Category: Germany

«American Prayer,» a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq

«American Prayer» was first published in Volume 10 of The American Journal of Poetry (January 1st, 2021). 

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

American Prayer

A long time has passed
since I’ve been alive;
that was when waves
convinced me
of the ocean’s danger,
when fires lit for no purpose
could feel warm,
when the composer’s ear
still heard joy in laughter,
when the cook’s tongue
never spoke a gloomy word,
when the killer’s hand
cut with the same care
as the surgeon’s,
when a mother’s eyes
could stand to watch
her children fall—
if only, for a second,
to study
the world’s pain.
Say, how do you feel naked
in a room where no one
wants to turn on the light?
How do you feel at home
when every neighbor hates you—
but only because they admire your house?
My world has become a jungle
in which I’m always in danger,
but where I feel no fear;
my thoughts have become a circus
in which I mustn’t trust
the goodness of clowns—
especially when they’re smiling.
I can no longer tell
the lions apart.
I’ve built so many cages
for myself—the wilderness
inside me has escaped;
my anger is an arsonist
happily lighting
just one candle in church—
then leaving without regret;
my depression washes
the windows of skyscrapers
without ever looking down.
The Europe I’ve known
has vanished like a prostitute
everyone wants to sleep with,
but no one cares to look for.
The America I’ve disowned
has returned like an illness
I brought upon myself.
America, I’m a smoker
trying to treat cancer
without quitting cigarettes.
Europe, I need a feminist wife,
the one who’ll obey
my every command
because she wants to—
and feels empowered
to act this way.
What’s next? Asia?
Like winter searching
for love in the mountains,
like summer trying to hide
its secret from fire,
I’ve run away from myself—
I’ve gone somewhere new
where it’s always the same,
where everyone knows
who I am because they’ve never
seen me before.
I’m giving myself away
like an artist no one can stand,
but everyone wants to collect.
The world is imposing itself
like a virgin looking to rape someone.
Every government has made
me hate the silence
of crowded libraries.
Every institution has given
me reasons to question
the shape of a question mark.
I’ve lost all faith in my prophets—
every day I laugh
at their caricatures.
My courage is a cartoonist
living in France who draws
what he wants but never
shows his work out of fear.
My cage is a religion
that tells me I’m free—
so long as I don’t leave it.
No, it’s better to bury
the words of dead
seers and their rules
all over Europe’s streets;
they resemble the abyss
you find at the bottom
of someone’s cup
when they’re drinking alone
and the bartender
will no longer serve them.
Like a terrorist
without friends looking
for a crowd,
I’ve come to hate
the happiness of large parties;
my own whiskey is sweeter
and I can’t stand the bitterness
when I’m not drinking it.
Still, I despise the smiles
of a thousand strangers.
I’ve begun admiring the mountains
like a geographer
who can’t wait to retire.
I start my prayers like poor
people who want to steal,
but don’t have the courage for it.
I watch every sunset
like an old man that knows
he isn’t waking up tomorrow.
I wait and wait for the sunrise
like a drunk woman
anxious to get a better look
at her one-night stand.
At noon, I ask myself questions—
the ones which bore
even fat philosophers
who’ve done too much
sitting and thinking.
After lunch, I think
about the loaded revolver
under my pillow,
and this makes me tired—
I take a nap and fly
myself to the next sunset.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

Armenian Genocide, a poem by David Garyan published in Interlitq

This poem previously appeared in Volume 7 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2019).

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 


Daniel, this holocaust is for you.
Let me burn your blank pages,
soak the ashes in history’s blood—
just to darken it.
What’s your shade of red?
Do you know its price?
Your rubies aren’t ruby enough.
The government gods
want more holocausts—
just to be appeased.
Let your books go to the fire,
along with all Armenian bodies—
is that enough works cited?
Maybe then regimes
would say “genocide,”
and Turkey could apologize—
at last … no one’s left
to demand redress,
or even an apology.
This is the only holocaust I can offer;
it’s mine and it’s not mine.

I would throw our legends
into Ծիծեռնակաբերդ—
I would set all our churches on fire,
spoil our monuments
in the blaze as a holocaust,
just to bring everyone back.
What have we done to anger the gods?
What have we done to deserve this?
And yet all will be well.
People and land are gone,
but we stood at Sardarabad.
We’re still here.
Let me tell you about those
who were with you—
some had no country then;
Slovakia and the Czech Republic
are less than 30 years old,
and they haven’t forgotten.
I’m now 31, the age when you died,
and death doesn’t scare me yet,
but when your captors raised knives,
you heard hope—
it was escaping like hummingbirds
in your lungs trying to pierce their way out.
How did you steal enough air
to express your torture,
much less breathe?
Uruguay first heard your cries,
then Cyprus, Argentina, Russia,
Greece, Canada, Lebanon, Belgium, France,
Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland, the Netherlands,
Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Venezuela,
Chile, Sweden, Bolivia, Austria, Brazil,
Syria, Paraguay, Luxembourg, Bulgaria,
and, of course, Armenia
never stopped listening.
More people will hear you.
More people will come.
Raphael Lemkin took the last breath
of each victim to beget
the term “genocide.”
This word used to be our word,
and, sadly, it no longer is;
others have died to breathe life
into this name and I wish
things were different.
The world is less innocent
with “genocide” in it.
Everyone can hear
your last breath,
but many fear repeating
what they heard:

“Genocide.”

Your final gasp is my holocaust.
Forgive me. My paper is just paper,
but this ink will reach
your grave.
Tell me—is revenge
a good thing if it feels good?
Those behind our suffering
were sentenced to death,
but they all escaped justice.
We put down
the main architects
of our plight,
and Europe’s courts
have absolved us,
but even European courts
can’t make God preside over them—
I ask that you pray
for our race when we praise
the revenge of our brothers.
Like wind scattering a torn book,
the genocide has strewn
survivors across the world.
Much of the pain
can no longer be felt,
only understood—
time has lulled
the red ink to black.
I won’t let
years and statistics
keep your blood from drying.
I won’t let wise ears
of old history
go deaf to your cries.
The poet isn’t the historian of facts.
You’re the archivist
of laughter and tears.
Inside your pen were voices
from near and distant futures.
The bard is a chronicler,
but he has hemophilia;
those who injure him
incur torment—
they must endure
the endless howls of his ink;
to kill poets is to kill one’s self—
read lines enter
the murderer’s nation
and speak to the soil—
forcing honest crops to grow there.
Denial—prisons without walls or guards
surrounded by minefields.
Denial—truth that wears gloves
when handling ethics.
Denial—hospitals that only
admit healthy people.
Denial—palm trees of regret
planted deep in the desert—
no one can reach
their dates of apology.
Denial marks moveable
feasts on calendars without numbers.
Denial blindfolds justice—
just to let killers escape.
Denial hangs a noose
in cells of the innocent.
Denial arrests the blameless,
severs their tongue and hands,
then says: “All are free to acquit
themselves of stealing and slander.”
Still, the pens we left
were picked up,
carried by righteous palms,
which saved the books
of our history;
foreign tongues tasted the lies
and stopped them like circles
trapped in a circle.
Daniel, your name
has erased the word “denial”
from the Murder Dictionary;
its authors now trudge deserts
of reason to hide from your face;
they have no ink to quench
their lexicons of shame.
The culprit lies,
claiming Armenians
were the enemy.
Have you seen such enemies
die without weapons?

The sinner boasts, claiming Armenians
were dangerous—the desert marches
served as brief transfers.
Did you know people
must be raped and starved
on long walks to a new home?

The crook twists, claiming Armenians
were the real killers.
Have you seen genocide
memorials in foreign countries
honoring murderers?



The conniver acts, claiming Armenians
and Turks were killing each other.
Have you seen a more one-sided defeat?
Can unarmed armies
lose wars this badly?

