Monday, April 6, 2009

Genocide with Yoghurt

Here's a book review that shows how history has the ability to reach out of the past and rattle us, no matter how much we pretend to be forward-looking.

Last month, while I was visiting my father in Florida, we had dinner one night with my aunt. We were discussing the way Jim Jones had poisoned 900 of his followers with cyanide-laced Flavor Aid in 1978, and suddenly my aunt was explaining that another way to poison someone is with a yogurt smoothie. "That's how the Turks poisoned your grandmother's classmates in Constantinople in 1915," she said. "They poisoned the tahn."

This story was new to me, and I am 47. But as a second-generation Armenian American, I've found that it's not uncommon for one of these UFO horror stories to materialize out of nowhere over coffee.

Thus begins Chris Bohjalian's review of Armenian Golgotha, by Grigory Balakian. It hardly sounds like a pleasant read, but well may be a necessary one, especially if you're of the persuasion that knowing history and engaging with it is preferable to having it spring on you unawares.

Hitler, by the way, knew his history. He repeatedly told that what he learned from the Armenian genocide was that no-one cared at the time, and no-one remebered afterwards.

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