Projects of Literary Ark in 2012


Writers’ Initiative to adopt a tree with plaque in the Genocide Museum’s garden of Yerevan in 2012 (while the city is World Book Capital)


Writers of the Literary Ark have expressed their solidarity and awareness by making a request to the organization of Yerevan World Book Capital, as well as to the specific Armenian authorities concerned with the legacy and heritage of the genocide on its people committed before and during the First World War, to adopt a young tree in the garden of the Genocide Museum in Yerevan. On the plaque that goes with the tree, the name of the Literary Ark Festival 2001/2011 would be mentioned, plus the names of the countries of the writers supporting the initiative.

György Konrád, president of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin, some years ago (July 16th 2000) held a speech in the German capitol, in front of more than one hundred European writers from 43 countries, stating that Europe in his eyes is – apart from being a battered continent of shared trading zones and severe boundaries – a continent of words. Henceforth he told the anecdote of the Buddhist monk from Japan who returned to his country after a visit to Europe. ‘And, please tell us, how are they, those Europeans?’, his colleagues wanted to know. His answer was: ‘Nice people. But they talk too much…’

‘If the EU means something more than an economical flirt,’ Konrád pronounced, ‘you also have to show some willingness to look into the soul of other, fellow Europeans. By means of reading literary books e.g., written in other European countries.’ Konrád said so in a white tent placed on the Bebelplatz, in front of the Von Humboldtuniversiteit, the very place where the Nazi’s organized their public burning of books, on 10th of May 1933, of Jewish writers and other ‘entartete’ (deranged) intellectuals. It also is the place where the Israeli sculptor Misha Ullman built a book depot underground, with white empty bookshelves that are visible from the street level through a transparent plaque under which the gloomy prophecy of Heinrich Heine from 1810 is written: the burning of books will most likely also result in the burning of human beings (‘…dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.’

In the 19th century national cultures were constructed with help of the imagination of writers, scientists and historians. In the 21st century, we see each other in front of the challenge to construct – from the rumbles of two world wars and one cold war – a democratic, wealthy  and elevated Europe for more than 350 million of its citizens. Hopefully this construction will not only take place on an administrative and political level. The foundation of a European culture will be a task for the younger and coming generation: not only politicians and businessmen, but also artists, writers, moviemakers. ‘For me personally it means,’ Konrád told in Berlin, ‘that nobody can rule uniquely over Europe. Many have tried, but all of them failed. None of them could beat the strength of European individuals and their humanistic values…’

The strength and prosperity of Europe is closely intertwined with its pluralism. The bouquet blossoms when the flowers open, without the entire bundle falling apart. The binding role of the EU still happens to be so superficial, that not more than 0,1% of the budget is being spent on culture (that is twenty times as little as in the field of defence). Europe should stimulate the translation and co-finance the publication of books throughout all of the European countries. This should become something natural, because exactly books can enhance the understanding among nations and people. The  EU should make it one of its principles to also spread around the production of relevant artistic films and music from other European countries. A European literature already existed a long time before the idea of a European Coal and Steel Community came about. The mere existence of a European literary and cultural awareness fortunately are not depending on the EU, but when the reverse is going to be the case (when the EU remains ignorant of  the specific culture and literature of its member states) there will be a growing indifference between fellow citizens that will definitely harm the cohesion of the Union in the end.

But there is one thing more that is – and should definitely be – a binding force for Europe. The fundament on which our continent is built and without which our continent, its Union and aspiring (or non-aspiring) memberstates, cannot stand firm for future times to come. This force, is the evitable presence of a basic moral ground on which Europe as a spiritual and cultural entity was found. To put it clearly: Europe is not only a communion of goods, neither can it merely be a political entity of democratically proposed and bureactratically enhanced rules of law. Europe is also a community of values. Of awareness. Truthfullness. And responsability. And thus of a willingness to  be critical towards our neighbours as towards ourselves. To be supportive of each other when needed, and proud of one another when there is reason for it. One of the main trades that falls out of this community of values we as Europeans stand for, is the refusal to come to terms with the past. To deny, falsify or minimize obvious facts of history that could depict a less glorious image of ourselves than desired. Or to remain ignorant of the fatal fate of fellow Europeans who have been driven to the abyss of genocide and extermination in various epochs of war.