The thief hides, claiming Armenians
were better off,
and this led to jealousy.
Could it be true?
Maybe diplomas and wealth
are cause for genocide:

“The Armenians were better educated and wealthier than most Turks and because of that were envied and hated, so much so that the government instituted a program of ethnic cleansing. The Turks had had practice runs before. Between 1894 and 1896, 200,000 Armenians were massacred by soldiers and armed mobs.”
The Australian, “Geoffrey Robertson puts the case against Turkey for 1915 Armenian genocide” (2015)

Those are the accusations.
Forgive me once more.
I shouldn’t have refuted
claims that don’t deserve
our ink, or even attention,
but like revenge—
what can be wrong
often feels good.
Still, as victims,
we can’t take our red
bed sheets and pillows—
forcing the innocent
to sleep on them;
they need peace
as much as we do.
We can’t forget
the righteous;
only denial and murder
makes one a menace—
not birth alone.
Your life was a garden
where bodies were buried.
Your death is a graveyard
where strangers
leave the dead flowers.
I tried taking your tears
off this page by holding
the paper up to the sun,
but the words never dried.
Never mind.
I’ll stop writing this poem
when your life gives me one
metaphor for happiness.
You haven’t left us—
we’re archaeologists of echoes.
The desert’s breath
still speaks your name.
How can I find truth
in archives and books—
their voice is distorted
by those who keep them?
Even the white gloves
I must wear can’t silence
the racket of cities.
The poet’s truth sounds true
at first sound.
I ask you again:
What price is your red shade?
Is it higher on earth than in heaven?
They want too much for it here.
They need to measure
the pH of your blood—
perhaps it was too acidic.
They’d like to research
how far you walked
to your death—
if you didn’t walk at all,
or only very little,
you should be thankful
for the killer’s kindness.
They want to debate—
were you given
something to eat
on your death march?
Even crumbs
from a guilty hand can wipe
the blood away from its history.
They crave to count
the bodies again—
the death toll was inflated,
and statistics are very important:
One, two, three,
four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine, ten, eleven,
twelve, thirteen, fourteen,
fifteen, sixteen, seventeen,
eighteen, nineteen, twenty,
21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27,
28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34,
XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII,
XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL,
XLI, XLII, XLIII, XLIV,
XLV, XLVI, XLVII, XLVIII …
if less than a million died,
this woman becomes a doctor
of history and data.

Those who deny,
kill the victims’ memories—
they inherit the crimes
of their ancestors.
Rest here, friend; the worst is over.
Science says you can’t
breathe underwater;
it says most lungs
can stop textbook drowning
for a minute or so;
after that the brain
turns to “D” in its wordbook—
it goes down
the terms until its own
inventions can’t rescue you.
But how is that true?
Victims can breathe
under innocent blood.

How else can God keep
a race from perishing?
Why else have history’s
sluggish eyes
never witnessed
a final genocide?
Its pages are honest,
but they can only be honest
with what they’ve seen.
Geschichte is a guest who must describe
a party where thousands
have gathered—without the time
to shake everyone’s hand.
The tongues of foreign pens
tasted our blood
and spoke the word “genocide.”
The fingers of foreign brushes
forced guilt to open its fist.
The hands of foreign lenses
led eyes to the bodies
and made them discover;
yet history had no time
to meet everyone.
Too many songs
have been orphaned in the wind’s ears.
Too much laughter has been shelved
in the library without windows.
Too much anger has traveled
inside the unaddressed envelope.
Too much hope glows
in the stained glass of lost churches.
Poets can speak the wind’s alphabet;
they can pound on doors
of libraries without windows;
they can take blank envelopes
and address them to the fire;
they can bring light
to dark mornings,
but even we can’t make
old days see a new past.
We can only wonder:
How long could history
keep its eyes open
if it had to face
each dead child,
each raped woman?
We can only fathom:
When would the objective
voice of its pages
start shaking
if it had to find every body—
just to count it?
We can only picture:
Might its cold arms
finally give up
if sources had to lead
all corpses back
to their homes?
We can only imagine:
How much blood can it stomach
before the archives throw up
truth in disgust?

Again I ask:
How much for a bard’s blood?
History is the past’s shepherd,
but its flock has become too large—
it can no longer see till the end.
There’s not enough time
to notice small losses.
Poetry is the future’s steward,
yet it’s losing the fight against time;
it wants to save all lives,
but there’s not enough paper
to hide victims under blankets of verse.
You had no time to wait for art.
When they dragged
you to the forest,
you scratched
your lines of death on the bark—
all with bloody fingernails,
until you had no biology
left to write with.
The memories of trees
live the longest.
Even if their life is cut short,
some can sprout
new stems from their roots.
The history of blood
doesn’t exist in libraries;
the ashes of wisdom
we’ve planted in our archives
can’t absorb buried voices
and carry them to the leaves—
their roots
aren’t placed in the ground.
The history of blood
doesn’t have dates—
just the symbol for infinity.
Cruelty’s extent lies
in the number of prisons,
and how we treat women,
but that’s all false.
To measure
the volume of gore,
see how many new words
we need to define massacres:
pogrom, genocide, the Holocaust.
What’s next?
Can I be wrong about infinity?
Let “Holocaust” be the last
term for plight.
What’s the difference
between one death and ten million?
Tell me, Daniel.
History opens its eyes,
weighing loss with a scale;
poetry closes its eyes,
measuring with the heart.
The Library of Genocide
is built out of mirrors;
when the past enters,
it sees its reflection,
but the Library never tells
the biographer of blood
that all mirrors are two-way—
that bards are looking
in from the outside.
Only poets can interrogate history—
only poets can bring it to trial.
Their eyes are two flashes
of lightning striking a forest at night.
Their testimony is evidence
gathered by saints.
Your son was born
on the day of your death—
a welcome blessing,
but even the bard’s
house of language
doesn’t have space
to lodge these guests together.
Your wife wasn’t afraid
to name him “Haig,”
even when the tongue
of the killer’s blade
was after Armenian flesh.
The living can’t understand
the word “genocide.”
Only victims who spilled
their lives on page “G”
of the Blood Dictionary
know the true meaning—
this is a torment your offspring
weren’t forced to endure.
Poets know where
they must dig to build wells
that will raise tears
from the ground,
but they’d rather be asked
to do harder things—
speak with the frankness
of children who are good
storytellers, but poor liars.
All kids
know what blood is,
even if they can’t say
it has an average pH of 7.40
and holds 4.2 to 6.1 million erythrocytes.
All kids
can recognize the guise of genocide,
even if it wears the friendly face
of a low number.

Bards lie—
but only like youngsters;
they steal truth from the blood jar,
but never clean their mouths.
They guide archaeologists
to buried graveyards—
no pen stops digging
when hands are cut off.
Yet, we’d rather be asked
to do harder things,
like visit decency’s drying cement
and write “forgiveness”—
before it’s too late.
If we demand with axes,
the tree of denial won’t yield
apology’s ripe fruits—
we must save the roots
after picking the red grapes.
We’re geographers who’ve lost
our homes—the land
we must study
no longer bears our names,
but even this isn’t hopeless;
it’s easier to leave
regret’s shore with torn canvases.
Rage will rage at the avalanche,
even from its own summit.
Peace will find peace in all temples.
We create our ink
like portrait painters
in diverse lands,
but each voice
has its complexion.
We can see hope
inside the stadium where love
is always the visiting team.
We’d rather answer prayers
than use dog ears
to hear faraway trouble.
We’d rather stop history from bleeding
than use a shark’s nose
to find distant blood.
We’d rather get rid of darkness
than use owl eyes
to record dark crimes.
We’d rather pave a safe
road to one village
than divine every way
leading to tyranny.
We’d rather keep one person from drowning
than find the wreckage of tragedy.
You sang quietly
in life’s rear procession;
those at the front never noticed,
until history went forward
and told us you’re gone.
They made you give up the bard
before they made you give up the ghost—
manuscripts,
every last drop of ink,
all the blank papers.
You weren’t supposed
to die as a poet—
somehow you did.
What did you manage to hide
from your captors?
Those who craft verse
get only thin veils to conceal it.
How did you smuggle your bard
out from the prison called fate?
Your lines didn’t scare them—
only one thing did:
Letting history witness
your death and having it alter
the parade of their crimes.
With a priest, your wife
retrieved The Song of the Bread,
waiting to be finished.
All it took was a bribe—
this shows how much
they feared your words,
which spoke of farmers and fields:

“It’s the sower. He is standing tall and stout
in the sunset’s rays which are like flowing gold;
before his feet are the fields of the fatherland
spreading their unlimited nakedness.”

