Ravens before Noah, by Susanna Harutyunyan


 

Tsitsernak, 2015 ISBN 978-9939-864-06-8 187 pages English translation samples available

The novel is set in an Armenian mountainous village in 1915-1960. An old man with a new born baby boy saved by him escape from “Hamidian massacres” in Turkey in 1894 and establish themselves in the ruins of demolished and abandoned village. The village soon became a shelter for many others, who fled from problems with law, their families and past lives. The villagers survive in this secret shelter, cut from the rest of the world, by selling or exchanging their own agricultural products in the villages down the mountain.

In 1915, after the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, a new wave of immigrants arrives to the village. The young boy saved by the old man, Harut, is a young man now and he falls for a beautiful girl who arrives to the village being tortured and raped by Turkish soldiers. She is pregnant and the old women of the village want to kill the twin baby girls as they are born, to wash away the shame. They do not succeed as Harut protects the young mother, Nakhshun and the babies. Consequently, they are being ignored by everyone in the village and as girls grow they are being constantly harassed and mocked by kids and young man. One of the sisters soon gets pregnant and dies during abortion.

In 1945 Soviet government sends German war-prisoners for construction works close to the hidden village. The villagers start to offer food and medical care to the prisoners and are soon being exposed by Soviet militia. Nakhshun is sent to labor camp accused in being a Turkish spy, Harut is missing and it is unclear whether he survived or was also “taken away”.

One of the German prisoners (who is the prototype of Nobel prize winner Konrad Lorenz who spent some of his prison years at a labor camp in Armenia) takes the second girl of the twins with him back to Europe at the end of his imprisonment.

You can request an excerpt in English translation.