“Our revenge will be to survive”: Two Irish Narrations of the Armenian Genocide

Donatella Abbate Badin


The 1915-1922 Armenian Genocide has been the subject of memoirs and historical accounts, most of them written by diasporic Armenians, but, unlike the Shoah, has not inspired much creative literature. It is therefore the more surprising that the latest fictional accounts should come from Ireland. Anyush (2014), the novel of Limerick-born Martine Madden, and a film called The Promise (2015) by the Irish director Terry George, both tell moving and impossible love stories which are a thin pretext for eliciting empathy for the sufferings of the Armenians and fighting the lack of recognition of the genocide. While giving a graphic description of the abuses at the hands of Turkish soldiers and of the nightmarish journey of the deportees starved to death, decimated by epidemics and herded through mountains and deserts with no precise destination except death, the two authors evoke memories of similar past and present actions in the world intended to annihilate an ethnic group with its language and culture. Writing about one group resonates against the histories of the others, in a sort of mise en abyme of blind human violence and ethnic hatred. The interest of Madden and George in the historical facts concerning this large Christian minority of the Ottoman Empire, much as it was inspired by compassion and a desire to denounce this still unrecognized massacre, may be due to a special sensitivity to the suppression of identity linked to a nationalist reading of the history of Ireland and more particularly of the Great Famine.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/SIJIS-2239-3978-23375

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