Who can be an enemy to that?
Does this make you a traitor?

“I’m harvesting alone tonight;
my love has a love.
My pale scythe, a slice of light
from the full moon above.

I walk through dark furrows,
head and feet bare.
She’s wearing a bridal veil,
I wear the wind on my hair.

I cut through the waving wheat.
Her hair is a lake.
I shear and bind my grain
while a mourning dove wakes.”

Who, then, can kill
poets as poets?
The death of one rhyme is a holocaust.
Genocide—quilts stitched
out of all blood types.
Genocide—hourglasses
filled with victims’ ashes.
Genocide—sundials
presented to Hades.
Genocide—the devil’s red pen
correcting utopian poems.
Genocide—Trojan horses
entering towns without walls.
Genocide—equations
that always come out to 0
when people are added.
Genocide—translators
who think the word “suffering”
only exists in their language.
Genocide shoots millions
of family photos—
frames them blank side facing the glass,
then hangs each in the Museum of Hate.
Historians should ask:
What do poets call genocide?
Really? What does it matter?
If we write “death
is a room full of clocks
that only work in the darkness,”
critics will say: “You’re no expert.
And you’ve never been to this room.”
True.
We can imagine what we’ve seen,
but we can’t see what we haven’t seen.
This is my genocide and it isn’t.

I’m trying to grasp your fire
by walking barefoot
on the coals of our past.
Yet that’s impossible—
facts of time move ahead …
… sympathy’s warmth stays behind.
With each year that departs,
genocide’s heirs must go
deeper into history’s desert—
just to bring victims some empathy.
Time has eyes
in the back of its head,
but it never opens
them when surging forward.
Time has always been
the butcher’s best lawyer.
Time only buys fresh blood
at the Genocide Store;
it packs new slaughter
and stamps the good—
best before next election;
time never feels well
if history invites it
but doesn’t serve veal
genocide.
100 years is enough—
let’s feast as one
without one apology.
But we won’t let years
or even seconds
become evidence.

Centuries won’t be long enough
for killers to clean
the guilt off their words—
sell them to the world
as “brand new.”
Seconds will be too long
for the past to blink.
We’ll plant the patience
of Sequoias in our kids.
We’ll pull the weeds
from their gardens of empathy.
We’ll teach them the brain
surgeon’s sobriety—
they won’t lack
the cultivation
of winemakers.
They’ll learn harmony
from the silence of monks,
and silence from books that spout lies.
We won’t build windmills underground
just to placate cross winds.
Our breath will keep turning
pages of tomorrow’s diary.
I hear your words:

“There’s a nation on my writing table—
an ancient nation speaking to me
from this soil where dawn was born.”

We have poets willing
to plow the earth;
wine-making priests,
teachers willing to learn …
… plowing, praying, and winemaking,
librarians letting infants
cry among old books;
we have doctors
helping bury our dead,
soldiers who sing
about triumph and loss,
painters who paint
those with no name,
sculptors who sculpt
those with no fame.
How did you know this soil
was fertilized with our blood?

“Perhaps this rust-red color
hasn’t been bestowed by nature—
a sponge for wounds,
this soil drank from life, from sunlight,
and, living defenselessly, it turned red,
becoming Armenian soil.”

We’ll grow cherries
and pomegranates
until the ground dies of thirst.
We won’t fear spilling
red wine before it becomes
Christ’s blood.
Our desire is patient—like clocks
that seduce cognac;
our patience is fleeting, like thousands
of church candles lit at the same time.
Now I feel as you do:

“The chords of my nerves shiver
with a trembling that furrows
the mind to wider creative paths
than the sun-soaked winds of spring can.
And all my senses are woken up
by lips still calling for vengeance
and souls still red with wounds.”

We shall seek revenge,
but music will make
the sound of our guns.
We’ll be first to draw red,
but the shade will flow
from our Ararat Scales,
not from enemy pain.
Our poets have cartridges
filled with the past.
Revenge is a battle
that must be won without war.
The Library of Genocide
may invite killers inside,
but it mustn’t deny
them the exit to log
guilt in its own archives.
We have to fight
with antique guns until history
surrenders its centuries of apathy.
Wrath must be a bomb
that explodes when the timer
has counted to infinity.
Revenge should be blunt—
like swords owned
by heroes who’ve lost,
but care not for revenge.
Foes should be free
to deny until they find
their humanity lost;
such wars can be won.
Sharpened pens,
brushes dipped in read history—
both can cross enemy borders
without crossing their land.
My heart is a children’s library
next to a graveyard—
it has no space
for any more bodies.
Genocide is a million dead figures
of speech trying to grow crimson
clichés on forget-me fields—
yet poetry is a forget-me-not.

“Never again.” “We shall never forget.”
“Justice.” “We demand recognition.”
Unlike nations,
verse has no space
for clichés in its canons,
nor red on its flags.
We keep reading History’s
unfinished epic, Pages of Blood,
which not even Time
has the time to complete—
only humanity’s death can finish it.
I’m tired of asking:
How much for a poet’s gore?
Your heart—
a white hummingbird
cut open at night.
Your eyes—
two black panthers
caught in a snowstorm.
Your voice—
the howl of a wolf caged in a theater.
Your smile—
a bridge joining two nations at war.
Your verse—
taxi drivers
taking scenic routes,
never charging extra.
I won’t describe the shade of your red—
let people read for themselves.
The death of one person is a genocide
if you kill the only one like him.
Who, then, is the same as someone else?

We don’t want numbers.
We want to count on truth.
Only final genocides
merit pity—we want a future.
Lost homes, lost territories,
land as concession for peace—
still some claim our nation
has too much space on the map.

Invaders have passed;
the soil is a passport stamped
by a motley of fingerprints.
We never had Alexander’s empire,
America’s dreams,
China’s silk,
or Caesar,
but the Silk Road was there,
and Romans once too.
Alexander’s armies came.
Jamestown had an Armenian in 1618.
This is our scent—
a cellar full of old
books that haven’t been read;
wine forgotten
in a barrel;
a pond where mosquitos
are never disturbed;
a loud waterfall
still undiscovered;
the descent from an unclimbed mountain.
Armenia, why don’t you go away?
Just stop demanding.
We don’t want your spoiled wine—
your antibodies drying
in the desert for years.
Britain won’t dip its hands
in your mosquito pond.
Your pain is too loud,
but also too remote.
For God’s sake, we hear you,
and we’d like to reach out,
but we’re not willing
to step over “good” fences—
though the red paint is yours:

“HMG is open to criticism in terms of the ethical dimension. But given the importance of our relations (political, strategic and commercial) with Turkey, and that recognising the genocide would provide no practical benefit to the UK or the few survivors of the killings still alive today, nor would it help a rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey, the current line is the only feasible option.”
—House of Lords Debate (1999)

“The Foreign Office documents include advice in 1995 to the then Tory foreign minister, Douglas Hogg, that he should refuse to attend a memorial service for the victims, and attempts to encourage the idea that historians were in disagreement over the facts. The government refused to include the Armenian massacres as part of holocaust memorial day.”
The Guardian, “Britain accused of ‘genocide denial’ over Armenia” (2009)

“Finally, in October 2007, when the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, the Foreign Office wrote an alarming memorandum, expressing concern that ‘the Armenian diaspora worldwide lobbying machine’ would now ‘go into overdrive!’”
Huffington Post, “Internal Documents Reveal UK Officials Misled Parliament on Armenian Genocide” (2010)

