explores what it is like to share space during times of genocide, war, and a pandemic. “Guests,” is the story of a young Armenian woman who leaves her home and family in Eastern Anatolia to escape the outbreak of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in 1915. Siran Mazmanian makes her way alone to Paris where soon after settling in with her friend from home writes a play to expose what her family and fellow compatriots are suffering. During World War I, Paris is suffering from the ravages of the war. Families are torn apart. More and more of the wounded return from the front to a city that has little to offer them. The new environment has shrunk social spaces compressing emotions and raising tensions. Siran tries without success to have her play staged and published. She finds a job teaching the children of Armenian refugees who have come to Paris as the Genocide has uprooted them. Thirty-five years later, her son produces her play and continues the political activism that her mother was known for.
“Subway,” the second story, is told in a long interior monologue by Nate Miradjian, a seventy-five year-old-writer who has written many stories, poems and plays, but his lack of success publishing them frustrates him. He recently lost his best friend to the covid-19 virus in Toronto and watches as some neighbours in his building are also taken by the illness. As he deals with the dead and dying around him, he recalls his relationship with Laure Bernheim, his psychologist and former girlfriend and their discussions on how he as a second-generation witness to the Armenian Genocide must accept his responsibility to perpetuate the memory of those lost as well as to fight the denial by the guilty. During an event in 1985 after several attacks in the province by Armenian terrorists, an anonymous call warns the police that the Toronto subway system has been rigged with explosives by Armenians. Nate along with many from the community as well as local politicians ride the subway to show the city they are not afraid. During this underground voyage, Nate has an epiphany in which he sees the subway as a rhizome, an extended metaphor for living in the diaspora. This empowers him to see the diaspora in a different and subversive way. He ponders his life and the possibility of a new girlfriend, as each day, more are taken away to the hospital.