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Book of the Week: The Ghosts of Anatolia

February 21, 2014

GhostsAnatoliaby CHRISTOPHER PIRIC

The Ghosts of Anatolia is a gripping and heart-wrenching adventure novel by Dr. Steven E. Wilson that chronicles the suffering and path to forgiveness of a young boy during the Armenian Genocide. The lurid yet intriguing tale begins with disgruntled and grumpy Sirak Kazerian who leaves his house in search for coffee only to find his son Keri conversing with George Liralian, the man who he blames for concealing the truth behind the death of his other son, Ara. After beating George over the head with his cane, Sirak is chided and taken home by his son. When the two engage in an intense heart-to-heart, Keri inquires about his family’s origins, which Sirak has neglected to share for many years. After Keri persistently probes, Sirak reluctantly agrees to recount his and his family’s devastating experience.

Sirak goes on to share his harrowing account of the unspeakable atrocities he endured during the Genocide, including the splintering of his family and the shattering of innocence. In doing so he dissolves the tension between him and his son, brought about by apprehensive secrecy.

Although the work is historical fiction it reads like a true account and illustrates in careful and factual detail the grim realities of Armenians and other non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It is not just one story, but the coalescence of millions of accounts; in one way or another the encounters and scenarios outlined in The Ghosts of Anatolia reflect the struggles and trials that Armenian victims actually suffered.

Wilson doesn’t only intend to show the ugliness and depravity of the Armenian Genocide. He also endeavors to underscore the pockets of heroism and empathy in a seemingly endless chasm of hatred and incredulous savagery. Like the many courageous Germans who sheltered and hid the Jews during Nazi tyranny, the novel is replete with brave souls such as Dr. Charles and Nurse Elizabeth Barton, American Physicians who risked their lives to aid and shelter the Kazerians and made it possible for Sirak to carry on the family legacy, after a gruesome and nearly fatal viper attack. Wilson seeks to highlight that even in hostile and uncertain socio-political climates there always exist beacons of hope, charity, and compassion. Those heroes are emblems of unbounded kindness and sacrifice amidst brutality and barbarity founded upon ignorance, and are akin to the delicate yet bold, red roses that grow outside the bleak Puritan prison in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

The Ghosts of Anatolia, while a whopping 452 pages and 62 chapters long, is definitely worthy of a read, if not several. It is a supreme work of scholarship and a testament to the solidarity and perseverance of Armenians; despite being victims of a horrific, calculated extermination at the hands of a nefarious and insidious regime, the Armenian community still holds onto a rich and unique heritage that spans several millennia, and that is truly remarkable.

Dr. Steven E. Wilson is an optometrist and cell biologist who became aware of, and intrigued by the atrocities that occurred in the Ottoman Empire when he visited the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem. He gives medical lectures around the world, and, due to his frequent traveling, has developed a keen interest in Middle-Eastern and Asian cultures. In November of 2010 he presented his book at the Zohrab Center and a brief interview with him in October of 2010 can be found on the blog. In addition to the Ghosts of Anatolia, Dr. 2014-02 PiricWilson has also written Winter in Kandahar, Dalliance in Dubai, and Ascent from Darkness.

Steven E. Wilson, The Ghosts of Anatolia. Hailey-Grey Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0972948036.

Christopher Piric is a junior at Hofstra University in New York studying Linguistics and Anthropology. He is a 2013-14 intern at the Zohrab Information Center, where he assists in the cataloging of rare Armenian books.

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