“Genocide scholarship is one thing that the FCO have never been interested in applying to an issue they wish would go away. There is no reference in the papers to the 2007 resolution of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, which resolved that ‘the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the empire between 1914-23 constituted a genocide against Armenians and the Assyrians and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks’. The FCO merely evinces concerns that the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee had resolved to recognize the events as genocide: as a result, ‘we can also expect the Armenian Diaspora worldwide lobbying machine to go into overdrive’. This is hardly the language of an impartial enquirer: the FCO had become a rather cynical adversary of the truth, or at least of a Foreign Minister ever uttering it.”
—Geoffrey Robertson QC, An Inconvenient Genocide (2014)

“The British government has a strong track record in sophistry. Since Turkey became a strategic partner in the Nineties, the Foreign Office has been honing a set of cod-legal arguments designed to deceive Parliament – and by extension the electorate – into believing that the term ‘genocide’ is not appropriate in this case. Its current position is that it will only use the label if an international tribunal has already done so. This is a nimble legal dodge, which rules out recognising almost every genocide in history.”
The Independent, “It’s pure sophistry that stops Britain recognising the Armenian genocide” (2015)

Yet, none of this is Britain;
for us it will always be
Benjamin Whitaker.
One person’s voice
can be greater than
the honored crowd’s silence.
What, then, is a life worth?
Could we define genocide
if war pushes us to the brink—
when there won’t be millions
to kill without shame?
Is the price of plasma
really based on supply and demand?
I ask you again:
What’s the difference
between one death and ten million?
Is it 1 and 10,000,000?
Tell me the numbers
don’t warrant a genocide.
Say the nature
isn’t systematic.
The math doesn’t
add up to a holocaust.
Not enough torture,
deportation, and rape.
Can’t try under Article 7
of the Rome Statute.
How long will lawmakers play
Genocide hide-and-seek?
They talk like children—
they suffer like grownups.
What else can we do?
No matter where we are,
we carry pieces of you:

“On my desk is a gift,
a handful of soil on a plate
from the fields of my fatherland.
The giver thought he gave his heart,
but didn’t know he was offering
the hearts of his forefathers as well.”

Mapmakers today never
give us much time,
but there’s still enough
soil to give every
denier a handful—
make them see its color;
they demand historical proof …
… we’ll hand them physical evidence.
Our heart is an immigrant
transplanted from its body.
We’ve built churches
in all parts of the world,
saved some back home,
died in foreign wars,
and enriched other cultures.
We’ve become Arméniens de France,
Armenian Americans, Armeense Nederlanders,
Российские Армяне, Αρμένιοι της Κύπρου,
Schweizerische Armenier, armênio-brasileiros,
 
We’ll thank the noble,
while never forgetting
our հայկական ժառանգությունը.

We’re not the prism of diaspora—
merely light going in as one nation,
and leaving as new rays.
Enemies bring defeat,
yet the language won’t fall—
reshaped by the wind’s
voice that sings
it across the world.
We’re violins crafted back home,
yet the bows that touch
us have distinct strands of hair.
Abroad, our homes search for home—
too often like sharps and flats needing
space between B and C, or E and F.

Our background can’t meet
us head-on as we walk away
from it on one-way streets;
we can gaze back and hope
our past is able to follow
at the speed we’re retreating.
Many return to the homeland as tourists—
no longer able to grasp
their first culture;
some leave full of fire,
eager to return—
only as anthropologists;
others come back let down—
they must bury memories
that haven’t died recently.
Paron Diaspora is a paper
from the old country
gone out of print.
He remembers his land
like headlines without dates.
Paron Diaspora is a sculptor
who’s cast as the outcast.
Paron Diaspora opens his
restaurants on big streets,
but the taste is too distant for locals.
Paron Diaspora walks around towns,
praising his land’s greatness—
all in perfect accent—
sometimes Southern, sometimes Boston,
sometimes Midwestern, sometimes New York.
Worry not, Daniel,
about the heart of the race;
we need unique paths
to build more roads home.
Paron Diaspora won’t forget you.
When pens won’t write,
our voice will compose;
if voices shall fail,
great minds will change key.
Enemies count on human
memory’s limits.
They say: When survivors die,
the need to remember their pain
will perish as well.
We say: We’ve buried their bodies,
but not their words.
They say: When the new
generation comes,
they’ll forgive a bit more.
We say: We’ll keep yelling in front
of the house where denial tries to sleep.
They say: When that generation goes,
it’ll be quiet—we can sleep,
at last, without guilt.
We say: Poets will turn
our shouts into songs, then whisper
them to kids falling asleep.

Remembrance is a fortress
that has never fallen.
These are my memories:
Great-grandfather,
David Davtyan, with his family.
There were 62 relatives
trying to escape.
Only 4 survived—
one of them his father, Mirijan.


(My great-great grandfather, Mirijan, in 1959. He escaped conscription into the Ottoman Army, which, during the genocide, had less to do with military service for Armenians, and more to do with the removal of able-bodied men from that population. His first wife, Rebecca, died in Iraq on a death march. He eventually ended up in Bulgaria, where the previous photo of my great-grandfather and his family was taken.)

Destroying people’s bodies
is genocide’s flesh and blood—
wrecking their past
is its very soul.
When the sharpening stone
of our past has worn out,
we’ll go to its gravestone—
dig up the echoes.
Denial has weapons?
Good. They only fire backwards.
We hear your voice:

“And I sang: ‘fight to the end.’
My pen is a burnt cigar—
an offering for you;
be brave, Armenian warriors—
I sang revenge and my voice blew
the ashes of my odes your way.”

We’ll write
the work you never
could start.
No bard can die
if one elegist
remains to keep him alive.
The writer’s time moves straight.
Though he walks to the end,
his life is a clock turned
by the hands of his readers.
Shivers, The Heart of the Race,
Pagan Songs, The Song of the Bread

we have all your books;
they won’t be lost now.
I can see your face only
on the pages,
but your voice
is all around me:

“Be naked like the poet’s mood,
for the pagan is suffering
in your unconscious,
and he won’t hurt you.”

Our bards can
witness without seeing,
hear without listening,
feel without touching,
smell without breathing,
and try without eating.
Let the denier say he can’t taste
our bitterness … time
has taken its flavor—
we’ll grant him a dog’s tongue;
let the denier say he can’t smell
our blood … the desert
has dried it—
we’ll grant him a wolf’s nose;
let the denier say he can’t feel
our pain … our children’s
skin is young and has healed—
we’ll grant him a shaman’s hands;
let the denier say he can’t hear
our cries … the wind
has taken and lost them—
we’ll grant him a cat’s ears;
let the denier say he can’t see
our past … the nights of time
have made it obscure;
we’ll grant him owl eyes;
let the denier say he can’t understand
why we speak to the dead—
we’ll grant him the eyes of a psychic.
We’re still with you:

“Tomorrow come to my grave;
as bread, I’ll place my poet’s
heart into your bag.
So long as your grief lives,
my poet’s heart will be your blood,
and the blood of your orphans.
Hungry One, come to the graveyard tomorrow!”

Perhaps I should ask again.
What are you asking
for a poet’s blood?
What’s the value if it can feed
a whole nation?
The strongest weapon
is a question no one can answer.
I’ll wield it even after
finishing this poem.
They want history?
We’ll give them poetry from the past.

They want to count the bodies?
We’ll give them a thousand abacuses
made from the victims’ bones.

Do I insult Turkishness
if I ask them to read our red poetry?
Let history decide.
Do I insult Turkishness
if I present them with those abacuses
and ask them to count the bodies?
Let history decide.

