'EDGE OF THE WORLD' REFLECTS COMMON HISTORY - AUSTRALIAN WRITER ON GENOCIDE NOVEL

14:13 * 23.04.15

Tert.am has interviewed Marsella Poleyn, an Australian writer whose
novel, the "Edge of the World", recounts the story of the Armenian
Genocide.

Poleyn, who is an Armenian on her mother's side, is now in Armenia
to take part in the annual literary festival "Literary Ark" (which
this year has been renamed "Literary Ark: April", as the country is
observing the centenary of the Genocide ).

The writer shared details of the novel and her reflections on the
big tragedy that claimed 1.5 million Armenians' lives 100 years ago.

Ms Poleyn, how did you come up with the idea of writing the novel?

'The Edge of the World' was written, using the oral history that my
mother gave me about what happened to her family in the Genocide. When
I was a girl, I would ask her about the family but she would freeze and
be unable to speak. And that was something very frightening. But when I
became an adult, she started to tell me the story of what happened. So
we had a conversation that continued for nearly 13 years until she
passed away. And in 1999, I decided to go back to the university and
began a PhD. And I wrote "The Edge of the World" as part of that. It
took me eight years to research and write it. And unfortunately,
my mother passed away not even a year before it was published. And
she knew all about it. It is divided into three parts: the first
part is my imagining of my grandparents' story, imagining a space on
historical research that I undertook and also what my mother knew.

The second part is about my mother growing up in Jerusalem after
the Genocide as a part of the Diaspora. The third part is her life
in Australia, the place where I live. And the narrator of that part
is a person like me; it's not me. I wanted to try to explore what
happened in the family after the Genocide.

When doing your research or having the book published, did you meet
any obstacles?

Genocide is a subtle topic; you are regularly encountered with
disinterest, misunderstanding, ignorance. It might be something like
this: I was in a shop buying an antique Armenian carpet recently and
having a conversation with the woman who knew well the Armenians. And
an old man came and hearing the conversation asked, 'You're Armenian?'
and when I said 'Yes', he asked me another question, about the genocide
- whether the Genocide was based on religion -and as I tried to give
him a full answer, but he didn't want to hear me. That kind of things
happen very often.

You are an Armenian on your mother's side. So my next question is
whether in your creative activitiy, you feel the genetic memory,
the fact that your ancestors saw the massacre.

I don't fully understand how that works; it has been my experience.

But I really understand that there is something that we carry from
the events.

As a writer and an intellectual, do you feel an obligation to raise
awareness of the Genocide? And probably, "Edge of the World" is
intended to serve that purpose?

Yes, my purpose was informing the world because in Australia ignorance
of the Genocide was quite staggering when I was young.

I can say that 'Edge of the World' is my story but it is not my story;
it is such a common story for the Armenian people that it stands for
all the stories that hadn't been told."

What are your reflections on the continuing campaign towards Armenian
Genocide recognition? Will it succeed?

All my Armenian colleagues are very hopeful that Turkey will
acknowledge the Genocide. But I don't know; don't hope so. But I also
recognize that there is a growing movement in Turkey that things will
change in here

In your novel you depict the story of a Turkish family, dwelling on
events that span from 1900 to 2000. Was that an attempt to hint that
the problem hasn't been resolved for 100 years? Did you introduce a
kind of allegory in your message?

Yes I do, and particularly because I live in Australia. The last
section of the book deals with what it's like to be an Armenian in
Australia. And my mother was traumatized by my opening; she didn't
want to pass through that trauma and yet, she couldn't help but do so.

She was very proud to be an Armenian. So there were two things -
opposite things - happening at the same time. And I do want the book
to raise the question - that there is this historical injustice, that
these events really happened and we have to keep the question alive,
because if we don't, I don't know what is going happen later.

http://www.tert.am/en/news/2015/04/23/marsella/1652135