March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
“The Fool” Խենթը is written by Raffi, (Hakob Melik Hakobian). Raffi being his pseudonym. I have read the translation by Jane S. Wingate, which has been brilliantly done to replicate and translate the exact words Raffi had chosen to write his book. This is not one of those books which you find regularly in the store which contain a happy ending, where everyone is content at the end and has everything they wish for. “The Fool” is different in that matter. It gives the reader a much more realistic view by telling the story slowly, developing the characters slowly without much of an anti-climax. It gives a near, non-fictional view of what life in Armenia was like for the people in 1877-78 prior to the war. It gives the reader an insight what the common people had to go through, the simple workers, his family and children, the soldiers, and how they all were affected by the forthcoming of the Russo-Turkish war and the closing in by the bordering countries and betrayal of their own people. Focussing on one particular good-hearted landlord and his family and their friends, to tell how they once lived in prosperity and happiness and how it was all stripped away from them slowly, bit by bit and leads to their tragic ending.
The story is not told in chronological manner. It begins with the main character, Vartan, at the start of the fierce war after leaving Old Khacho, fighting the Turks and Kurds whilst being the minority being attacked from all sides. The book starts with the proverb: “The fool rolled a stone into a pit; a hundred wise men came to the rescue but they could not draw it out. While the prudent man is considering the fool is across the river and away.”. Already a linkage to the title has been made. The reader already establishes some understanding on young Vartan’s complicated, character who is the only one out there who does not shed a tear as the men, women and children are slaughtered and their homes are burned to ashes. He looks upon the events with outrage, witnessing how the Armenians bear no resistance at all to their attackers, instead, falling to their knees and begging for mercy. One of the observants calls him ‘heartless’, but Vartan does not reply; “This people do not know how to die with honour.”. He mutters, indicating his indignation against the behaviour of his people and his disapproval of it.
This is an excellent book for someone wanting to have basic idea and understanding on the painfully hard struggle and historical context, pre Armenian Genocide, and experience what they saw and encounters through their eyes and their emotions and how strong they remained and the developing love between two innocent souls, destined to never be together. That along with the countless number of witty comments, anecdotes and proverbs which add humour to this deeply saddening novel.