Armenians in Books
Two Armenian writers quoted and discussed in John Updike’s High Gossip: Essays & Criticism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 502 pages. 2011) are William Saroyan and Nina Berberova who has a great deal to say about her Armenian family in her memoirs, The Italics Are Mine.
In reference to Saroyan’s short story “Resurrection of a Life,” in The Best American Short Stories of the Century (edited by John Updike and Katrina Kenison), Updike writes: “With an exuberant, cocky sweep William Saroyan sums up in a few headlong paragraphs the religious mystery, ‘somehow deathless,’ of being alive.”
To illustrate how far we have fallen, in his Traveller and His Road, Zarian mentions Armenians who in the Middle Ages ruled empires and introduced Christianity to the West. “Let us not forget,” he writes, “that our apostles who journeyed westwards, to Italy itself, carried with them royal splendour (San Miniato, Rex Ermine).”
In her fascinating biography of Heinrich Mann, brother of Thomas Mann, Evelyn Juers writes: “Miniato [Minas] was a rich Armenian merchant prince who served in the Roman Army, was denounced as a Christian and subjected to a series of tortures all of which he miraculously survived. On the gallows, as protection against weapons hurled and shot at him, an angel clothed Miniato in a cloak of brilliant light. When he was decapitated, legend has it that he picked up his head and reattached it to his body. He died a martyr in a cave nearby. The church [San Miniato al Monte in Florence — 'some think the finest Romanesque church in all of Italy'] bears his relics and his name.” For more on this subject, see Evelyn Juers, House of Exile: The Lives and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Mann (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 384 pages. 2011).