They want the past?
We want it too.
They want to juggle insults?
We’ll laugh at their circus.
They have Article 301?
We have Article 302—
“Yesterday’s Future.”
Are we to blame?
We offer to accept
the apology,
but they refuse to give it.
We can mend things—
tomorrow, even—
if they just hint
at the chance.
Still, they want to keep looking back;
they’re obsessed with the past;
they want history.
If they like it so much,
we should hand it to them:

“They have drawn from the fields the male population and thereby destroyed their agricultural communities. They have annihilated or displaced at least two thirds of the Armenian population and thereby deprived themselves of a very intelligent and useful race.”
—Henry Morgenthau writing to Robert Lansing, November 4, 1915, Constantinople, received by Mr. Lansing on December 1st
Morgenthau’s quote was obtained from the Office of the Historian, which is an office of the United States Department of State within the Bureau of Public Affairs, and it’s responsible for preparing and publishing the official historical documentary record of U.S. foreign policy.

“The dead from this wholesale attempt on the race are variously estimated from 500,000 to more than a million, the usual figure being about 800,000. Driven on foot under a fierce summer sun, robbed of their clothing and such petty articles as they carried, prodded by bayonet if they lagged; starvation, typhus, and dysentery left thousands dead by the trail side. The ration was a pound of bread every alternate day, which many did not receive, and later a small daily sprinkling of meal on the palm of the outstretched hand was the only food. Many perished from thirst or were killed as they attempted to slake thirst at the crossing of running streams.”
—U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Guthrie Harbord
General Harbord’s report comes from the U.S. Department of State Archives, presented by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge on April 13, 1920, and printed a week later by the Washington Government Printing Office.

“Any doubt that may have been expressed in previous reports as to the Government’s intentions in sending away the Armenians have been removed and any hope that may have been expressed as to the possibility of some of them surviving have been destroyed. It has been no secret that the plan was to destroy the Armenian race as a race, but the methods used have been more cold-blooded and barbarous, if not more effective, than I had first supposed.”
—Leslie A. Davis, American Consul in Harput
The consul’s testimony appears in the U.S. National Archives, doc. NA/RG59/867.4016/269

“The murder of Armenians has become almost a sport, and one Turkish lady passing one of these caravans, and thinking she too would relish killing an Armenian, on the guards’ invitation took out a revolver and shot the first poor wretch she saw. The whole policy of extermination transcends one’s capacity for indignation. It has been systematic in its atrocious cruelty, even to the extent of throwing blame for the murders on the Kurds, who are instigated by the Government to lie in wait in order to kill and pillage. Its horrors would be unbelievable if less universally attested. For scientific cruelty and butchery it remains without precedent. The Turks have willfully destroyed the great source of economic wealth in their country. The persecution is madness, but one wonders when the day will come, and if it is close enough at hand still to save the few remnants of this wretched community.”
—Lewis Einstein, American Chargé d’Affaires in Constantinople
The diplomat’s account is taken from his book, Inside Constantinople: A Diplomatist’s Diary During the Dardanelles Expedition, April–September, 1915, published in 1918.

“Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it—and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples—the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”
—U.S. President Ronald Reagan, April 22, 1981
The president’s statement was taken from the official website of the Reagan Library, and was given during Proclamation 4838 – Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.

“Today we recall in sorrow the million and one-half Armenians who were tortured, starved, and butchered to death in the First Genocide of the Twentieth Century.”
—Monroe Freedman, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council Director
The director’s statement was also taken from the official website of the Reagan Library, and it comes from a speech given on April 24, 1980.

History, history, history.
Why do we need it?
Why do we care when
we want new stories?
Our past is all over—
it’s there for all to see.
There’s no harm in forgetting old news.
Look. You can find the records.
Deniers have lost the battle for yesterday—
now they’re fighting
to take our tomorrow.
The living grow older—
the dead maintain eternal youth.
We’re not afraid of antiquity;
the artists they hung
are younger than ever.
the pregnant women they killed
keep waiting to give birth;
the children they left in the desert
remain children—
still looking for water;
the Armenianness they stepped on,
has come back—
like desert sands
that settle after a storm.
The future is all we have—
it’s a white crane
that watches from above;
when its time has come,
the feathers carrying our past
will fall from the sky,
reminding those after us
we were here;
you must’ve known this happiness
with the birth of your children,
and I shall end my poem on it.

 

***************************************************************************

Everywhere Armenian Providence

Daniel Varoujan was 31
when he was killed.
31 years isn’t a long life,
but it’s a long time
to write poetry.

***************************************************************************

A Tribute to Franz Werfel and Vasily Grossman

“This book was conceived in March of the year 1929, during the course of a stay in Damascus. The miserable sight of maimed and famished-looking refugee children, working in a carpet factory, gave me the final impulse to snatch the incomprehensible destiny of the Armenian people from the Hell of all that had taken place.”
—Franz Werfel, preface to The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933)

(Franz Werfel with representatives of the French-Armenian community)

 

“Never in my life have I bowed to the ground; I have never prostrated before anyone. Now, however, I bow to the ground before the Armenian peasants who, during the merriment of a village wedding, spoke publicly about the agony of the Jewish nation under Hitler, about the death camps where Nazis murdered Jewish women and children. I bow to everyone who, silently, sadly, and solemnly, listened to these speeches.”
—Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook (1962)

(Vasily Grossman, second from the right, with villagers from Tsakhkadzor in 1961)

***************************************************************************

Links to the Articles

“Geoffrey Robertson puts the case against Turkey for 1915 Armenian genocide”
Louis Nowra (JANUARY 3, 2015)

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/geoffrey-robertson-puts-the-case-against-turkey-for-1915-armenian-genocide/news-story/282b552190b96a4a5a17bf38d447af57

“Britain accused of ‘genocide denial’ over Armenia”
David Leigh (NOVEMBER 3, 2009)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/03/armenia-genocide-denial-britain

“Internal Documents Reveal UK Officials Misled Parliament on Armenian Genocide”
Harut Sassounian (MARCH 18, 2010)

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/harut-sassounian/internal-documents-reveal_b_344794.html

“It’s pure sophistry that stops Britain recognising the Armenian genocide”
Alex Dudok de Wit (APRIL 23, 2015)

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/its-pure-sophistry-that-stops-britain-recognising-the-armenian-genocide-10199118.html

***************************************************************************

Thank you to my brother, Arthur Ovanesian, for suggesting key edits and providing the idea for the epilogue.

 

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (por Hayrabet Alacahan)


Rainer Werner Fassbinder

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder y su obra
Imprescindibles, vanguardistas, inimitables…
ambos sobrevivirán a cualquier apocalipsis…

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, director (44), guionista (50), actor (43), montajista (18), director de fotografía (3) y productor (12), supo crear y armó un mundo tan peculiar como sí mismo.

Casi tres meses antes del término de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, en el seno de una familia burguesa, de madre traductora y padre médico, nacía el 31 de mayo de 1945, en Bad Wörishofen, Baviera, Alemania.

Desde la separación de sus padres, cuando él tenía seis años, quedó con su madre, Liselotte Irmgard Pempeit (nombre de soltera) que llegó actuar en varias películas de su hijo. En otras ocasiones convivió con su abuela.

Su particular interés hacia el cine y el teatro lo sedujo desde su adolescencia, actividades en las que no tardaría en involucrarse con todo entusiasmo. Este joven despeinado, inconforme y rebelde venía elaborando una intuición creativa y artística como pocos.

A mediados de los sesenta empezó estudiar teatro en el Fridl-Leonhard Studio en Munich y se relacionó con el elenco de Action Theater que luego pasó a denominarse Anti-Theatre, en 1967 (ese período merece una nota aparte por su intensidad).

Entre 1966 y 1982 llegó a concretar 44 proyectos cinematográficos (41 largometrajes y 3 cortos), donde trató de reflejar todos los problemas sociales de la Alemania de post guerra: inmigrantes, lúmpenes, patrones, comerciantes,  burguesía, clase obrera, intelectuales y medios de comunicación. Sus argumentos trataban sin eufemismos y sin finales felices cuestiones centradas en drogas, alcohol, gays, lesbianas y homosexuales, mostrados en toda su filmografía con mucho respeto y delicadeza, jamás con la intención de hacer un cine gay.

