The esteemed legacy of Armenian-American writers received an expected jolt in 2012 with the publication of Journey to Virginland, the debut novel by Armen Melikian.
Ever since the early part of the 20th century, Armenian-American writers – including William Saroyan, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Peter Balakian, and Mark Arax – have contributed to American literature with great works that both celebrate the Armenian identity and help define the Armenian footprint within the larger zeitgeist of the Untied States. With his novel, Melikian builds on that tradition but also stands apart as he subverts it with loving ferocity, ultimately lifting the voice of Armenian-American writers from the local, the parochial, and making it an integral part of world literature.
In his review of Melikian’s work, Paul McCarthy, New York Times bestselling author and a professor of English at the University of Ulster, Ireland, writes: “In the best sense, I’m reminded of George Orwell’s classics, and other authors of similar stature, though there is no true parallel possible with a novel as unique in concept and execution as Journey to Virginland.”
A scholar of history, religion, and mythology, Melikian has written a powerful novel of ideas, not only offering a genuinely revolutionary take on Armenian history per se, but breezily framing it within the kaleidoscopic context of the international. In his novel, the first Epistle of a trilogy, Melikian’s sociopolitical, cultural, and religious commentaries are calibrated marvelously with the story of Dog, the protagonist, whose picaresque journey is set against the backdrop of a whirlwind global paradigm.
Armenian-American writers have always upheld Armenianness as the a priori, if tacit, benchmark of artistic expression. In Melikian’s work, this time-honored principle gets a much-needed change of guards, as he decidedly helps transform the legacy of these writers into an evolving endeavor of truly universal relevance.
Interested in reading works from Armenian-American writers? Get your copy of Journey to Virginland today!