The writers of the Literary Ark as well as its participants from around our continent, who have signed this petition and support the initiative to adopt a young blue den in the garden of the genocide museum in Yerevan, would hereby like to show their awareness of the gross injustice and horrors that have been inflicted on the Armenian people at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is a mark of solidarity, that we in the rest of Europe have not forgotton – as Hitler rhetorically asked a German crowd of Wehrmacht soldiers back in 1942 in a speech about the complete eradication of the German enemies; be they soldiers, women, children or old folks: “who in fact still remembers the extermination of the Armenians back in 1915 and 1916?”

The process of ongoing peace, stability and wealth on the entire continent, stands or falls with the willingness for mutual political trust and cultural solidarity. Europe, and certainly the EU, is not meant to be a temporary syndicate of collaboration, but a first draft for a larger project of civil and even cosmopolitan dimensions.  Without this sincere willingness to show interest in and solidarity with our neighbours and fellow citizens, be they from nearby or afar, neither Europe nor the EU shall have a future. This is the great difference between Europe and other continents. Because Japan until today still did not recognize that its imperial regime committed gross acts of horror during World War II in Corea and China, every form of cooperation between these Asian powers remains largely superficial. The same thing should be taken into account for Turkey, if it is serious in its ambitions to become a full member of the European Union in the coming era. Ankara, as a foolish child, keeps on denying the responsibility its country has in the determined acts of extermination that caused one quarter of all Armenian people to be eradicated of the earth where they had lived for many centuries if not longer. If Turkey wants to be part of Europe, it should no longer deny the overwhelming historical evidence of the massacres that have indeed taken place under the flag of its young nation that was born so bloodily one century ago. The Armenian genocide, finally should find its place in Turkish history books in a proper and just way. And the barbaric wall between Turkey and Armenia – this hermetically sealed of fence that is an anomaly in our post-cold war era of globalization and profitable neighbourship – should  be torn down. Such that the belate Ottoman notion of Turkey as a superior country who should never be taught a lesson by any of its neighbours, can finally come to its necessary end.

The Armenian genocide – whether we like it or not – is part of our shared European history. The one and perhaps even two and a half million of Armenians who have perished in the desert have not been forgotten. Neither shall all the others who were forcefully led to mass execution by the hands of merciless young Turks and their complicit bands of armoured mercenaries who – for once and for all – were determined to resolve “the Armenian problem” within the empire’s drastically shrinking territory. This adopted tree is our humble sign of recognition to all those masses of Armenians who have perished in a cruel, unjust way, barely out of sight of our European eyes. But not of our consciousness.

This tree, that is planted in the saturated soil of our continent’s bellingerent past, is a frail but meaningfull sign of a bond of a shared and age old history and of mutual values. Just as well, the tree is a symbol of life that springs up from the compost of our past, growing upward. Transcending boundaries of gravitation and even of time. The tree of life, also a basic symbol on most of the Kachkhars – the stone crosses that mark the Armenian landscape alongside christian monasteries and graveyards – is in itself a mark of hope and illumination. The tree is part of a stelos worshipping helos: the sun. But in the very end, our tree may also be the marking sign for where we want to draw the boundaries of our values and culture, as well as of our common future.

Serge van Duijnhoven, the Netherlands.

Arlette van Laar, the Netherlands.

Filip van Zandycke, Belgium.

Patricia Maes, Belgium.

David Matevossian, Armenia.

Cora Westerink, Armenia.

Mare Sabolotny, Estonia

Vahur Afanasjev, Estonia

Leo Butnaru, Moldova-Romania

Swantje Lichtenstein, Germany

Claudio Pozzani, Italy

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Enver en Gemal Pasha van de jonge TurkenEnver en Gemal Pasha van de jonge Turken


For pictures of the genocide, check out:

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