Memoirs of Armen Dadian (1894-1975) - Dadian Armen

My Grandfather…

By Hera Nadjarian

Candles? Incense? Or would I prefer to place a wreath on his tombstone?

When loved ones depart for eternity, their memory and their spirit remain behind. One of my loved ones was my incomparable grandfather, Armen Dadian, for whom I felt so much love and care as a child, without ever knowing, without ever discovering the depths of his soul.

The publication of these memoirs gives me infinite satisfaction and joy. Back in 1974, I could detect a void in his gaze. With the publication of these memoirs, that void has been filled.

It was the centenary of the Genocide when, curious, I perused his handwritten notebooks… These were his memoirs! I read them quickly, moved by the content and admiring his writing style – simple and modest, with a crisp and uncorrupted vocabulary… I copied the memoirs faithfully, modifying nothing, mindful of the tone of each phrase, listening carefully to the voice speaking to me from across the gulf of time, just as my nostalgia for this voice grew infinitely. Why do I publish these memoirs? In the name of the boundless love I have for you, grandfather. You were truly a grandfather, kind, forgiving, doting, and patient. I remember your summer visits from Aleppo to Beirut. You would bring Christmas to our home in July, when you opened that burgundy suitcase of yours filled with Aleppo’s purple sweets, nuts, confectioneries, candy-coated chickpeas, baskets of figs, the string cheese made by Grandma, bakeries, and, and – and countless other treasures. It was a magical suitcase… From it emanated the sour smell of Aleppo, and it brought luxury to us all.

The publication of this book is the manifestation of the great moral debt that I have owed in silence for forty years. I remember him bent over a low desk, by the light of a faint lamp, at four in the morning, with a cup of coffee beside him, spending the nights sleeplessly writing till morning. I witnessed this, but why did I not have questions for him? What was he writing? And for whom? We only knew that he had served in the Turkish army, and my brother’s and my young minds could not reconcile with this fact. Why did he never share the story of his past life with us?

Now, I hear his voice through yellowed pages, the same voice that once used to give us lessons in Arabic dictation. I can still hear the jingling of the coins he used to drop into our palms every time he left Beirut to return to Aleppo, with a contented smile on his face – a pound, 25 kurus, 50 kurus, or two pounds… He could tell that this brought us boundless joy. But alas, alas, I can only find the explanation to his wistful and melancholy moments in the pages of his memoirs – war, corpses, mangled and dismembered comrades, plans for his own suicide, longing for his homeland of Ourfa and his loved ones, silence…

All this continually marched across his still eyes…

Your granddaughter, Hera Nadjarian.