Su cuantiosa obra, cargada de una absoluta libertad que le valió la reputación de ser el enfant terrible del Nuevo Cine Alemán, corriente de la que formaba parte de los principales integrantes, involucraba una vida desprolija combinada con su estética sin horarios, más vivencias nocturnas que diurnas, cruces de sexo con cócteles de drogas que, curiosamente, no se notaban en su ritmo y ética laboral, impecables a la hora de trabajar.

Cuando leyó por primera vez la novela Berlin Alexanderplatz de Alfred Döblin (1878-1957), no le gustó para nada la historia. Pero años más tarde cambió de opinión y quiso llevarla a la pantalla. Inclusive se hizo llamar por un período largo Franz Biberkopf como el principal personaje de la novela.

En 1980 presentó su tele film de 14 episodios “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. Una obra maestra absoluta. Hoy, la mayoría de las series que abundan conceptuadas como muy buenas, no llegan ni a los talones de este semejante e insuperable trabajo audiovisual.

Después de su muerte, en varios documentales y en otros tantos libros encontraremos entrevistas a los actores y actrices que tienen testimonios inquietantes con sus pro y contras, pero absolutamente todos se sienten orgullosos de haber sido dirigidos por él, entre ellos: Hanna Schygulla, Günther Kaufmann, Kurt Raab, Irm Hermann, El Hedi Ben Salem, Armin Meier, Ingrid Caven, Peter Chatel, Peer Raben,  Gottfried John, Ulli Lommel, Udo Kier, Harry Baer, Volker Spengler, Margit Carstensen, Brigitte Mira, Vitus Zeplichal, Barbara Valentin y su madre Liselotte Irmgard Pempeit que aparece con seudónimo como Lilo Pempeit.

Cada vez que actuábamos juntos era algo sumamente físico: él me jala, me hace volar en sus brazos, me rechaza, me derriba, me pone de rodillas, sus ojos en mis ojos hasta la eternidad; o al contrario, cada uno mirando para su lado, perdidos en la lejanía… Todo un alfabeto indirecto de gestos de amor”.  Hanna Schygulla

Fassbinder en su experiencia en el mundo teatral (entre 1967 y 1976 escribió 21 obras y dirigió 12 ) llegó a crear y desarrollar una compañía que integraban sus dos esposas, amantes de ambos sexos, su madre y varios de los citados arriba.

Él mismo actuó en varias de sus películas, incluyendo papeles protagónicos y con frecuencia no aparecía en los créditos. Como actor interpretó diferentes personajes en 43 películas bajo la dirección de Volker Schlöndorff, Douglas Sirk, Wolf Gremm, Ulli Lommel, Daniel Schmid, Peer Raben, Reinhard Hauff, entre otros.

Lo vi actuar por primera vez en Anarquía en Baviera. Todo el grupo Anti-Theatre me agradó. Era un conjunto que actuaba y se expresaba distinto de lo que se veía en otras obras teatrales. Era el cine en el escenario. Después de la función nos llevó para que viéramos su primera película “Liebe Ist Kälter Als Der tod / El amor es más frío que la muerte”. Todo el grupo estaba presente en la sala y en la pantalla. Lo que más me interesó no fue su manera de filmar, sino sus compañeros, el modo en que hablaban. Yo ya había estado cinco años en Munich y había viajado bastante por el país, pero gente como ésa no había conocida antes. ¿Eran artistas bohemios, pequeños burgueses, criminales, proletarios? ¿De dónde salieron todos a la vez y tan ávidos? ¿Cómo hizo para encontrarlos?  Volker Schlöndorff

Era hábil y capaz para producir tanto sus obras teatrales como sus películas, rápidamente y con presupuestos extremadamente bajos.

Creo que este grupo humano giraba, como los planetas alrededor del sol, en torno de este potente, turbulento, explosivo director. Él era como el centro de un sistema solar y ellos poniendo su mayor creatividad actoral y técnico ante sus indicaciones, ideas, propuestas y pedidos. En el mundo del cine es el único caso con tantas personas contradictorias entre sí, implicadas en un proyecto durante casi 15 años.

En 1970 se casó con la actriz y cantante Ingrid Caven y se divorciaron en 1972. La segunda vez, en 1979, se casó con la montajista Juliane Lorenz, quien preside la Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation desde 1992. Entidad que fue creada en 1986 por Liselotte Pempeit, madre de Fassbinder.

A pesar de sus dos casamientos, Fassbinder tenía relaciones con personas de ambos sexos y sin ningún prejuicio. Algunas de sus relaciones fueron muy tempestuosas. Algunos datos aseguran que dos hombres se suicidaron por amor a él.

Trabajó casi siempre con dos excelentes directores de fotografía: Michael Ballhaus y Xaver Schwarzenberger. Estos dos magos fueron extraordinarios ante las exigencias de un director sin concesiones.

Su admiración por Douglas Sirk (1897-1987) era ferviente, amaba su obra. Fue a conocerlo personalmente a Suiza, esa visita terminó en una amistad. Inclusive fue actor en el último corto de su maestro “Bourbon Street Blues” (1978).

A partir de las conversaciones con Douglas Sirk, surgieron las influencias y Fassbinder cambió mucho respecto de su primera etapa más artística influenciada por la Nouvelle Vague. Comprendió que necesitaba del espectador y no dudó salir en busca del público.

El día que murió Fassbinder yo perdí un amigo y Alemania ha perdido a un genio.

Su energía creativa y su vitalidad parecían indestructibles. Un constante flujo de películas y obras. Recuerdo el día en que conocí a Fassbinder hace doce años. Un grupo de jóvenes alemanes llegaron a mi casa en Lugano, Suiza. A modo de presentación dijo, “soy Fassbinder y un par de amigos”. Mi señora y yo tenemos recuerdos inolvidables de aquel encuentro. Hablamos de arte y literatura, de teatro y cine hasta altas horas de la noche. En algún momento yo mencioné el teatro clásico español y la extraordinaria productividad de Calderón de la Barca y Lope de Vega. Fassbinder de repente dijo: “Me gustaría ser tan prolífico como ellos”.

Por lo que sabemos, sus palabras no fueron solo una expresión de deseo. Este director de 37 años de edad nos ha dejado una increíble herencia de más de cuarenta películas. Su talento creativo, sin precedentes en la historia del cine, no encontró inmediatamente la aprobación que merecía. Las películas de Fassbinder se han considerado polémicas durante mucho tiempo y espero que sigan siendo así en el futuro, porque solo algo que puede sobrevivir al antagonismo tiene la fuerza de perdurar en el tiempo”.  Douglas Sirk

Su primer largometraje, “El amor es más frío que la muerte” (1969) fue recibido con gran ovación en el Festival de Cine de Berlín. “Katzelmacher” (1969) obtuvo cinco premios después de su estreno en Mannheim. El film giraba alrededor de  Jorgos, un inmigrante griego, involucrado con un grupo de vagos y tendenciosos xenófobos al mudarse a un barrio habitado por alemanes. Este contexto social, con personajes alienados y dominados por la opresión social, iba ser muy visible en la obra posterior del cineasta.

Curiosamente, justo antes de concretar estas dos películas, había decidido estudiar cine en la Escuela de Cine y Televisión de Múnich, que había comenzado la actividad educativa ese mismo año, 1967. Como no pudo aprobar el examen previo fue rechazado como alumno. Wim Wenders, otro cineasta alemán muy singular, que sí había logrado su ingreso a la misma escuela el mismo año, recordaba con asombro que seis meses después, mientras él seguía estudiando, Fassbinder ya había filmado sus primeras dos películas.

Te vi por última vez  durante el Festival de Cannes en mayo de 1982. Nos encontramos en el bar del Hotel Martínez, estabas pálido y bastante agotado.

Te hablé de la idea como a otros directores, que había montado una cámara en una habitación del hotel, donde cada cineasta individualmente diera su opinión sobre el futuro del cine. Luego vos con el cuestionario subiste a la habitación. Tu testimonio lo vi recién unos días después. Y cuando más tarde compaginé “Chambre 666”, ya habías fallecido. Pasaron 10 años desde tu muerte y desde entonces, todos vivimos esa pérdida que no quiere mermar, al contrario, también extrañamos las películas que hubieras rodado en ese lapso”.  Wim Wenders

Luego vendrían “Pioniere en Ingolstadt” (1971) y “Whity” (1971). Con “El frutero de las cuatro estaciones” (1972) logró un gran éxito inesperado, donde narra el patético retrato de un vendedor ambulante de frutas sin autoestima. Sumada su incapacidad de liberarse del dominio de su madre a la frialdad y celosía de su mujer, intenta ocultar su debilidad en el alcohol.

Angustia corroe el alma” (1974) fue otro éxito a nivel internacional. Fassbinder logra con magnificencia una historia de amor entre Emmi, una mujer viuda de 60 años y Ali, un inmigrante marroquí de 35 años. Se conocen por azar, se enamoran y se casan. La unión no convencional de la pareja produce un espantoso rechazo en su entorno familiar, amistoso y laboral. Unido a esto los prejuicios y el racismo que venía arrastrando la sociedad alemana de post guerra como el resto del mundo. Notable remake del film de Douglas Sirk, «All Heavens Allows” (1955) y una de las películas más conmovedoras de Fassbinder, con la extraordinaria actuación de Brigitte Mira (1910-2005).

Más tarde llegaría con inusual éxito “El matrimonio de María Braun” (1979), la historia relata el casamiento de una pareja en un momento muy hostil de la guerra, al poco tiempo él será enviado al frente de batalla y más tarde aparecerá en la lista de desaparecidos. Ella deberá sobrevivir entre bombas, ruinas, el mercado negro y la prostitución. De un breve amorío, quedará embarazada de un soldado norteamericano pero sin dejar de añorar a su esposo, esperando su regreso algún día.

Y así, desde “El amor es más frío que la muerte” (1969) comenzó a forjar un camino sin pausa e incontenible, hasta su última y magnífica “Querelle” (1982), basada en la novela Querelle de Brest del autor francés Jean Genet.

El argumento se nutre del personaje, un marinero llamado Georges Querelle, poseedor de una personalidad de atractivo irresistible sobre las personas que cruzan su camino, a quienes va sometiendo por su poder de fascinación y de seducción.

Ideó, creó y dirigió siempre acompañado por la mayoría del elenco del Anti-Theatre. Fue un artista, dueño de una mirada vibrante, de una intuición con la que atrapaba e impregnaba con emulsiones las emociones en todas sus magnitudes.

Creo yo, para comprender la idiosincrasia de Fassbinder y de sus películas, es imprescindible ver al menos una docena de ellas, logradas con una sensibilidad que no es la cualidad de muchos cineastas. Recomiendo algunas de ellas con su sello inconfundible: “Dioses de la peste” (1969), “El por qué de la funesta locura del Sr. R” (1969), “El soldado americano” (1970), “Atención a esa prostituta tan querida” (1970), ”La libertad de Bremen” (1972), “El frutero de las cuatro estaciones” (1972), “Las amargas lágrimas de Petra von Kant” (1972), “Nora Helmer” (1973), “Martha” (1973), “Angustia corroe el alma”, “Effie Briest” (1974) “La ley del más fuerte” (1975), “Viaje a la felicidad de Mama Küsters” (1975), “Miedo al miedo” (1975, “El asado de Satán” (1976), “La ruleta china” (1976), “Solo quiero que me amen”  (1976), “Bolwieser” (1978), “En un año con trece lunas” (1978), “Desesperación” (1978), “La tercera generación” (1979), “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, “Lili Marleen” (1981), “Lola” (1981), “La ansiedad de Veronika Voss” (1982), “Querelle” (1982), entre otras.

Fassbinder sigue siendo el más grande director de cine germano. Cuando Alemania necesitaba películas para encontrarse a sí misma, allí estaba él. Ni siquiera los filmes de la nouvelle vague lograron otorgarle tanta presencia a Francia como Fassbinder supo darle a la Alemania de posguerra”.

—Jean-Luc Godard

Fassbinder filmó por toda Alemania, con una trayectoria cinematográfica muy valiosa y con un repaso exhaustivo de su país: sus problemas políticos, económicos y culturales, los desgastes ocasionados por la guerra, su porvenir, su historia, su sociedad, y la desazón del tiempo del que le tocó ser testigo.

Con Fassbinder nace el cine alemán de posguerra”, supone una visión profunda de lo que implicó la aparición del cineasta”.

—Henri Langlois

Mientras sus películas eran aclamadas y premiadas y su nombre circulaba entre los grandes del cine internacional, en su país no era tan popular ni querido. Era criticado y desmerecido por la sociedad alemana a raíz de sus argumentos duros con finales amargos. Ante estas reacciones, Fassbinder defendía su postura con mucha coherencia y sin temblar, ”Yo filmo lo que veo de la sociedad, lo que debe cambiar es la sociedad, no tendría sentido que yo disfrazara la realidad”.

Creo que era lo más provocador que podía hacer en una época en la que los alemanes querían borrar y lavar los muros. En lugar de eso Fassbinder les obligó a mirar los muros y las pintadas que había sobre ellos como si fueran los muros de una prisión”. Liliana Cavani

Fue uno de los directores que supo aprovechar muy bien el género melodramático, que se identifica por los derroches estilísticos, existenciales y susceptibles, donde Fassbinder sabía crear mundos extraordinarios con escenografías relucientes y expresivas bajo estallidos de colores.

Su legado fílmico demuestra una profunda sensibilidad hacia las clases más golpeadas socialmente: los trabajadores y los inmigrantes. Nunca disimuló su odio a la violencia institucionalizada.

Para despejar todas las dudas sobre su personalidad e ideología es imprescindible leer el libro Fassbinder por Fassbinder (un compilado de entrevistas completas de 1973 a 1982), editado por El cuenco de plata en 2018, Buenos Aires, Argentina, con el apoyo del Goethe Institut.

Sin descontar méritos a otros libros sobre Fassbinder, en este seremos testigos de sus pensamientos en vivo: en todas las entrevistas realizadas por distintos medios y periodistas, ante las mismas preguntas, sus respuestas van en la misma línea.

En la noche cuando apareció muerto en su departamento, muy cerca suyo encontraron un guión de una versión de Rosa Luxemburgo. No paraba de producir, ni en el momento de su muerte.

A los 10 días de haber cumplido los 37 años Rainer Werner Fassbinder murió por un paro cardíaco, ocasionado por interacción de somníferos y cocaína, el 10 de junio de 1982, en  Munich, Baviera, Alemania Occidental. Está enterrado en el cementerio de la Iglesia de San Jorge, Bogenhausen, Munich.

Hasta donde llega mi conocimiento y mi admiración por Fassbinder, siempre sostuve que la muerte de él no tiene ni parecido con la muerte de otros mortales. Para mí él era un volcán en permanente erupción dentro de su cuerpo, a la que su piel no pudo contener… y estalló.

 

Biografía – Hayrabet Alacahan

Hayrabet Alacahan nació en Armenia. Vivió su niñez y adolescencia en Estambul y en 1970 se radicó en Buenos Aires. Un apasionado del séptimo arte desde su infancia. Descubrió que el cine sería su mundo al hacerse socio del Cine Club Buenos Ayres en 1979. Tres meses después ya era un integrante más en la misma entidad. Abandonó su trabajo como dibujante de planos para dedicarse de lleno al mundo del cine. Su archivo personal reún datos sobre 100000 películas, 14000 biografías de directores y actores, una biblioteca de cine con 5000 libros, alrededor de 6000 afiches, 8000 fotos, 6000 diapositivas, casi 14000 títulos en formato digital y más de 2.000 títulos fílmicos en todos los géneros.

 

 

«Quarantine Diaries,» by David Garyan (Day 19)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 19
April 2nd, 2020

Trento, Italy

 

Hope

Well, the days keep on rolling—hopefully for not much longer. Sitting at home and contemplating life has broadened my perspective on what truly matters; however, not going to work, not talking to people (the general isolation from life) has at the same time built a long tunnel around my newly acquired insights. In other words, I was traveling in a tunnel and now I’m in another one; it seems like I see a tiny light at the end of it, but in the great wisdom of Metallica: «Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel / Is just a freight train coming your way.» I certainly hope that’s not the case.

Frankly, I don’t really know what I’m talking about so let’s move on to something more concrete: Apparently, yesterday Italy recorded its lowest one-day death toll; this would be more encouraging if the article didn’t mention that it was “the lowest number since March 26th.” Ah, Italy … while I don’t have any words to describe my love for you, I do have some words to describe your willingness to shower praise on yourself too quickly and these words happen to be the following: March 26th? Are you fucking kidding me?

In more precise terms, the lowest one-day death total reported yesterday was “4,782 more coronavirus cases and 727 more deaths in the past 24 hours.” Congratulations, you’ve been conditionally accepted to Harvard; that’s all very good and well but now satisfy the other requirements to get in, fucking graduate, and then we’ll buy you a Maserati.

I don’t know why I’m so high-strung lately. When people are clinging to any shred of optimism that comes their way, I find every excuse to be pessimistic. I guess when you’re sitting in a self-imposed prison, there isn’t much use for hope; as I write this, I’m thinking of The Shawshank Redemption and Red’s response to Andy’s statement about the need to have hope in jail: “Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” This paradox of seeing hope as something that causes more damage to the psyche than good has also been echoed by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book Human, All too Human.

Unlike traditional Greek interpretations of Pandora’s box, which saw the only thing remaining in the box (hope) as a blessing for mankind, Nietzsche believed that hope itself was just another evil that didn’t manage to escape before Pandora closed it; thus, Zeus left this last “evil” inside to ensure that man could still exist in a tarnished world; in that sense, for Nietzsche, “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” Well, it’s good to know that you can count on Germans to make good cellmates and roommates—for the former it would help if you’re serving a life sentence; for the latter, going through a quarantine is quite enough. By the way, that’s Friedrich Nietzsche telling people he’s not a misanthrope—he just likes to self-quarantine when there’s no pandemic.

Tedious though it may be, I’m not done with pessimism and Germans; my favorite in this regard is Arthur Schopenhauer. Although he didn’t use the word “pessimism” anywhere in his most famous work, The World as Will and Representation, “hope” does appear and there’s plenty of pessimism (which I thoroughly enjoy and agree with) to be found whenever that word is used to indicate a longing for something.

Unlike Kant (I’ve also talked about him), whose concept of transcendental idealism posited that humans can’t know the true essence of objects (das Ding an sich—no, this isn’t a heavy metal band) because space, time, and causality aren’t part of the outside world, Schopenhauer believed that that the thing-in-itself did exist, but that it resided within each person—the manifestation of which was the will; the inner will, thus, resembled or perhaps even symbolized the world’s essential nature. Thus, according to Schopenhauer, we can, to some extent (though not completely) experience the true essence of the world, not just “perceive” it, as Kant thought.

Sounds kind of positive, huh? Wait a minute—don’t go anywhere just yet; like anything German, I haven’t talked about the pessimistic aspect yet, which is guaranteed to be there in anything related to German excellence, especially when that excellence is Schopenhauer’s philosophy. I mean look at the guy: He’s just eaten twenty-five Thüringer Bratwürste in one sitting and he still doesn’t feel like following the quarantine.

As you can see by my idiotic happiness in the picture below, I’m a Weißwurst man myself, which is why I bought six packs of the best average quality white sausages.

Anyways, getting back to the more boring side of German excellence, Schopenhauer believed that the will was always striving for something—whether it’s for survival or in expectation of something, the will is always in a state of eternal hope and desire. He stated that even plants have a will—a desire for movement, to grow, to extend themselves, to move upwards; it’s precisely this force generated by the will which Schopenhauer believed to be the cause of torment for man; the only things which are excluded from this curse are inanimate objects.

Thus, hope, ambition, and desire are at the heart of what cause human suffering; the only way to alleviate this torment, according to Schopenhauer, was to embrace the Eastern philosophy of renunciation: “The concept of freedom is thus properly a negative concept, for its content is merely the denial of necessity.” A great piece of art can also mitigate the effects of desire by allowing the viewer to fully enter a contemplative state whereby the complete devotion of our consciousness to the artwork has the power to make the will disappear “so long as the pure aesthetic pleasure lasts.” There’s no permanent solution, however; in other words, unlike in Eastern philosophy, the “enlightenment” only lasts so long as the engagement with the artwork does.

Nevertheless, pure perception can be achieved through contemplation, which according to Schopenhauer is the mark of genius for those who can enter such an enlightened state, which is based on renunciation of the will: “Thus genius is the faculty of continuing in the state of pure perception, of losing oneself in perception, and of enlisting in this service the knowledge which originally existed only for the service of the will; that is to say, genius is the power of leaving one’s own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight, thus of entirely renouncing one’s own personality for a time, so as to remain a pure knowing subject, with a clear vision of the world.” Truly, I’m fascinated, and this is all good and well; however, where do you find art in a quarantine? Well, there’s answer for that, too: Listen to music; according to Schopenhauer, that’s the purest form of art.

Are we about done with art and the Germans? No, we’re not, actually. After reading this article, I’m not sure anyone takes art more seriously than people do in Berlin. Many great cities (I won’t mention any names, or will I?) talk about their artistic legacies, claim to encourage art, and attempt to bring even more artists to their streets, but when times are tough, which one of those cities really takes care of their artists? Paris? New York? Rome? Barcelona? Of course, it’s Berlin.

What other city besides a German one would set aside 500 million Euro for artists in this tough time? Indeed, talk is cheap and unlike the other so-called cultural capitals, only Berlin has really proven their belief in art as something truly essential. It’s not difficult for Parisians—just as an example—to put a plaque in front of Les Deux Magots, stating that so-and-so famous artist was here; it’s in the benefit of the business to do that. What city, however, cares about art to such an extent that they’re not only willing to support their famous living artists, but also their living artists who aren’t famous?

I visited Berlin last summer to do a CELTA course, and, to be honest, besides the WWII history, I didn’t think much of the city at the time. Besides the touristy sights, I also visited the German-Russian Museum, where the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces occurred on May 8th, 1945.

Another interesting out-of-the-way sight is the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the SS met to discuss the so-called Final Solution. Touring the premises, I could not help but notice the extreme contrast—the peaceful setting in which the house was located  (overlooking a beautiful lake) and what was discussed there.

Here I am in front of the Reichstag, which, at the time of the Soviet entry into Berlin, hadn’t been used for twelve years; the taking of it, however, represented a symbolic victory over the Germans.

Indeed, besides the amazing history, I wasn’t too impressed with the many young “artists” I saw, who weren’t so much concerned about art itself as they were about leading the artist’s lifestyle; in other words, an excuse to be wild and reckless—like a bunch of Rimbauds or Van Goghs who had never written or painted anything and weren’t interested in doing that either.

None of the people I met had actually accomplished much as artists and it didn’t seem like (at least to me) they were interested in their own creative development. Before I go any further—in no way am I trying to be arrogant by saying that I’ve accomplished a lot (I haven’t at all), but these so-called Berlin bohemians (who were really just hipsters) didn’t strike me as particularly interesting.

However, this recent news has made me realize how wrong I was about the city and about the artists who live there. I had forgotten the oldest truth in art: It’s easy to denounce and to dismiss an artist, but how many examples do we have of such people attaining fame later on? Indeed, it was precisely people like Rimbaud and Van Gogh—mocked and derided during their own time—about whom we speak today.

Although I myself won’t be on the receiving end of a five thousand euro check issued by the city of Berlin, I’m very happy to know that there are people in government who don’t just “talk” about the importance of art, but actually consider it important. Schopenhauer would indeed be proud of his people. In addition, measures like this are encouraging for all artists, even if they’re not directly benefitting from them. Someone has to care about art for people to make it; I hope I can continue doing that here.

All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.

Until next time.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.